Marion Community Foundation has been, since even before its inception, focused on caring for the community of Marion, Ohio. What is now known as Marion Community Foundation began in healthcare as the MedCenter Hospital Foundation.
Jumping back even further, its roots can be traced to 1957 when Dr. Frederick Smith and Dr. Philip Smith created the Mary Elizabeth Smith Foundation to honor their mother and support the Frederick C. Smith Clinic started by their father. In 1972, the hospital was renamed MedCenter Hospital and the Mary Elizabeth Smith Foundation became the MedCenter Hospital Foundation.
The Foundation owned the hospital and clinic buildings. It was the sale of these assets to OhioHealth in February 1998 which – along with a name change – became Marion Community Foundation.
“Marion Community Foundation owes a debt of gratitude to the long-term vision of the Smiths, as well as Robert Wopat, a former MedCenter
Foundation board member who, along with his wife, Dottie, went on to leave a $17 million gift to the Foundation in 2008 — and, of course, to all the donors who have helped Marion Community Foundation grow and positively impact the Marion area,” said Dean Jacob, current President, and CEO.
Along with Wopat, members of the MedCenter Hospital Foundation intentionally transitioned the hospital foundation into a foundation that would benefit the entire community. Marion Community Foundation was officially reorganized in May 1998 and, by September, hired Debby Shade as its first chief executive. In short order—by December 1999—the Foundation established its first donor fund, announced its first cycle of community grants, and had a scholarship program taking shape. In 2000, Brad Bebout succeeded Shade as president and CEO.
An annual program of competitive grant awards was, by 2001, well established and growing. The Foundation has added 8-20 new funds each year and currently is steward to more than 330 charitable funds that support a wide variety of community organizations and causes and honor their donors.
“Each of our funds tells a story,” said Jacob. “Each donor has seen a need in Marion, or a problem to be solved, and chose to address those concerns by creating a charitable fund at Marion Community Foundation. These funds, prudently invested and monitored by our financial advisors and Board of Directors, will last literally forever, making annual awards from each fund’s growth. And, the names of our donors, attached to their funds, create a permanent legacy of their generosity and caring.”
One such story is the trio of funds created by the late John and Kathy O’Shea. John, who passed in 2017, was a local banker, and Kathy, who passed in 2012, a school teacher. Upon her death, John created the Kathleen E. O’Shea Fund, which annually awards grants in support of live theater and dance performances in Marion. Through this gift, generously supported by numerous memorial gifts, Kathy’s memory and her love of performing arts will be supported in her name forever.
Upon John’s passing, his estate created two additional funds from gifts of appreciated stock — the John & Kathleen O’Shea Family Fund and the John D. & Kathleen E. O’Shea Scholarship Fund. The O’Shea Family Fund is an unrestricted fund, demonstrating his trust in the Board of Directors at Marion Community Foundation to use it to address changing community needs. Their scholarship supports students attending Xavier or Ohio Dominican universities, the couple’s alma maters.
The O’Shea Scholarship joins the 125 funds which make up the Foundation’s annual scholarship program, currently in progress for 2020, and which awards in excess of $400,000 annually. Marion Community Foundation is the single largest source of scholarships in Marion County.
The O’Sheas are, according to Jacob, one example among hundreds of local donors supporting the community and choosing to address a wide variety of quality of life issues, supporting dozens of local charities, the arts, environment, religious organizations, economic development, health and wellness, education, and a multitude of charitable causes. This attitude of philanthropy has enabled Marion Community Foundation to steadily grow, from one fund to 330 — which total $50 million in assets and generate grants and scholarships of about $1.7 million each year.
Dean Jacob has served as president and CEO for six years and is joined by staff members Julie Prettyman, vice president and director of programs, Lori Stevenson, communications manager, Diana Rinesmith, office manager, Diane Mault, bookkeeper, and Tera Holderman, project administrator.
A 15-member board of directors has guided the Foundation since its inception. The current Directors include Hon. Deb Alspach, John C. Bartram, Jody Demo-Hodgins, Jeremy Dunn, Kathy Goodman, Luke Henry, Rev. Daniel Kiger, Scott Knowles, Dr. Ryan McCall, Megan Queen, Charles Speelman, Dr. Kimberly Stark, Fran Voll, Nicolle Wampler, and Nicole Workman.
“We are both humbled and proud that so many have chosen to give through us to support Marion County,” said Jacob. “Through us, they provide hundreds of scholarships and grants that support so much good and charitable work in Marion. And, we are in this for the long term. We welcome new funds and more good works every day.”