David Bennett’s Letter to the Editor

Nearly one hundred years ago, a group of local leaders stepped forward to create a pool of endowed assets designed to serve the needs of Fort Wayne and Allen County for a long time – in perpetuity, in fact. Those community leaders had dreams of creating an institution that would improve the quality of life for everyone in Allen County – not only during their lifetimes but for the lives of future generations, as well.

Early gifts to this newly created “Community Foundation” came from local leaders:  William Mossman, for example, a pioneer in the wire die business.  Or Charles Niezer, mourning the untimely death of his wife in an auto accident

Robert Feustel exemplified the vision of what the community foundation could become.  Born in Fort Wayne – he would be the Salutatorian of the Fort Wayne High School Class of 1902 – he eventually became the leader of several companies, including a railroad and the local electric company.  A remarkable visionary, Feustel believed that strong communities were powered by strong organizations – which is why he left a significant estate gift to the newly-created Fort Wayne Foundation (as the Community Foundation was called at that time.)

Those gifts – combined with thousands of gifts from other donors in the last century – helped to make the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne the strong philanthropic leader that it is today.

Over the years, the Community Foundation has launched several leadership projects to address local issues.  In 2001, for example, the Foundation created Everybody Reads – a project designed to increase the literacy skills of third-grade students across Allen County.

By far the most significant project we helped develop came in the depths of the economic recession of 2008-09.  The Talent Initiative was a program with the goal of accelerating education and training initiatives in science, technology, engineering, and math in the 10-county region of Northeast Indiana.  The Lilly Endowment in Indianapolis provided a grant of $20 million to help make that project a success.

As economic conditions improved after that recession, the Community Foundation made a commitment to support downtown development, including enhancing our riverfront.  One need only stroll through The Landing or Promenade Park to see how much that section of our City has improved – thanks, in part, to financial help from the Community Foundation.

Today the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne seeks to improve the quality of life for all of us through their Let’s Rise! Vision Plan.  That plan focuses on the areas of Connected Community, Inspiring Places, Everyone’s Economy, Lifelong Learning, and Healthy Mind And Body.  Staff and committed volunteers are working in each of these areas to identify issues and formulate improvement plans.

It takes a noble person, the saying goes, to plant a seed for a tree that will someday give shade to a person they will never meet.  We never had the chance to meet William Mossman, Charles Niezer, Robert Feustel, or many of the donors who, over the last 100 years helped to build the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne.  But regardless of the challenges that we face in the future, that organization will be here, improving the quality of life for everyone in our community.  For good.  And for ever.