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Mission & History

“We make it easy to care about our community.”

The Community Foundation Serving the Heart of Western Pennsylvania (formerly the Armstrong County Community Foundation), a public nonprofit corporation, enhances the quality of life of the people of mid-Western Pennsylvania by:

  •  Giving grants, scholarships and organizational support to address the changing needs of our community
  •  Building a permanent endowment for our community and helping our donors create a legacy for the future through this endowment
  •  Promoting informed philanthropy and volunteerism to increase charitable resources for the region
  •  Providing leadership and building partnerships to identify and solve community issues

Our History

In 1997 Merchants National Bank, an Armstrong County community bank, marked its 100th anniversary. The centennial celebration included a unique expression of gratitude to the community in the form of $100,000 to be used as a seed fund to initiate a community foundation for Armstrong County. The bank challenged the community to keep the principal balance of the endowed funds intact and spend only a portion of the interest earnings to ensure a lasting legacy.

To create and develop the foundation, the bank enlisted the help of a core group of community leaders who shared their vision of building and sustaining a healthy vibrant community. The new “design team” would eventually become the first Board of Directors and guide the success of the foundation over the next five years.

Common values of the group drove a commitment to the ongoing job of building a permanent endowment for the Community Foundation as well as a repository for donor-advised funds. They envisioned a community foundation that would complement the work and efforts of county non-profits by offering an ongoing resource for unmet as well as new program and project needs. They also wanted to offer the community an alternative philanthropic channel—one that allows financial resources to be complimented by individual input.

A mission statement evolved naturally.

The Community Foundation is a public, non-profit corporation, organized to attract and invest permanent endowment resources, with the purpose of enhancing the quality of life for the residents of our community, in accordance with the charitable intentions of its donors.

To meet this mission, the group also defined goals and objectives for the foundation:

Identify and support community based charitable purposes in the areas of health, education, economic development, human services, and historical, cultural and environmental activities;
Participate in shaping responses to community needs through philanthropic leadership, commitment, and compassion;
Demonstrate accountability and integrity in the management of resources.

The design team worked diligently throughout 1998. They filed for Articles of Incorporation on September 2, 1998; held their first meeting of recruited Trustees in November of 1998; and were granted 501c3 status in January 1999. At the same time, Merchants National Bank deposited $40,000 in the Foundation account for its 1998 and 1999 contribution from the original seed fund. In addition, in December of 1998 the foundation received a generous personal donation of $200,000.

The ACCF board met monthly for the next three years. Through the course of these monthly work sessions, they developed policies, procedures, and bylaws for the foundation. They formed committees including an investment committee to direct and monitor the foundation’s investments. Looking toward the future, they also developed criteria for grant making and staffing.

Board members who were successful seasoned stock market investors took responsibility for the foundation’s investment strategies. Initially, they chose to invest aggressively using a long-term strategy. The Community Foundation enjoyed a substantial rate of return in the late 1990’s of close to 30%. However, when the stock market took a downturn so did the assets of the foundation. The current investment policy calls for a much more conservative approach using future funds to diversify the Community Foundation portfolio.

In 2014 the name was officially changed to the Community Foundation Serving the Heart of Western Pennsylvania to include all of our service areas.