East Texas Communities Foundation to celebrate milestone

Published on Monday, 30 June 2014 22:44 - Written by REBECCA HOEFFNER rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

The East Texas Communities Foundation turns 25 today. In that time, ETCF has distributed more than $50 million in grants to local charities.

“It is our great privilege to help East Texans faithfully support the greatest charitable needs in our communities,” ETCF President Kyle Penney said in a news release. “This organization has a long history of promoting and supporting philanthropy in our region, and we are grateful to the visionary community leaders who created ETCF to help generous East Texans be good stewards and wise givers.

“We are proud of our history, but we recognize the great needs surrounding us, and the great opportunities for even more community philanthropy in the years ahead.”

ETCF works with donors and nonprofit organizations to establish charitable funds, which are invested and managed by the foundation. Over time, those funds make grants to support hundreds of charities based on the philanthropic objectives of the donors. In 25 years, ETCF has received more than $96 million in contributions, grown current charitable assets to a value of more than $66 million, established more than 223 active and unique charitable funds, and grown permanently endowed funds to over $40 million.

Whit and Cynthia Riter have had a donor-advised fund at ETCF for over 15 years.

Whit’s father was one of the original directors of ETCF when it was formed, and his family has a long history of philanthropy in Tyler. Whit Riter also has served on the board of ETCF and served as chairman of the board. He is currently a nonvoting advisory board member and a member of the investment committee.

“How gratifying it is to see in 25 years that the foundation has accrued more than $66 million in assets and given away more than $50 million,” he said. “For a community this size, that says a lot. I am overwhelmed when I think of that kind of generosity.”

One of the biggest advantages to donors is when they create a fund at the foundation, that money can grow over time, tax-free.

On July 1, 1989, the East Texas Area Foundation began operations as a public foundation serving the East Texas region, with Isadore Roosth serving as the first chairman of the board.

According to the founding documents, the purpose of the organization was to “function in the nature of a community chest, providing services to the various religious, charitable, scientific, literary and educational needs of the individuals and organizations in the area” of East Texas.

The foundation was formed from the original Greater Tyler United Fund Foundation, a trust created by the Greater Tyler United Fund in 1971.

The reason for starting the new organization in 1989 was to “expand the area in which the Foundation provides benefits and in order to form a more efficient organization.”

In 1992, the organization changed its name to East Texas Communities Foundation and over time the area served has expanded to include 32 East Texas counties.

The mission of East Texas Communities Foundation is to support philanthropy by offering simple ways for donors to achieve their long-term charitable goals. Many donors have established charitable funds at ETCF as a simple alternative to establishing a private foundation, charitable trust or nonprofit corporation.

Charitable funds have purposes that are as varied as the donors who have established them. Some funds are permanently endowed to support one specific charitable organization while others are used to support a wide variety of charities. Still other funds have been created to support student scholarships or accomplish short-term community projects.

While most of the work of ETCF goes by without much public notice, projects such as the Bullard Kids Park and Shine Your Light Community Campaign invite broader public participation.

Call ETCF at 903-522-0208 or visit www.etcf.org for more information.