Few organizations have been as ubiquitous or impactful in Stark County as Stark Community Foundation. This organization gives charitable donations permanence and maximizes its effect on community growth by investing donor contributions and distributing investment income in the form of grants and scholarships. With over $185 million in grants awarded and partnerships with over 800 businesses, families and individuals over their 57 year history, the Stark Community Foundation has altered the fabric of the community for the better.
Seeking to develop their areas and improve the quality of life therein, five Stark County banks established Stark Community Foundation in 1963 as a multiple trusteeship community foundation. Initial assets were transferred from the Edward A. Langenbach Trust and the Timken Foundation of Canton, and by the end of the following year all five Stark County Corporate Trustees were invested. The Foundation’s $4.6 million in assets was put toward awarding the first grant used to help purchase 20 acres of land for the Wilderness Center in Wilmot. Over the next 35 years, the Stark Community Foundation started a scholarship program, opened donor-advised funds, helped bankroll local renovation projects such as the Saxton McKinley House, and initiated a Neighborhood Partnership Grant Program to encourage residents to create safe, inviting, well-maintained neighborhoods.
Current President and CEO of Stark Community Foundation, Mark Samolczyk, accepted that position at the beginning of 2010. Over the past ten years the Foundation has set a series of organization records surpassing its highest donor contributions and grant distributions time and time again. Samolczyk points out that during this period the Foundation has increased its asset size by 70% to nearly $300 million. This assertive expansion has put the Stark Community Foundation in the top 10% of community foundations nationwide, which is an impressive achievement considering the size of Stark County. Just last year the Foundation awarded over $13.7 million in grants, including a record-breaking $1 million grant to build a new Canton hub facility for Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Vice President of Advancement, Bridgette Neisel, says that the growth and success of the Stark Community Foundation is a tribute to the passion and generosity of its donors. Though many of them prefer not to be called philanthropists due to the association with wealth, Neisel says, “A philanthropist is someone who is intentional, thoughtful, purposeful, generous, and creates a permanence to their giving so it will last well beyond their lifetime. That epitomizes our donors!”
Stark Community Foundation’s mission is to connect people and the charitable causes that are important to them. An assortment of fund types provide flexibility in what one supports, as well as a perpetuation of giving. The Foundation handles details such as administration, compliance and due diligence. Among the fund options are community charitable funds to be applied where the impact would be deemed greatest; donor advised funds, which allow donors to specify where their support goes throughout the year; and scholarship funds, which help the next generation to pursue higher education.
When the spread of COVID-19 caused a public health emergency, the Stark Community Foundation had to enforce policies such as remote meetings and access by appointment only in order to protect its staff and the community it serves. In addition, the Foundation immediately reached out to donors and the community at large to respond to the emergency needs of the community during this difficult time. The Foundation also partnered with long-time collaborator the Sisters of Charity Foundation as well as many other local organizations in order to pool resources and maximize impact. In only nine weeks this combined effort was able to donate $1.5 million to help some of the most vulnerable organizations in Stark County.
Reflecting on the impact of the organization, Samolczyk says it is humbling to consider the amount of trust nearly 850 individual fundholders place in the Stark Community Foundation. Neisel says, “It’s a tremendous responsibility that none of us take lightly.” The Foundation is charged with maintaining a permanent presence and carrying out the wishes of donors, whether it is honoring loved ones, creating a legacy or ensuring the stability of a favorite non-profit organization. The staff at The Stark Community Foundation are dedicated to fulfilling that duty.
Visit www.starkcf.org to learn more about Stark Community Foundation, purchase a Charitable Giving Card or become a donor.
Charitable Giving Cards work just like altruistic gift cards.