Nonprofit Spotlight: Community Foundation of Western Nevada |

Nonprofit Spotlight: Community Foundation of Western Nevada

Chris Askin
Courtesy photo

I work with philanthropists who think big and let their imaginations fly. How about 100,000 feet high, literally, in a plane with no engine?

One man’s imagination and passion engaged the Community Foundation in 2011 to help get the Perlan II pressurized glider project off the ground. In 2017, after testing in Minden, the Perlan II rode the giant mountain waves above Argentina to a new altitude record of 52,172 feet. The goal is within sight!

This month we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Community Foundation. The stories below illustrate the imagination of the Community Foundation fundholders who have made grants totaling more than $108 million; the result of creative thinking, planning and gifting.

One such story involves the Board and staff of the Community Foundation, as parents who wanted to share the experience of philanthropy to teach our children why meaningful giving is needed. In 2004 we funded the first High School Giving Circle.

One of the Circle grants helped pave the 1-mile path along I-80 near Verdi for the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway. Our children supported the Bikeway when it was miles and miles from completion because they could envision it would help the environment through promoting bicycles, giving people of all ages a healthy recreational opportunity, and building community pride.

A Community Foundation fundholder was so impressed, she now funds the Giving Circle for area high school students; who give away $10,000 each year. With a carefully crafted annual two-month curriculum, 20 students with a broad range of interests and passions immerse themselves in community giving.

While most of the grants from the Community Foundation stay within our region, the Soroptimists of Truckee Meadows use their charitable fund to help them with their international service project. This amazing service organization was able to send enough funds to Thulipokhari, Nepal to build a dormitory for a girls’ school and offer scholarships for its impoverished students.

In addition to the existing Higher Secondary School program, they created a two-year College Bachelor’s program and began a micro-credit program to make loans to villagers to purchase beehives, chickens, goats and water buffaloes.

Mystery donors sometimes capture our imagination. Twelve years ago, in an airport bar, an anonymous donor serendipitously met a local high school teacher. As the two talked, the teacher told the stranger the story of one of her students who needed someone in his corner.

He was accepted to an ivy league school without means to attend. The boy’s father was imprisoned and his mother, murdered. Moved, the anonymous donor wrote a check on the spot, so the boy could attend the school of his dreams. This first student has since graduated from Cornell and is now well into his career.

The donor’s checks became annual gifts and increased over time to help more students. This random stranger in an airport with no connection to Reno, changes lives and opens opportunities for students in one neighborhood school. He gives freely and unselfishly without interest in recognition.

Perhaps the most unique of the Community Foundation scholarship funds is the Read With Me Preschool Scholarship. It offers a full year of academic pre-school tuition to local children ages 2.5 – 4 who test high for early literacy skills and come from families with economic need.

This endowed scholarship program was an estate bequest gift from Robin Ballantyne, M.D., a physician, writer, poet, lover of reason and life, and champion of human potential. Through his generous gifts, one man acting on his best nature changes the world for the better.

Even relatively small gifts can yield big impact. Jack Bobbitt lived the last ten years of his life in the small Nevada desert town of Lovelock, a place he found “by accident” on the way to somewhere else. When he died, Jack Bobbitt left his modest estate to help the children of Lovelock.

The Jack Montrose Bobbitt Fund grants make it possible for children of all incomes to participate in extra-curricular and enrichment activities and sports. The Bobbitt fund is an endowment that benefits the kids of today and will continue to grow and give to make life in Lovelock better for their children’s grandchildren.

The vision and reality of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada can be attributed to one man, Jim Webster who got the ball rolling, and his “Jet Trails” story inspires me. According to Jim, the Community Foundation was being organized in the winter of 1997 when a he got two unrelated calls from attorneys saying they were setting up charitable trusts for their clients and all the proceeds needed to go to a community foundation.

The Community Foundation was not yet incorporated for the 1997 tax year. As a result, one charitable fund worth $12 million went to a community foundation in Nebraska and the other trust, worth $13 million went to a community foundation that serves a city in southern California. We became a 501(c)3 within months! Today, more than 100 bequest arrangements of all sizes are in place by your neighbors to bring their goals to fruition.

It will take all our imagination to see what is coming for northern Nevada. What is your big dream? As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, consider what you want to do. Can you see how philanthropy will enhance the quality of your life? We welcome your ideas. Let your imagination soar!

This article was written by Chris Askin, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, which sponsored this content.


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