Ashland Rotary Foundation
by Pete Belcastro, Club Historian
Back on March 25, 1971, the Rotary Club of Ashland's weekly bulletin "The Keyway", published a story announcing the board of directors approving the formation of the Ashland Rotary Foundation.
What's unusual about that particular note is the date --1971. Because in 1971, when ARF was created, it was one of the first service or fraternal club charitable foundations in the world. Today, thousands of Rotary clubs across the USA and the world support 501(c)(3) foundations, which in turn support projects and services locally and around the world. This Rotary year, the Ashland Rotary Foundation celebrates its 45th consecutive year of existence.
A year after serving as club president, Ashland insurance man and rancher John Billings, who spearheaded the effort to create the Foundation, was named its first president. He served in that capacity until becoming district governor in 1979. Billings is considered the "Father" of the Ashland Rotary Foundation and carried a record 61 years of perfect club attendance. He died in 2010 and remains the Foundation's largest benefactor, donating more than $100,000 toward scholarships for local students.
While ARF was chartered for many charitable uses, the first Trustees chose to use Foundation funds to only support scholarships for Ashland High School students. In fact, the original trustees, Henry Enders, Esby McGill, Arky Lewis, Archie Fries, and secretary Glenn Munsells' intent was to provide a scholarship for every Ashland High School student. Today the Foundation makes an annually selected number of both AHS and SOU student scholarships.
Members of the Rotary Club of Ashland are also members of the Foundation and elect nine Trustees to operate it. Over 45 years the scholarships corpus has grown to more than $1million for the first time. Members have contributed most of those funds which are managed by Ashland-based Harfst and Association, affiliated with Raymond James.
While many Foundation records are nonexistent, "They Keyway" reports three $750 scholarships awarded in 1983 -- the apparent first year awards were made. In 2011, a total of 18 scholarships were awarded totaling $47,000, the highest single year ever awarded.
As of last year, 300 students, 285 from AHS and 15 from SOU have received scholarship aid from the Ashland Rotary Foundation totaling $647,000.
Three years ago members of club voted to include a community service component to the Foundation. Today ARF continues its scholarship mission of serving local students, and now community service projects supported by the Club.
Over 45 years members of the Rotary Club of Ashland have supported the Foundation by volunteering to serve two terms as a Trustee; contributing monies to the scholarship corpus and community support; and participating in a community service or international project.
Thanks to the vision of its founders, today the Ashland Rotary Foundation has a long history of giving. Its not hard to believe this tradition will continue and only grow and serve more of the club and community needs.
Join us in our work: contributions to ARF from the public are always welcome and encouraged. Learn more about ARF, at www.ashland.rotary.org.