This month marks the beginning of our Foundation’s 10th year. We believe our success in growing from start-up to scale-up calls for celebration.
It also calls for forward thinking because there’s no doubt, our greatest accomplishments as a Foundation and as the Appalachian region still lie ahead.
This journey began with a few people sitting around a table with just one thing in mind. If communities in southeastern Kentucky were going to thrive, it was up to the people in those communities to make it happen. We wanted to be different. There had been no innovation in the way we approached philanthropy and community development, how we thought about the future, or even who we included in that thinking. We pooled some resources and got passionate about our mission – being a catalyst for community collaboration and charitable giving; building capacity and creating permanent, locally controlled community assets.
And we did it.
From a remote little office in Chavies we started one little fund for Perry County. Now, as an anchor institution in downtown Hazard, we have funds for counties spanning from Pike to Clinton. We’re growing endowment funds for a strong base of nonprofits that build houses, care for children, shore up our schools, support our elders and create spaces for all of us to enjoy the outdoors. Young people are getting scholarships that allow them to go as far as their dreams can take them. All because of thousands of people who give up their time, talent and resources to make what can feel impossible, possible.
Perhaps even more exciting, the Foundation provides a backbone for groups of people across the region to think big and put ideas into action. Becoming one of the nation’s premier drone ports, building entrepreneurial ecosystems, networking farmers markets to increase sales or simply teaching young children how to sail a boat all become doable when there’s infrastructure in place to help bring resources, steward funds, and connect and meet with people who share a vision for vibrant, thriving communities.
Many people marvel at how we managed to build such a strong, integrated system that makes room for everybody to participate in lifting up a place like Appalachian Kentucky. It’s because we all care so deeply about this place – our place. We believe that communities like ours offer something vastly different to the chaos and gridlock of many urban centers, and just maybe that’s what our nation needs right now.
We also know we have much more work to do, and we know we can do it better. And we will continue to prove it to the rest of the world.
Thank you for being on this journey with us.