BY ANN R. LINEWEAVER

Ann R. Lineweaver

My first exposure to what eventually would become The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro occurred more than 30 years ago when my phone rang, and Cynthia Doyle was on the other end. She had an idea, she said: Greensboro needed a “community foundation.”

Cynthia wanted to know what others in the community might think of it.

Personally, I thought it was a great idea! Cynthia and the late Roger Soles worked together to establish this vital new source of leadership and support for Greensboro. The Foundation is a place where individuals, families, businesses and nonprofits can establish their own permanent funds, which generate interest that in turn can be used to address critical community issues. By establishing a fund at the Foundation – or making a gift to the Foundation as part of their estate planning – people are, more importantly, creating their own personal, permanent legacies.

First housed in a small donated office in the former Jefferson-Pilot building downtown, the Foundation didn’t really have a presence back then. It was hard work to recruit fundholders. And grants to support area nonprofits were much smaller – a couple of thousand dollars, maybe not even that much.

How times have changed!

Three decades later, through perseverance and generous citizens who simply care about their community and want to give back to it, The Community Foundation has touched virtually every corner of greater Greensboro. Health and human services, education, housing, women’s issues, the arts. These areas have all been positively impacted by The Community Foundation through an astonishing $175 million in grant support.

Coincidentally, the concept of community foundations in the United States this year is marking its 100th anniversary, making enormous differences in cities and towns throughout the nation. But throughout its own history, our local Community Foundation has played a leadership role on many fronts. For example, years ago the Foundation boldly – and bravely – stepped forward to support the establishment of the Guilford Community AIDS Partnership. This was in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when this insidious disease struck fear in the hearts of a then largely uneducated public. Despite the stigma of HIV and AIDS, the Foundation did the right thing, bucking controversy and supporting a critical need.

Today, with assets totaling more than $190 million and the ability to grant roughly $10 million annually to worthy nonprofits, The Community Foundation leads efforts on a myriad of important community issues and objectives, including:

  • Women to Women, a fund that supports local programs tackling challenges relevant to women and their families
  • The new Degrees Matter! program, which assists people who have some higher education go back to school to obtain their degrees – and, as a result, get better jobs
  • The Public Art Endowment, which is making possible public art for everyone’s enjoyment – and in doing so, enhancing our sense of community
  • A full portfolio of higher-education scholarships that gives area students the opportunity to further their education
  • Helping area nonprofits build their capacity to best support those in need;
  • The Future Fund and Teen Grantmaking Council, programs that groom our young emerging leaders to recognize the importance of supporting their community now and throughout their lives;
  • And in perhaps the Foundation’s most high-profile effort ever, the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, for which the Foundation has raised $35-million-plus in private support, resulting in the biggest public-private partnership in Greensboro’s history.

It’s an understatement to say that The Community Foundation has made a significant impact on Greensboro – something it will continue to do as a leader, convener and facilitator. However, none of this would be possible without the generous support of our community.

So next Sunday The Community Foundation will say “thank you” by hosting a Community Appreciation Day at the Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball game. The Foundation’s 30-year anniversary is a time to reflect, but more importantly it’s an opportunity to look ahead at what we believe is an even brighter future for Greensboro.

  • The writer, a native of Greensboro, is a former chair of the board of directors of The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and is leading the organization’s 30th anniversary observances.