Many donors wonder why they send their gifts to the Branch County Community Foundation when they live in the Colon area. Many other donors wonder why the Branch County Community Foundation serves an area that is in St. Joseph County. It’s a long a beautiful relationship which continues to benefit both Branch County and the Colon area.
Creation of Branch County Community Foundation
In 1991, five Branch County Rotaries met in an historic luncheon to create the Community Foundation. Many of the early board members had strong relationships to the Colon area, and Branch County was able to create a fund within the existing Colon Foundation allowing the Branch County Community Foundation to receive donations while they could establish their non-profit status and become certified as a Community Foundation. The Branch County Community Foundation was established as a stand-alone organization in late 1992.
Kellogg and Council of Michigan Foundations Youth Project Match
Through the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Youth Project, donations to funds within community foundations throughout the state of Michigan would receive a 50% match to create funds for youth activities. The Branch County Community Foundation received the first matching grant in 1995 and established the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) to oversee the grant making process for the newly created Youth Fund and to encourage youth volunteerism and philanthropy.
Colon and Branch County Unite Again
About that same time in 1995, a gift was given to the Colon Community Schools to be used as an endowment fund for scholarships for Colon graduates. Realizing that the Colon School Board was not in the business of managing endowments, it was suggested that the Colon School Board turn the money over to the Colon Foundation in order to receive the matching W.K Kellogg Foundation grant funds toward a YAC fund. However the grant required that the community foundation’s director work at least 20 hours per week. Colon Foundation could not fulfill that requirement. The Colon Foundation knew Branch County had a full-time director and presented the Branch County Community Foundation with the idea of creating funds for the Colon area. When the Boards of Colon Schools, Branch County Community Foundation, and Colon Foundation agreed the Colon Foundation became a component fund of the Branch County Community Foundation. The partnership allowed donations to the Colon funds to be eligible for the Kellogg match, increasing the Youth Fund and expanding its scope to Colon. And that year, in large part because of the partnership with the Colon Foundation, Community Foundation assets reached over $1,000,000, growing the collective investment power. On November 22, 1995, the Colon Express quoted then Branch County Community Foundation Executive Director Coco Cook as saying “residents of Branch County and Colon will benefit from a new partnership…[as] the Colon Foundation has become a geographic component fund of the Branch County Community Foundation.” Grants and scholarships were being awarded regularly and the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) had 47 members – the second largest in the state!
Continuing Strong Ties
As of the end of fiscal year 2018, assets in the Community Foundation have grown to $7 million dollars in over 130 funds. Together these funds have awarded over $14 million dollars in grants and scholarships to assist organizations and students in our entire service area. By holding different funds with different focuses, donors have the opportunity to give to specific funds benefiting a cause, a city or village, a project, a specific organization, or to help grow unrestricted funds for both Colon and Branch County. Together we continue to build stronger communities in both Branch County and the Colon area!