Young Foundation more proactive with strategic plan

Sara Hemingway, executive director of The Marilyn and William Young Charitable Foundation.

The Marilyn and William Young Charitable Foundation has been quietly working behind the scenes for two decades.

But as the organization celebrates its 20th anniversary, it is becoming more proactive and more visible with a new board, new website and expanded strategic plan.

"We've been very under the radar," Sara Hemingway, the foundation's executive director, said Monday. "Marilyn and Bill were very quiet. They liked to make their donations anonymously. But we're going to start doing things different. We're going to start spotlighting our grantees."

"We've always been quiet," Joe Overby, foundation president, agreed. "But we're starting to come out and let people know who we are. In the past, we've reacted to needs. Now, we want to be more proactive."

When a tornado ripped through Owensboro in January 2000, the foundation donated $25,000 to recovery efforts.

Other grants included buying rings for the class of 2001 at the old Beacon High School and a $275,000 grant for a new roof on the RiverPark Center in 2007.

Hemingway said community grants will still be awarded, but the foundation is focusing on leadership succession planning, sustainable arts experiences and family support services.

Overby said the board wants to find ways for new leadership to emerge in the community as the baby boomers in current positions begin to retire.

"Arts have been a part of our mission for a long time," he said.

And, Overby said, the foundation wants to find grants that will help low-income families.

He said school officials say they're seeing more depressed children these days and there aren't government funds to help with such programs.

The Young family is no longer involved with the foundation, Overby said.

At one point, the three-member board considered giving all the money away in grants and closing its doors.

Instead, he said, they tripled the size of the board to nine members and brought in younger people with new ideas.

Current members are Overby, Carol Bothwell, Diane Ford, Jane Miller Haase, Dave Kirk, E. Phillips Malone, Kaitlyn Moore, Madison Silvert and David Tandy.

The new website -- www.mwyoungfoundation.org -- went live on Monday.

Organizations seeking grants can apply on the site, Hemingway said.

Grants will be awarded in November, she said.

"We want partnerships," Hemingway said. "We want to help as many as we can to make this a better place to live."

Overby said Libby Alexander, owner of Saturn Consulting, interviewed more than 20 "perceived leaders in the community" for ideas on what the foundation needed to do.

Finding new leadership

Finding new leadership for the community's future was the top suggestion, he said.

Overby said the foundation wants to find groups "that see a problem and solve it. We want to stimulate things that are good for the community."

Hemingway said, "We worked for more than a year on our strategic plan."

It was unveiled Monday afternoon at a "reveal reception" at the Commerce Center, 200 E. Third St.

The website says, "We will be inviting all schools in the three local districts to be part of our celebration through our Student Leadership Grants. These grants will encourage the leadership and problem-solving potential of our local students by empowering them to design a service project which our foundation will support with a $1,000 grant. These projects will be developed and implemented by the students and address a community or school need/problem they determine and can resolve."

Candance Castlen Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, said, "The Young Foundation is an integral partner in so many of our community's most important initiatives. Their work throughout the community has raised the bar for their grantees and has had a direct impact on so many individuals' quality of life. We look forward to watching the foundation grow as they implement their new vision that has the opportunity to create lasting impact."

The foundation is partnering with the chamber of commerce in Engage Owensboro, an interactive database and a board training program.

"This fall, non-profit organizations will be able to connect with individuals within the community who are interested in serving their organization whether it be through a board appointment, committee work or simply volunteering," the site says.

It adds, "Another key component of Engage Owensboro is specific board training opportunities that will be available to individuals within the community. This will ensure that individuals seeking to serve on boards would have the appropriate orientation to their role. It will also provide a pool of trained individuals from which both non-profits and municipalities could draw new appointees."

The foundation was established in 1998 in the will of Marilyn Field Young to honor her late husband, Bill Young Jr.

It began awarding grants a year later.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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