Investing in the Future of Your Community

Marilyn (Lyn) and Joe Fraker were long-time residents of New Martinsville. Lyn was a strong advocate for stray animals in Wetzel County, working to establish the Humane Society of Wetzel County and instrumental in assisting the Wetzel County Animal Shelter during her lifetime.

When she and her husband passed away in 2010 and in 2016, respectively, their advanced planning led to the creation of a charitable fund to assist their passion for animals for years to come. The new Joseph and Marilyn Fraker Animal Care Fund made its first award last year to the Marshall County Animal Rescue League, to assist their spay and neuter program. The fund is designated for the protection of animals in Ohio, Marshall, and Wetzel counties.

In Belmont County, a group of like-minded landowners have collaborated to help turn their philanthropy into impact. The Smith-Goshen Rice Enrichment Fund was established in 2011 as a vehicle for those benefiting from oil and gas in Belmont County to give back to organizations in need, ultimately helping to improve the quality of life, and building a fund that will serve the community for many years.

In Ohio County, students wishing to pursue a degree in nursing apply every year to the Helen Biery Memorial Scholarship Fund, one of more than 60 different scholarship funds administered for a variety of causes throughout the Upper Ohio Valley. Mrs. Biery’s husband established this particular scholarship after his wife passed away. He chose the nursing field as a direct result of the exceptional care his wife received while she was ill.

These stories — alongside the countless others like them — demonstrate the tremendous impact and unique importance of community foundations in this country. From Nov. 12-18, we celebrate Community Foundations Week, our chance to share and reflect on these stories. Though you may not yet know your local community foundation, you’ve likely felt its impact.

That’s because the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley and more than 780 other community foundations across the country help to bring donors and residents together. The community foundation unites their efforts behind the efforts that will help the places we call home continue to flourish and grow.

Just recently the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley, with the assistance of local stakeholders, embarked on an informal community needs assessment to determine the greatest needs in each of the counties we serve. As one would imagine, there were a wide variety of ideas shared at our individual county focus group meetings. Everything from drug abuse and treatment, community leadership, education, workforce development and poverty was discussed. The results of these meetings will help guide the Community Foundation’s unrestricted grantmaking to improve the quality of life in our region from Hancock County to Tyler County in West Virginia and Jefferson and Belmont counties in Ohio.

As we enter the giving season, America’s generosity surges. Millions of people from every background will be looking to give back to the communities that have supported them. They’ll also look to ensure that their heartfelt giving — however they choose to give — will have the most impact. That’s why so many of them will choose to give through a community foundation.

A gift to your local community foundation is really an investment in the future of your community. We like to say that community foundations are “here for good.” At the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley, we don’t think about the next election or business cycle, we think about the next generation and the next after that.

That can seem a daunting task, but it’s one that we all share. During Community Foundation Week, I hope you’ll join us in recognizing our collective impact and the difference we can make together.

For more information on Community Foundation Week visit and follow #CFWeek on Twitter.

Susie Nelson is executive director of the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley.