Building on a Solid Foundation
The Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, like so many other rural communities in America, was slow to establish its own community foundation. Although the movement that began in 1914 in Cleveland, Ohio was immediately embraced by major cities, few rural areas set up their own community foundations until late in the second half of the 20th century.
Thanks to the vision of a number of community leaders in Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan counties, the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation (EWVCF) was established in 1995 and Doug Roach was elected the organization’s first president. Doug would type meeting minutes on an old IBM Selectric typewriter in the back office of Roach Oil. He and the other board members volunteered their time and did everything those first six years while laying the groundwork for future success.
Tia McMillan followed Doug as president and recruited Amy Owen as the organization’s first paid employee. During her decade-long tenure, Amy did a remarkable job of cultivating relationships with donors, financial institutions, and nonprofit organizations.
In 2005, during Diane Dailey’s term as president, the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation moved into its current offices at the renovated Caperton Station at 229 E. Martin Street in Martinsburg.
As total endowments under management grew, Amy was able to bring onboard two exceptional employees—Amy Pancake to coordinate scholarships and help expand operations into Hampshire and Hardy counties; and Felicia Fuller to serve as Finance and Administration Manager, responsible for the complex fund accounting systems and daily financial operations.
When Stew Borger became president in 2007, investment markets were at an all-time high and total assets at the Community Foundation had grown to over $7 million. In September of 2008, the Great Recession began and over the next six months investment markets suffered their worst losses since the 1930s. Fortunately, the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation stayed the course and, thanks to a diversified investment portfolio, experienced fewer losses than either the benchmarks or its peers that year.
In order to make ends meet in 2009, the staff took voluntary furloughs, grants were reduced, and donors stepped up to make “pass-through” contributions so scholarships and grants could be awarded. Investment markets began to improve steadily in the spring of 2009 and by the end of 2010, virtually all losses had been erased and funds were back above historic dollar values. When former Berkeley County Sheriff W. Randy Smith won the PowerBall Jackpot in 2010, he donated $5.9 million to the Community Foundation and almost immediately began recommending donor-advised grants, which have been benefiting Berkeley County nonprofit organizations ever since.
Near the end of 2011, after almost a decade as Executive Director of the Community Foundation, Amy Owen informed the board that she and her husband Don were moving to Virginia to build their dream house and take on new challenges. With Amy’s departure date set for May 15, 2012, the board jumped into action, appointed a Succession Committee chaired by board member Jan Wilkins and began the search for a new executive director. After reviewing 43 applications, interviewing 10 candidates, and narrowing the field down to a final three, the board selected Michael Whalton as the organization’s second executive director.
Stew Borger completed his tenure as board president in 2012 and handed the reins to incoming president Scott Roach. In a fitting tribute to family and legacy, Scott began serving his first term as president the same year that his father (and founding president) Doug rotated off the board due to term limits.
Donors and investment markets alike have been very kind to the Community Foundation during the past few years, with the average endowed fund enjoying a 7.5% annual rate of return over the past seven years. By December 31, 2016, the Community Foundation was managing more than 180 endowed funds with assets of just over $20 million.
The Community Foundation celebrated its 21st year in 2016, with new programs and projects that helped the organization continue to grow. Darlene Truman, longtime board member, and donor began serving as President of EWVCF in 2016 and by the end of her tenure in December 2017 assets under management had grown to over $23 million.
Shepherdstown philanthropist Lisa Welch has served on several committees and as an officer of the Community Foundation for six years. She was elected President in 2018 and is currently serving her second year. Under Lisa’s leadership, the organization continues to enjoy strong growth in both gifts received and grants awarded. By the end of 2020, we predict that the foundation will be managing more than $28 million in endowed funds and awarding at least $1 million in grants and scholarships annually.
Thanks to an outstanding board of directors, dedicated donors, highly competent investment advisors, and a professional staff, the Community Foundation will serve the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia for generations to come.