Knox and Daviess County Community Foundations regional director Mary Smith works to leave legacy of paying it forward
Not unlike when she helped her husband fix up an old house to become an historic landmark to be enjoyed for years to come, Mary Smith is helping oversee two community foundations which will benefit generations long into the future.
Now as regional director for both the Knox and Daviess County Community Foundations, Smith has found her niche where she can oversee caring people giving back to their community to fund causes and good work in both communities she serves.
Smith says she was called to serve others when she and her husband, Ralph, restored what was a rundown home where the couple makes their home in Washington.
“I consider our house project one of those material things (personal). It was certainly dilapidated, and it’s now our home, with all the things we need today — hopefully after we pass, what we have done to update it can help someone else enjoy it like we have,” she said.
Passing it on to the next generation — not unlike what the Foundation is able to do with its funds and grants.
Since its inception when Michael Quayle established the first fund on Feb. 18, 1997, to help St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the Knox County Community Foundation is ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The Foundation has been giving grants and scholarships for almost two decades totaling 1,748 in all, worth $2.8 million.
“That’s pretty cool,” Smith said of the significant amount.
“The passion of both Jay Myers in Daviess and Mike Quayle in Knox has helped me have a better understanding of the roots of our Community Foundations. At the same time, I think it’s essential for me in my role to water the roots that they and others along the way have planted and grow those Community Foundations into the future. Like us, organizations and businesses must be vibrant and alive. Unless we and the organizations we lead are, we miss the opportunities we are given every day to serve others and make a difference in our communities — both today and after we are gone,” she said.
Smith succeeds previous Foundation directors Jeannie Fields, Kathy Rinsch and Jamie Neal, all of whom she highly praised for their work.
Her work in Knox County started in August when the organization was in the middle of a Lilly match program, and the local advisors asked her for help in making the March 31 deadline. After making the deadline, and getting the Lilly match, there were conversations about how the two counties could make it work to share Smith as a regional director. An administrative assistant was hired to help in Daviess County, and Smith was able to rely heavily on her assistant Annette Nowaski in Knox County, who helps the office run smoothly in Vincennes.
Now working in both counties, Smith answers to two advisory boards, but says it’s been a “great experience” working also now in Knox County.
“They are so welcoming here,” she said. Smith said working with both community foundations has been helpful by not only sharing resources, but bouncing ideas off each other and networking.
Nowaski said, “For me, I’ve had three great directors I have worked under, and every director I thought brought a new perspective and moved us forward.”
“I think it’s our basic philosophy that we are here for the good of the community,” said Chris Hertel, president of the Community Foundation’s 23-member Advisory Board. “We take money in and give it back to the community. That’s what makes this rewarding. It goes back to the community.”
In the future, as Community Foundation funds grow, “We will be able to give even more back to the community,” he added. “It’s an awesome way for somebody to leave a living legacy … to leave a gift that keeps on giving forever.”
“The fund founders of this who have passed on are still making a difference, and still having an impact on our community,” Hertel said.
Making Knox County’s Community Foundation unique is the fact that is has both permanent and non-permanent funds, Smith said, but over its 20-year history there have been 119 funds established, bringing in 10,215 gifts and totaling more than $8 million.
Smith added, “I believe my work in both counties, alongside so many board members and donors and organizations who are passionate about their communities and building a brighter future, has been handed to me as a big earthly gift. I consider that big gift one I must water and grow, so when my role with the Community Foundations ends, the next person can grow it — and, enjoy it as much as I do!”
The Knox County Community Foundation helps people make a difference where it matters, invest in the future of the community they love, and create greater good together. The Foundation’s office is located in the Old National Bank building at 20 N. Third St., Suite 301 in Vincennes. To learn more, call 812.886.0093 or visit www.knoxcountyfoundation.org.
By Melody Brunson