Endowments have been a part of America since Benjamin Franklin began one in the late 1700’s. They gained exceptional value when individuals began to gain immense wealth. Andrew Carnegie, for example, stated that “the rich have a moral obligation to give away their fortunes”, and established seven philanthropic and educational organizations, with the focus on providing educational and health services for those citizens who could better themselves, primarily to universities, libraries, public parks, and cultural centers. Another was John D. Rockefeller, whose funds began the University of Chicago as well as donations for the advancement of science, medicine and public health. Also of note, he was the underlying resource for Colonial Williamsburg.
Locally, the Mercer County Community Endowment (MCCE) began in the Fall of 2010. The Kentucky legislature, to encourage philanthropy, established a tax credit for donors giving to community endowments. With this incentive and the desire to promote a better Mercer County, MCCE was begun. Its goal of providing funds for the arts, education, health and general well being of Mercer County resonated well with citizens, businesses and organizations and the fund has grown 15 times the original donation that began it.
The theme behind the MCCE is-“Our County, Our Responsibility.” One can hope there is a Carnegie or a Rockefeller in our future; one can hope a large donor will bring much needed financial assistance to our needs, e.g. Ralph Anderson; but these are few and far in between. Thus it is up to those of us who love this County; want it to prosper; have an exceptional quality of life, second to none in the Commonwealth; a great place to raise our children; and most importantly, encourage and live by the Christian ideals in everything we do. We believe no one is going to take care of our County like our Citizens.
Thus we appeal to these same Citizens to think of the Endowment as something they want to support. There are so many needs in the County; there are a lot of organizations doing individual projects that enhance the County; the MCCE sees as its role, be an umbrella organization to the County. We are restricted by Federal guidelines to giving only to 501C3’s. Therefore, an entity has to have a “legal” standing to be recipients. Schools, for example, are included in this.
An Endowment is, by definition, an entity that is designed in perpetuity. This means that MCCE will exist as long as there is a Mercer County. We also, by design, limit our yearly payouts to 4-4.5% of our principle. That is another way to assure and ensure donors that the Endowment will not exhaust its funds. The funds are distributed after the Board of Advisors, made up of citizens of the County; determine what the MCCE will support in the coming year.
For example in 2013/2014, Oral Health Education was identified as an underserved health issue in the County. Using funds from the MCCE, support from the Water Districts of the County, the School Superintendents, Health Department, local dentists and interested citizens, some 1800 schools kids and adults received dental kits; watched videos are good oral health habits; participated in learning exercises on the topic. The program was so successful, it will be continued in 2014/2015.
Other worthwhile projects will be evaluated by the MCCE for both their merit and contribution to Mercer County’s general well being.
Donations can be made to the Mercer County Community Endowment and sent to P.O. Box 184, Harrodsburg, KY 40330. Your support is appreciated and will be put to good use.