UC Community Foundation marks a year of progress

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UC Community Foundation marks a year of progress

From Press Release

Steve Jones (center), receives the I Believe Award from Union City Community Foundation board member Mark Webb (right) and Erie Community Foundation President Mike Batchelor.

Another year of philanthropy and community advancement was celebrated recently by the Union City Community Foundation and its supporters.

Approximately 100 people gathered for the foundation’s annual meeting at the Union City American Legion to express their support for the community, and to mark the granting of more than $100,000 to community causes in 2018. They also learned of the creation of two new funds within the foundation, and honored the foundation board’s chairman as this year’s “I Believe Award” honoree.

Attendees were also apprised of the foundation’s decision to become more strategically proactive in its approach to grantmaking and community development.

The Union City, Corry, Findley Lake and North East community foundations all operate under the umbrella of the Erie Community Foundation, which provides investment and operational support to those “affiliated” foundations. Union City Community Foundation Vice Chairman Kyle Blakeslee told the assembled crowd that those affiliates have been challenged by Erie Community Foundation President Michael Batchelor to become more “transformational” in their communities.

Toward that end, Blakeslee said the Union City Community Foundation in 2019 has set aside $48,000 to drive initiatives that align with the foundation’s newly established priorities. Those priorities include Union City’s downtown business district, recreation and parks, neighborhoods, the community’s image and identity, and supporting local government.

The foundation also this year engaged a consultant to assist in organizing the new approach, said Blakeslee, with a goal to become more “deliberate” in its approach to community engagement. The greater goal, Blakeslee added, is to get everyone “working on a common cause and driving transformational change for our community.”

The foundation will continue to support recurring grants and scholarships, and traditional grants to local organizations, he said, but acknowledged that with limited resources the foundation can’t be “all things to all people.”

Toward expanding those available resources, foundation board member Jim Shreve focused on a new foundation brochure that was recently mailed to several hundred people with Union City roots. The goals of the brochure, he said, are to expand awareness of and generate additional contributions to the foundation.

“We wanted to elevate the (foundation’s) profile and explain what the foundation is,” he said, adding the hope the brochure will provoke thought about supporting Union City’s future, and “motivate people to take action.”

Shreve, a Union City native and businessman, said there is currently a spirit of cooperation and support in the community that needs to be capitalized on.

“There’s an energy (in Union City),” he said, “and frankly, doing business here has never felt better.”

Two new funds have been created within the foundation in the past year, the Sidney and Sylvia Carlburg Scholarship fund, and the Raymond and Angela Gocal Memorial Scholarship fund. That brings to 16 the number of “named funds” within the foundation. It is from those 16 invested funds that money is generated to donate to community initiatives. The foundation’s assets at the end of 2018 totaled more than $4.2 million, which generated $100,091 in grants and scholarships in 2018.

The grants included awards to the French Creek Festival, Early Connections, Healthy Youth Club, Prom to Dawn, Mystic Mountain Training Center, St. Vincent Outpatient Center, Union City Borough and Union City Pride, the Union City Public Library, the United Way for its free tax-preparation service in Union City, and the third and final year of support toward renovating the school district’s swimming pool.

In addition, college scholarships totaling $17,900 were distributed to local students.

To honor individuals and organizations that have exhibited extraordinary support to the community, the foundation in 2009 initiated the annual “I Believe Award.” This year’s award was given to foundation board chairman Steve Jones, who has served in that role since 2010.

Foundation board members Mark Webb and Jim Shreve nominated Jones for the award, and Webb told the assembled crowd that Jones’s many public-service roles through the years justify the selection.

“Without your leadership, we would be good, but we wouldn’t be as good as we are,” Webb told Jones.

Upon accepting the award, Jones said that like many young people, he didn’t foresee his future being in his hometown. He did, however, return to Union City to work in and ultimately run the hardwood business established by his father, Ron Jones. He married, and with his wife Danielle, raised three children in the community.

“Living in Union City has been one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he said, offering his thanks for the support of his wife and parents.

“Why do I do what I do?” he asked of his many community endeavors. “I want to leave it a better place than I found it. I guess we always want to associate ourselves with a winner.”

Erie Community Foundation President Mike Batchelor told the crowd that the Union City Community Foundation has come a “long, long, long, long way” from the days when creating a local foundation was just a conversation.

He said the foundation’s impact on the community is “on the verge of becoming very meaningful,” and that the community’s progress is being noticed elsewhere, including Erie.

“You can do this,” Batchelor urged, “and I’m happy to go along for the ride and watch your progress