Rockstar board presidents led 20 years of growth: part 2

Tom Jesberger, on left, is congratulated on his election as Elk County Community Foundation Board President in 2019, by Gennaro Aiello, outgoing Board President.

While the first ten years of the Elk County Community Foundation (ECCF) established the framework for the organization and spearheaded its initial growth, the second decade has seen outstanding growth and expansion. Board Presidents who served during the last ten years expressed their strong support and belief in the mission of organization.

Dan Straub, serving as Board President in 2011, 2012, stated,”20 years ago I was invited to the St. Marys Country Club to hear a presentation from William Conrad, Jake Meyer and Rich Masson regarding the creation of a Community Foundation. It seemed like a worthy endeavor and I remember thinking to myself that such an organization could be very beneficial to our community.  I was eager to become involved and from that day forward did just that. Fast forward to the present day and it is with great pride that I see what has transpired to be not only a very positive part of Elk County, but also the surrounding communities.”

Don Valone, a Ridgway resident, took over as president in 2013 and 2014. In reminiscing about his term, Don said, “As a past president of the Foundation I find myself feeling the gift of satisfaction and reward. We started with a contribution from the Stackpole-Hall Foundation and continued to grow for the next 20 years from many donations from the wonderful giving people of our area. Many different funds and scholarships have been established to assist different groups and individuals to achieve their goals. It was during my presidency that we began talking with McKean County about joining us as an affiliate. This affiliation was finalized early in 2017. Our administration’s main challenge was to ensure the ground work was put in place for the governance of the affiliates in its formative years. I am happy and encouraged to see this new partnership flourish as it has.”

ECCF’s next Board President was local attorney, Jake Meyer. “I learned the value of giving to the community from my parents, particularly my father who served on many boards. I tried to follow in his footsteps in helping to establish the Elk County Community Foundation and to serve as a board member since its inception and president in 2015-2016. When president, I wrote that ‘the strength of a community is determined by its members’ who create a mission and vision, develop relationships and make commitments. It was true then and is true now, particularly in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic.  Our local community is strong. When I was president, 18 new charitable funds were created, and 74 grants and 187 scholarships were awarded. Executive Director Paula Eddy, the staff and board members worked diligently to make that happen. The ECCF community was strong then and continues to be now as the number of funds, grants, and scholarships grow.”

Gennaro Aiello, a resident of Ridgway, was Board President in 2017, 2018. “It was an honor and a privilege to serve as Community Foundation President. I was fortunate to witness the tremendous impact Foundation grants have on the quality of life for our region. The Community Foundation affords everyone the opportunity to be part of this philanthropy and create a legacy of their own”, said Gennaro.

Tom Jesberger, current board president, has served in the role during 2019 and 2020. Tom stated, “the Elk County Community Foundation, although well known in certain circles, is still unknown to a large number of individuals.  I was in the latter group until I became a board member.  The foundation, being in existence a young 20 years, has helped numerous individuals through scholarships and grants. ECCF has given away over $6 million dollars in the last 20 years, and has reached a threshold where it gives out over $500,000 every year to help local non-profits and students wanting to further their education.  A large portion of the dollars in the foundation were donated by ordinary individuals, so ECCF is a great way for anyone to leave a legacy and pay it forward to the future of Elk County and the surrounding area.”

Today, the Elk County Community Foundation is a highly regarded community institution due to the dedication and expertise of these board presidents and all members of the foundation’s board and staff, along with the acceptance of the mission of the foundation by the general public. The mission of ECCF is to strengthen our region through development, stewardship, and grant making as donors achieve their philanthropic goals. Contact ECCF at 834-2125 or for more information.