Thursday, December 18, 2014

Late Ottawans gift $1M to county groups

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 12/26/2013

A little bit of money can go a long way, but a $500,000 donation can go even further.

The Franklin County Historical Society and the Franklin County Community Foundation were both recent recipients of a $1 million donation from the late Jim and Gwen Chandler, to be split between the two entities.

A little bit of money can go a long way, but a $500,000 donation can go even further.

The Franklin County Historical Society and the Franklin County Community Foundation were both recent recipients of a $1 million donation from the late Jim and Gwen Chandler, to be split between the two entities.

“Mr. Chandler left it for us to use the interest [accrued] on something for the community that would meet the mission of the community foundation,” Ken Woods, president of the Franklin County Community Foundation, said. “It could be something in education, health or art. We will set up a procedure later for organizations that meet the requirement of being a 501(c)(3) to apply for a grant from the community foundation for any of the money we have available in non-designated form.”

The Franklin County Community Foundation provides grants to non-profit businesses, as well as provides scholarships to students in Franklin County, specific schools and specific career paths, Woods said.

“We’re excited. The foundation has not had funds that we have been able to use in a manner other than scholarships or other designated uses,” Woods said. “It will be an opportunity for us to finally be able to receive grants through a procedure we’re going to set up.”Jim Chandler died in December 2012 and his wife, Gwen, died in November 2009, according to Herald archives. Jim Chandler was a long-time Ottawa resident and worked many years as a banker at the First National Bank of Ottawa, now Arvest bank, his obituary read.

“[Jim Chandler] was a good fellow, and I think he cared a lot about the community,” Woods said. “He knew this was a way for him to leave his funds to the community in a way to be used appropriately.”

The other $500,000 the Chandlers left to the Franklin County Historical Society is to be invested by the Franklin County Community Foundation, which is ultimately invested by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, Deb Barker, director at the historical society, said. The dividends earned from the investment of the money strictly are for the historical society, she added.

“We were in a meeting, and Ken Woods from the community foundation had come to tell us and it was great,” Barker said. “We didn’t jump up and down, but it was really exciting because there’s so much we need to be doing that we haven’t been able to do for so long.”

In a time where the historical society has seen nothing but cuts to its budget, the donation from the Chandlers will help with many different needs, Barker said.

“It’s going to be a significant addition in our year-to-year budget,” she said. “We’ll do some repairs on the buildings or hire some jobs that have needed done, so it was very exciting to us.”

 A significant amount of money won’t likely be available for a while until after the investment has accrued some interest, she said. When that time comes, the historical society will have to go to the community foundation to ask for the money it needs for a specific project, she added.

“[The money] is held in trust by the community foundation for us,” Barker said. “We’ll share our financial reports, end-of-year reports and things we’d like to do with the money yearly and [the community foundation] will give us that money completely, so it’s the best thing you can have is a reliable fund stream.”

The only way the money would not be available to the historical society is if it dissolves completely, but that’s not something Barker is worried about, she said.

“It’s all very exciting,” she said. “We’re all very grateful and excited because I have a good board of trustees who agonizes over budgets and who tries to figure out what’s the most critical thing we can do with what would have been steady or diminishing monies. We’ll get it in perpetuity and only if we dissolve as a corporation would something else have to be done. We’ve been around since 1937, so I don’t think we’re going anywhere.”

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