Community Foundation of Wabash County Celebrates 70 Years

June 17, 2024 / 5 mins read


Community Foundation of Wabash County Celebrates 70 Years

In 1954, the North Manchester Community Foundation was established by a board of directors to solicit charitable donations and redirect them to community projects. The first project was to build the Scout Hall in North Manchester’s Warvel Park in honor of Robert Minear, the only child of Charles and Bernice Minear, who was killed in World War II. In 1991, the Foundation was expanded to the county and its name changed to the Community Foundation of Wabash County.

To date, the Community Foundation has grown to include more than 350 permanently endowed funds and over 30 non-permanent funds. Total assets of the organization are more than $90 million. In 70 years, generous donors and prudent investments have made possible the distribution of $35 million in grants to Wabash County nonprofits and programs dedicated to improving life in the county.

A highlight of the weeklong anniversary celebration of philanthropy featured the first ever “Philly Awards.” Melissa Ford-Kalbfell, Development Associate for the Community Foundation, describes The Phillys as “a way to lift up our nonprofit organizations and tireless staff and volunteers who make Wabash County a great place to live.” Three Philly awards were presented this year to the Philanthropist of the Year, the Nonprofit of the Year, and an award called the “Giving Here,” presented to an individual who, through their volunteerism, leadership, financial contributions, and community collaborations, makes Wabash County a great place to live.

Nonprofit of the Year

The North Manchester Public Library (NMPL) was awarded the 2024 Philly for its high impact on the quality of life in the community. Ford-Kalbfell notes that “Exceptional nonprofits in this category will have a well-defined mission and will exist to meet a clear need in the community. An exemplary nonprofit has strong leadership on its board and staff, and maintains excellent nonprofit practices as a trusted charitable organization.”

Julie Garber, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, said, “The NMPL is the heart of North Manchester and surrounding townships. Lending books is an important role in a democratic society, but the NMPL is more than that. It is the hub of all things educational, entrepreneurial, and community engagement. It is the steam engine of a community that is engaged and vital.” It’s curbside service during Covid, it’s service to students after school, its online learning communities, homeschool services, legal kiosk for forms and documents, and its pollinator garden provide something for everyone.

Giving Here

The Giving Here Philly was awarded to Cheryl Working of North Manchester for her volunteerism, leadership, financial contributions, and generous, collaborative approach with others. Cheryl gives of herself tirelessly to support students in the arts, having donated countless hours to designing stage sets for high school theater performances and seasonal decorations for the Honeywell Center. She supports her alma mater, Manchester University, and the North Manchester History Museum. Patty Grant, President and CEO of the Community Foundation, describes Cheryl as “an incredibly caring person, willing to help those in need, whatever that might take. She has a soft spot for under-privileged teens and young adults. She routinely opens her wallet, her home, and her heart to create a safe and abiding place for them to call home.”

Cheryl gives freely of her time to numerous Wabash County organizations and serves as a board member of Manchester Alive and vice president of Zion Lutheran Church in North Manchester. In 2018, Cheryl created a nonprofit called Daniel’s Place, a respite care program that serves individuals with disabilities, including her own son Daniel, as well as their families who care for them.

Philanthropist of the Year

In a surprise visit by his family and the board and staff of the Community Foundation, Dave Mann of Wabash, was named the Philanthropist of the Year. His Philly was awarded for his generous giving to charitable efforts and for his tireless work of raising money for organizations and causes in Wabash County, including his alma mater, Rotary, the Community Foundation, the American Red Cross, United Fund, and many others. Speaking of Dave Mann, Brian Howenstine, Chair of the Community Foundation board of directors, says, “By trade, Dave is a Northwestern Mutual financial professional. His gifts as a financial advisor shift gracefully from service to individuals and families of Wabash County to the financial work of Wabash County nonprofits. Dave has done everything from serving as board chair, coach, cycling enthusiast, choir member, and a supporter of the Wabash River Trail and the Dam to Dam century ride.” Settling in Wabash County after college, Dave Mann has given his heart and soul to the quality of life of Wabash County.

Other Recognitions

The Community Foundation’s anniversary week celebrated a host of philanthropists. Awards took the form of Philly cheesesteak sandwiches prepared by the Main View Restaurant for all award winners.

  • On Monday, April 29, awards were given to Community Development partners and population growth proponents, including the Wabash County Council for their COVID Recovery Fund, Grow Wabash County, and elected officials involved in Imagine One 85.
  • Tuesday, April 30 was a celebration of Community Foundation grant recipients in 2023 in addition to the Nonprofit of the Year Award.
  • Wednesday, May 1, recognized education partners of the Community Foundation, including early childhood education programs, Imagine Early team leads, and other participants in education initiatives of the Community Foundation.
  • Thursday, May 2, celebrated philanthropy in Wabash County, recognizing local attorneys who participated in Write a Will Week and the Philanthropist of the Year. Staff and board members conducted a “Thank-a-Thon,” calling hundreds of donors and the founders of funds at the Community Foundation.
  • Friday, May 3, awards recognized current and former board members of the Community Foundation as well as the Giving Here recipient.

Local radio, newspapers, and social media were flooded through the week with stories and pictures of the many people of Wabash County who represent the role of philanthropy in the building of a strong community. The Community Foundation of Wabash County thanks its generous donors, board, and staff for their commitment to philanthropy as a mainstay of a strong community.