Organizations: North Georgia Community Foundation

This summer, the North Georgia Community Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary at a gala with the unusual theme of “Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, & Human Kindness.” On a hilltop in Hall County, guests trained telescopes on the surrounding mountains and Lake Lanier.

The symbolism of elements and horizon was deliberate and enthusiastic.

“They have a knack for bringing together visionaries who see the glass as half full,” quips Kay Blackstock, executive director of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, one of many organizations sponsored by the foundation, which manages philanthropy in 15 counties of northeast Georgia.

A Cup Running Over: In 1985, newspaper publisher Lou Fockele established The North Georgia Community Foundation in Gainesville, in one of the state’s most affluent counties that fortuitously claims a high concentration of nonprofits. With assets approaching $30 million, the foundation relies largely on donations and bequests to disburse an annual average of three to six million dollars in grants. Last year, it presented $187,000 in scholarships to 122 local students, and its seed money and resources have launched WomenSource; the Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program; and the food bank, which has handed out 1.3 million pounds of groceries.

“We don’t hold fund-raisers because we don’t want to compete with nonprofits,” says president and CEO James Mathis. “So many of them are really up against the wall in this economy, but our numbers really haven’t dropped that much. We’re trying to keep them from having to cut services and staff.”

Tried And True: In fact, most of the organizational good works in this corner of the mountains, from Chal-lenged Child and Friends to The Folk Pottery Museum, have benefited from the expertise and integrity of the NGCF, one of the first philanthropy groups in the country to undergo a national standards certification process.

“That assures people that their donations have real oversight,” says Mathis, who works with three full-time staff members, 25 board members, and a host of financial advisers to direct the flow of generosity, administering endowments, trust funds and partnerships with other foundations.

Shelter And Warmth: The NGCF also leases office space at reduced costs to several agencies, including Rape Response, the North Georgia AIDS Alliance, and the Gaines-ville Symphony and Ballet. “The fact that they’re next door to each other with a common meeting room fosters a sense of collaboration,” Mathis says.

And, in one of those full-circle testimonies, the foundation’s first scholarship recipient, now a local physician, serves on its board of directors.

Categories: Organizations