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Looking back and looking ahead

April 14, 2009

When the Community Foundation was founded in May of 1959, it already had many of the qualities that would remain its strengths over the next 50 years — starting with local support and local knowledge. Charles Zukoski, then with First National Bank, saw the value of a public endowment that could continue to build support of future needs that no one could anticipate.

The early community leaders who distributed grants to worthy nonprofit organizations could not know what the needs of 2009 would be. And we don’t know today the needs and opportunities that will face us in 2059. But we know that having a source of dollars for those hard times is key to keeping our community moving forward in all circumstances.

And we know that, if times are hard, it’s easy to see the value of a public endowment, a savings account for our community. Back in the 1980s, when unemployment rose to 25 percent in some parts of our area, a grant from our Community Funds served as the seed money for the Food Bank. Today that Food Bank continues to operate under the direction of United Way, meeting more and more needs and an increasing number of newly poor.

Today we are responding to the economic crisis in our community with another new resource, the Housing Stability Fund which is working through local nonprofit organizations to help keep people in their homes. Stay tuned for details on how Greater Birmingham Ministries, Hope House and Shelby Emergency Assistance are using grants from the Community Foundation to help their clients, including many who are applying for help for the first time.

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