Berks County Community Foundation
Berks County Community Foundation is a public benefit organization located in Reading, Pennsylvania, United States. The Foundation's mission is to promote philanthropy and improve the quality of life for the residents of Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Berks County Community Foundation is a member of the Council on Foundations.
The Community Foundation, which was founded in 1994 with grants from the Wyomissing Foundation, a local private foundation, works with people, businesses and organizations to set up charitable funds that make grants to causes they care about. For example, someone who makes a donation to a humane society every year might want to continue to make that donation every year even after they die. By setting up a fund at the Community Foundation, that person can be assured that a grant will go to the humane society in his or her name every year.
The Community Foundation manages hundreds of charitable funds, each created to support a cause the donor cared about. Some people create funds while they are alive so they can see the benefits of the grants they make. Others set up a fund in their will by leaving a certain amount of money or a portion of their estate to the Community Foundation and stipulating what it should be used for. Creating a fund at the Community Foundation through one's will allows donors to put money that would otherwise be used for taxes to use in the community.
After local leaders and residents did some research and determined Berks County would greatly benefit from having a community foundation, Berks County Community Foundation’s articles of incorporation were filed June 7, 1994. To get started, The Wyomissing Foundation gave the fledgling Community Foundation $1 million in initial operating funds. The United Way of Berks County housed the Community Foundation for more than two years until the Community Foundation could afford its own space.
Kevin Murphy was hired as the Foundation’s first employee in 1994 and has remained president ever since.
Beatrice M. Shaffer, a resident of Reading, donor left money in her will to create a fund managed by the foundation to help Jewish programs and Jewish people in need of assistance. She died in 2006, and the creation of the fund was announced by the foundation in 2007.
After years of growth in rented office space, it became time for the Community Foundation to create its own office. It did so by setting an example and constructing Berks County’s first “green,” or certified environmentally-friendly, building. In 2009, this new building opened at the corner of Third and Court streets in downtown Reading.
The building was awarded LEED® platinum status, which is the highest level of certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.
In addition to housing the Community Foundation, the building is home to Jump Start Incubator, a program that helps entrepreneurs building strong new businesses, and a Community Conference Center. In 2014, local businesswoman June Clougher was hired as the director of Jump Start Incubator.
In 2015, a $100,000 grant from the Community Foundation's Hawley and Myrtle Quier Fund to the Reading Downtown Improvement District started the free Downtown Alive outdoor concert series, which was intended to showcase how vibrant downtown Reading can be. The first season of the series had performances by Striking Matches, Andrew McMahon, and the Gin Blossoms. The series was expanded in 2016 and included performances from Brothers Osborne, The Struts, a double-billed appearance by Toad the Wet Sprocket and Rusted Root, Marc Broussard, and the Pat McGee Band.
In 2016, several companies came on board the concert series as co-sponsors, notably John Weidenhammer, president of Weidenhammer Systems Corp. Weidenhammer made a strong commitment to downtown Reading that summer, pledging to bring part of his workforce and a retail store or restaurant to a building he had purchased at the heart of Reading near Fifth and Penn streets.
The largest contribution Berks County Community Foundation received from an individual donor in fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016, was $2.1 million to establish the Richard L. Henry Memorial Fund. The fund was established by the estate of Maxine R. Henry, who died at age 88 on October 29, 2015, so that she and her late husband, Richard, could continue to support causes that mattered to them. The largest donation that fiscal year was $2.5 million in connection with BB&T’s acquisition of National Penn. That donation set up the BB&T Economic Growth Fund, which is intended to invest in local economic development opportunities.
In 2016, VOiCEup Berks became a fund of the Community Foundation. The fund, which is really an organization, is dedicated to connecting all sectors of Berks County to volunteer opportunities through service learning.
- Berks County Community Foundation Official site.
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- "Berks foundation establishes fund for Jewish aid: It is set up with a $1.4 million gift from the estate of Beatrice M. Shaffer, widow of Dr. Irvin G. Shaffer.". Reading Eagle (Reading, PA). August 9, 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-19.
- Urban, Mike (March 11, 2009). "Myrtle B. Quier's $10 million bequest will help many in Berks County. Ex-Reading Eagle Company chairman emeritus's $10 million gift is one of the largest in Berks history". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
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- "Kudos to the Berks County Community Foundation for its generous support and vision of a vibrant downtown". bctv.org - Local news about Berks County and Reading, Pa. Retrieved 2016-10-17.
- "Concert review: Pat McGee Band finally plays Reading in Downtown Alive set | Reading Eagle - NEWS". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 2016-10-17.
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- "Donor gives $2.1 million to Berks County Community Foundation | Reading Eagle - NEWS". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
- "BB&T Economic Growth Funds will add $5 million to local economic development efforts". bctv.org - Local news about Berks County and Reading, Pa. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
- "Youth Volunteer Corps Launches in Berks County". bctv.org - Local news about Berks County and Reading, Pa. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
- Berks County Community Foundation Official site.