A local business group on Tuesday celebrated the work of community leaders while showcasing the efforts of youngsters working to make Columbus a better place during the 'Shine a Light on Philanthropy' event held at the Ramada Hotel and River's Edge Convention Center.
The event was created by the Columbus Area Future Fund as a way to bring together two different groups to celebrate various ventures and projects taken on by the people and businesses of Columbus during the past year.
Future Fund Director Eve Jacobson wanted the event to focus on building what she called a ‘culture of giving’ in Columbus.
“We are focused on just constantly pushing the message of giving to the community and thinking about what impact you can really make in your community,” Jacobson said. “We want to continue to show people and give them a vision to give to local endowments and local foundations (and) help people almost have joy in creating their legacy with the money they have. We just want to lift up philanthropy in our community and continue to show people what a difference it makes for our community.
Jacobson said that the transfer of wealth between generations during a 50-year period in Platte County has been measured at $7.5 billion, showing the kind of potential Columbus and the surrounding area could have if people were to give back a percentage of those dollars.
“Just getting people to think of, ‘Imagine if each of us in our state planned to give back 5 percent of this.’ It’s huge,” Jacobson said.
To show this, members of the Columbus Area Philanthropy Council brought forth stories of community involvement, while winners of the fund’s Youth Philanthropy Contest showed off their projects, each of which received funding from the Future Fund.
“Kids could apply with a project that they wanted to get funded,” Jacobson said. “Five groups got funded by the Future Fund for their projects.”
One of the winners was 'Rockin’ for the Residents,' a project spearheaded by three fifth-graders at St. Isidore Elementary School. The project gives children who do not have regular access to dance classes an opportunity to learn the craft and participate in a recital.
“Some girls don’t have the chance to do dance (lessons) because of the time commitment and the expense, so we’re going to do a dance recital at Brookstone Acres,” said Hannah Heinrich, one of the girls leading the charge.
The idea for the dance recital came from Heinrich’s 8-year-old sister, who participated in a recital at the assisted living community. With this inspiration in mind, the three girls (Heinrich, Lola Doerneman, and Kate Hendricks) all decided that this would be something worthwhile for the older residents who call the facility home.
“When we got the philanthropy form, we thought this would be a nice thing to do to brighten the residents’ day,” Heinrich said.
Even before the meeting began, people got the opportunity to meet the local groups and young philanthropists at a social before the meeting. Tables were provided for people to get more information about the various projects, while also getting a chance to meet the people leading those good works.
Among those people was John Schueth, the development director at Scotus Central Catholic High School. The school needed money for a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) unit that would be developed at the school. The school was able to secure money from CAFF with some help from one of Columbus’ most notable sons: former U.S. senator and defense secretary, Chuck Hagel.
“We asked Sen. Hagel to be our point man for this thing,” Schueth said. “In fact, he was the person that we named the lab after. It’s the Chuck Hagel STEAM lab. He’s an alum of our school, so we had to celebrate that connection.”
Schueth has worked alongside many philanthropists and entrepreneurs in Columbus during the years as a member of the Columbus Area Philanthropy Council, which was condensed into CAFF last year. He wanted people to appreciate what CAFF does and what the youth of Columbus are capable of.
“We want to bring awareness to the community what the Columbus (Area) Future Fund does,” Schueth said. “We also want to show what our youth can do, through youth philanthropy projects. They do some really cool things and have some great ideas. All they need is some funding and some guidance.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.