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Fostoria charity enters new era


`This is definitely good for the community,' says Rita O'Donnell of the Fostoria Greater Community Foundation.


FOSTORIA - The Fostoria Greater Community Foundation has taken a coming-of-age step with the hiring of a paid director.

Rita O'Donnell has begun work as executive director for the foundation, which awards grants to nonprofit organizations in the Fostoria area.

The 2-1/2-year-old foundation has operated solely on volunteers since its beginning in December, 1998. Mrs. O'Donnell is its first paid employee and will work five days a week on a part-time basis.

With more than $1 million in donations and pledges, the foundation has taken another step by applying for affiliation with Toledo Community Foundation. Fostoria now is affiliated with Cleveland.

Mrs. O'Donnell said the affiliation should take place this month and will help move the Fostoria foundation up a notch.

“The larger organization will invest our money and keep track of accounts and take care of government work and legal filings,” she said. “We're not big enough yet to handle it all ourselves.''

Mrs. O'Donnell's goals are to move the Fostoria foundation to the next level.

“I would like to see the foundation have up to $5 million in donations and pledges within five years and become self-supporting,” she said. “Then, we could withdraw from Toledo affiliation and invest our own money.”

Her goal for the next year is to raise foundation donations and pledges to more than $2 million and “encourage the community to get more involved.”

Much of her job will be contacting people and “selling” the foundation.

“I'll make personal calls and presentations to clubs, go out and beat the bushes for donations,” Mrs. O'Donnell said. “If you have a good cause, it's not hard to ask people. This is definitely good for the community.”

A 17-person board governs the Fostoria Greater Community Foundation.

A committee chaired by Cheryl Buckland of Fostoria established the foundation in June, 1998. It was patterned after similar foundations in other cities and became affiliated with the one in Cleveland.

“Our contact person in Cleveland was eliminated, and Fostoria was not getting the attention it needed so the board decided to switch to the Toledo foundation,” Mrs. O'Donnell said. That switch is likely to take place after the year's first quarter.

All money is from private donations and corporate contributions. Money is invested, and earnings provide the annual grants.

The first grants went to four organizations in 1999, the largest a $12,000 gift to the Fostoria Historical Society. Others were $3,000 to the Fostoria Arts Council, and $1,000 each to the Fostoria Community Hospital Association and Girlfriends, a mentoring group for young girls.

George Gray, director of the historical society, was grateful for the grant, used for air-conditioning and heating in the Fostoria Historical Museum.

“We sure were glad to get it,” he said. “Now we can maintain even temperature, which is important in a museum. We could hardly exist as a real museum without it.”

The museum is in a 125-year-old former city building leased for $1 a year.

“It's got two floors, 11 rooms, and some very valuable artifacts, and the grant allowed us to protect them,” Mr. Gray said.

Organizations to receive grants for 2000 have not been chosen, but applications are being taken this month.

Mrs. O'Donnell, 58, lives in Findlay but said she will move back to Fostoria, where she once lived with her late husband, William, a longtime auto dealer here. She has remained involved in Fostoria, where she is the organist for St. Wendelin Catholic Church.

“If I'm promoting the community, I'm going to live there,” she said.

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