The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 13, 2013

A way to fund progress

Foundation exists to help others raise, maintain capital

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Cherokee Strip Community Foundation has grown from a youngster into a mature and stable organization, with a great future.

Executive Director Ashley Ewbank said numerous funding sources benefit nonprofit organizations in the area, including school and community entities.

The foundation is a nonprofit philanthropic organization serving charitable needs of northwest Oklahoma through development and administration of endowment funds with the goal of preserving capital to benefit organizations in the future, Ewbank said.

Donations made to the foundation are placed in trusts at Central National and Liberty Federal Savings banks and distributed annually to the nonprofit they are established to help.

“It’s our fiduciary duty to protect the core of those funds,” Ewbank said.

Cherokee Strip Community Foundation was started in 1999 and began receiving funds in 2000. The initial funds were raised because of a challenge match from Sisters of Mercy, former owners of St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, which started the match program as a way to help the community.

Throughout the past 14 years, the foundation has acquired more than $12 million in assets and distributed more than $3 million in grants. Donors have the opportunity to make the investment in Enid and the Cherokee Strip region that will last forever, Ewbank said.

The foundation has grown from $4,604,000 in 2001 to $12,553,000 in 2012.

The community foundation is now looking for a new location, moving from the office in the Cherokee Strip Conference Center since the building will be demolished, except for the facade, when the new downtown hotel is built. Ewbank said they would like to remain downtown and prefer a location with street frontage.

“We redo our strategic planning every three  years and that plan will include a new location,” she said.

Ewbank has been executive director since March 2009. She has a degree in journalism and broadcasting and has emphasized public relations work. She has worked with nonprofit groups since graduating from college. She was involved with Rural Health Project before she became executive director of the community foundation.

Ewbank’s husband Drew is an attorney in Enid, and they have two children, Baylor 10, and Wade, 6. Ewbank originally is from Hennessey and her husband is from Fairview.

“We didn’t plan to come back here. My husband’s career just happened to fall in Enid. We like it here. It’s a good place to raise a family and we’re probably not going anywhere,” she said.

The future of the community foundation is good, she said, adding she is excited about the new start a move will provide.

She said Enid is a good place for nonprofit agencies to grow because of the willingness of the people to respond to needs. With $12 million in capital, Ewbank said the foundation has constructed its core funds and is now in a growing phase.

“We’ve had support from day one. We have extraordinary board members, good businessmen on the board who are interested in growing the foundation and benefiting the community,” Ewbank said.

There are several way to make a donation to the foundation. One is through designated funds, benefiting a specific nonprofit at the will of the donor. Unrestricted funds are left to the discretion of the board.

Field of interest funds are funds donated to a particular interest, and the board will place them in an account in their interest area. Ewbank said that type of donation occurs regularly.

Donor-advised funds are when a donor makes recommendations for the cause.

Many nonprofits use agency funds, another form of donation, in which funds are invested in money markets to there is not long-term investment. While the funds are permanently endowed, the donor may make a recommendation for use of 4 percent to 5 percent of the funds annually.

“This year we have the most number of grant applications ever,” she said. “That goes to the growth of the organization and to its stability. People know we’re going to be there,” she said.