Putting Great Ideas into Action

Special FundsSometimes ordinary people get remarkable inspirations — specific things they want to achieve for their communities. They already have the passion. Now they need some practical tools.

That's where the Community Foundation's special funds come in. They offer a mechanism that allows people with an eye on a special cause to raise money, steward the proceeds and make the vision real.

In 2006, members of the Broome Library Foundation board determined that with the building and furnishing of the new Broome County Library in Binghamton, their work was completed. They still had an endowment, though, and wanted to expand the foundation's mission to include all public libraries in the region, as well as historical exhibits within libraries. They determined that they no longer needed a full board, committees and paid staff to do that.

The group approached the Community Foundation, and the result was the Broome Library Fund. Supported and managed by Community Foundation staff, the fund raises money and makes grants with the help of an advisory board of volunteers.

One of the newest special funds in the Foundation's family is the Artists' Fund. Created in 2011, it will provide small grants to support the professional development of individual visual artists.

Nationwide, most support for the arts goes to arts organizations, not to artists, says Sharon Ball, executive director at the Broome County Arts Council, who helped design the format for the Artists' Fund. But an arts community won't thrive unless you take care of the people who make art. "This is seeding the future — seeding the strength of the arts community by nurturing artists," she says.

Also in 2011, members of the Binghamton City Police Department's K-9 Unit founded the Binghamton Police K-9 Fund. The purpose is to assist with the care of the remarkable dogs that track suspects and missing persons, sniff out drugs, detect explosives and otherwise help the police operate more efficiently and safely.

Procuring good police dogs and training and caring for them takes far more money than the unit's modest budget will allow, says Captain Chris Bracco, one of the four officers in the K-9 Unit. The K-9 Fund can solicit contributions without risking a conflict of interest, and it's equipped to manage the money appropriately. "We don't have the ability or the means to hire accountants and lawyers," Bracco says. "The Community Foundation is set up to do this."

Another new fund, the Steven B. Cantella Fund, has already made several contributions towards its mission, to benefit the Village of Deposit. Laurie Cantella created the fund in memory of her late husband, who died in 2010.

"Steven B. Cantella was the most wonderful, gentle, giving, generous man who ever walked the face of the earth," says Cantella. "As long as I have breath in my body and a penny in my pocket, there will be a fund to keep his name alive and well."

You don't have to be a George F. Johnson or Bill and Melinda Gates to make an important difference in your world. With a special fund as their instrument, ordinary people are accomplishing extraordinary things.

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