MERRILLVILLE | On Dec. 4, 1992, a handful of residents planted a seedling called the Endowment Fund of Lake County, later renamed Legacy Foundation
The community foundation started with an investment of $2 million in donations and a $2 million match from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment and Lilly’s GIFT Initiative Foundation.
On Tuesday, Legacy Foundation celebrated 20 years of Presence & Presents during its annual community reception at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza.
Over the years, donations from $10 to $10 million have helped Legacy Foundation make a difference in communities across Lake County through grants to nonprofit organizations, said Nancy Clifford, chair of the foundation’s board.
The donations also funded scholarships for students. Together those grants and scholarships total $26 million.
Dedicated to growing the endowment and awarding grants and scholarships, Legacy Foundation today manages assets of $44 million, said Harry J. Vande Velde III, Legacy president/CEO, during his talk.
“We are proud of the shade our tree has created in Lake County,” he said, before announcing plans to grow the endowment to $100 million by 2018.
Using Legacy Foundation’s symbol of a tree, Vande Velde said Legacy Foundation will be true to its roots, which include remaining mission-driven, constituent-sensitive and a model of fiscal responsibility.
He also said Legacy Foundation will create a canopy from the branches of partnership, invitation and involvement, information and investment to reach that $100 million goal.
Vande Velde stressed the social contract that has been the basis of community foundations since the first one was established in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1914. That contract is between “those who have and those who don’t,” he said. “For those who have more wealth, it’s about their role in the community.”
A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Cara Spicer Award to Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana along with a $10,000 check. Named in memory of a beloved program director at Legacy Foundation, the award — suggested by her husband, Stephen Spicer of Miller, and son, Sam Spicer, of Munster — is a Laughing Buddha created by Michelle Golden of The Golden Studio.
“Cara loved the Laughing Buddha with nuts in his two outreached hands and one around his neck. This is the Laughing Buddha of giving and good fortune. It inspired her life and works,” said Stephen Spicer.
Legacy Foundation presents this one-time award annually to a nonprofit that has participated in the Great Lake Award Initiative. Nearly 70 Lake County nonprofit organizations have gained professional training, technical assistance and mentoring through the GLAI, said Nancy Johnson, chair of the Cara Spicer Award selection committee.
“Meals on Wheels prepares and delivers 1,600 meals a day,” Johnson said.
The organization delivered its 5 millionth meal in 2010.