Colleen Casey

The Oxford and Middletown communities have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season due in part to two local foundations, The Oxford Community Foundation and the Middletown Community Foundation.

Both foundations operate under a grant system where various organizations apply for grant money. A committee then reviews the requests and determines who should be the recipients of the foundations money.

Founded in 1996, the Oxford Community Foundation has donated $1.8 million to date to charitable organizations according to the foundation’s executive director, Roger Millar.

Millar said the foundation collects and manages charitable gifts from the general population and businesses, as well as awards grants to charities in the Oxford area.

The foundation has also worked on many projects over the years, Millar said, including helping to create the uptown park, donating supplies and playground equipment to the Talawanda School District, and donating funds to Talawanda’s Model United Nations program and the Oxford College Corner Clinic.

Duane Gordon, executive director for the Middletown Community Foundation, said the Middletown foundation does much for the community through projects that affect the schools, the arts, sports and numerous other endeavors in the community.

“We break grants into alternating quarters,” Gordon said. “One quarter we give to arts, festivals and recreation, the other to human needs charities and education.”

According to Gordon, the foundation received twice as many grant requests last quarter than they had the previous quarter. In addition, Gordon said the foundation granted $855,000 in scholarships, a record number for the foundation.

Gordon said that the Middletown foundation funds non-profit organizations in the greater Middletown area, as well as providing scholarships to area high school students.

In 2007, more than 500 students were recipients of scholarships, and in the past 10 years they have given more than $1 million to Miami students.

The Middletown Community Foundation has also donated $7,000 to Abilities First, an organization that works with mentally and physically disabled high school students, preparing them from the transition from school to the outside world.

Gordon stated that they have also given $17,000 to the Middletown fire department for automated ambulance cots to reduce the number of firefighters injured per year attempting to put people into ambulances.

Both Millar and Gordon said the success they have seen thus far will hopefully serve as a spark to help both foundations improve in the future.

However, they both said they understand the financial crisis will play a role in what they are able to achieve.

Millar said that there will have to be a reduction in the number of grants awarded, because grants are based on earnings on their endowment, which has been stagnant due to the economy.

“We are not supported by a government agency,” Millar said. “We depend on the generosity of the people in our area.”

Similarly, Gordon said that even though the foundation twice as many grant requests last quarter, they still had to make cuts.

“If an organization asked for $20,000, they might only get $15,000,” Gordon said.

James Brock and Dennis Sullivan, Miami University professors of economics, also weighed in on the issue of financial need in communities.

Brock said that because the current economic situation appears slightly more serious than those in the recent past, the impact it has on people will likewise be slightly more serious.

Brock said that the increase in community needs is part of the fallout from the financial crisis.

“With the slowing economy there are more needs now than one to two years ago, so it is unfortunately not surprising to see an increase in requests,” Brock said.

Brock said that most foundations suffer in the same way as businesses in times of economic crisis, especially if the foundations depend on the local businesses for their money.

If the community is suffering, there will be less money all around, which includes the money available to the foundations.

“In hard times giving goes down with the exception of wealthy philanthropic individuals,” Sullivan said.