Otsego County is blessed with generous foundations.
The Clark Foundation and its spinoffs have, of course, been transformative, and continue to be, with supporting the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Fenimore and Farmers’ museums, Glimmerglass Opera and more than $10 million in college scholarships to top local students countywide since the 1960s.
The Clark’s Scriven Foundation is focused exclusively within the county, and it’s the rare worthy venture in the towns around Glimmerglass that hasn’t benefited from its public spirit and largesse.
As The Clark Foundation – founded by Stephen Carlton Clark in 1931; now one of the largest in the nation – was made possible by Singer Sewing Machine’s worldwide reach and success, so the Dewar Foundation, founded in 1947, was able to channel IBM’s similar globe-spanning fortunes into Oneonta.
As did many of what grew to 33 IBM millionaires, James Dewar’s grandfather bought stock in the International Time Recording Co. at the turn of the 20th century. Today, through IBM’s success, the Dewar Foundation’s fingerprints may be found on every worthy venture of the last 70 years in the City of the Hills. Hartwick College was favored in particular by Dewar’s widow Jessie, who lived almost three decades beyond her husband’s passing.
With such examples as Jane Forbes Clark and the Dewar family, the Community Foundation of Otsego County, in the making for the past year, is almost a guaranteed success.
Citizens who may have no more than $100, $1,000 or $10,000 to donate – many will choose to donate much more – will have a chance to experience the same thrill of doing good as the Clarks,
Dewars, Worcester’s and Stamford’s Robinsons and Broadhursts, and many other successful families here and across the country have done and are doing.
The original plan of Harry Levine, former Otsego Land Trust chairman, retired SUNY Oneonta President Alan Donovan, Patsy Smith of the Smith Ford family, Bank of Cooperstown President Scott White – there are 14 founding directors in all – was to build the community foundation’s focus from the ground up.
The idea was that, through focus groups and facilitated community meetings, the foundation would come to understand the common philanthropic will of all of us, and chart a strategy accordingly.
Then, the coronavirus arrived.
Faced with a countywide manifestation of an international catastrophe, the foundation board decided the time to act is now, and launched, as its first undertaking, the “COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund for Otsego County” to help the stricken, the frontline workers who help them, and the jobless.
In the planning process, enough money was initially raised to cover all administrative costs. All funds donated – each and every one of us should give something, large or small – will be channeled to existing non-profits with focused and success track records in meeting the challenge at hand.
Few of us are fortunate enough to do the vast good that Jane Forbes Clark and Jessie Dewar are doing or did. But together, all 59,493 of us, can do significant good. Let’s do it.