A generous gift announced this week should inspire other Douglas County residents to give something back to their community.
What a wonderful gift to the community.
The Douglas County Community Foundation truly is a gift that will keep on giving. The funds donated by Hortense "Tensie" Oldfather will support many community projects far beyond all our lifetimes.
The $5 million initial investment is just one part of the gift. The foundation also sets up a structure that will make it easier for others to donate funds to their favorite causes. Grants will be made from the Oldfather funds, but the foundation also can serve as an umbrella for charitable funds dedicated to specific projects and organizations in the county. Donations to the foundation can be made without restrictions or they can be designated to support specific groups or projects, most of which wouldn't be able to establish foundations of their own.
Foundation officials expect to distribute about $200,000 this year. Oldfather said she hoped that money would be used to start new programs, rather than simply supporting existing efforts. The community can help repay her generosity by formulating innovative and exciting plans to put this money to work in the county.
There were many ways Tensie Oldfather could have used this money. She could have donated a building at an educational institution or built a museum. She could have used some of it to support an extravagant lifestyle for herself and her family. She has seven children who could have benefited from the money. But she chose to give the money to Lawrence and Douglas County because "this is my community." The foundation won't even carry the Oldfather name; it is the Douglas County Community Foundation.
The initial interest in the foundation probably will be from groups that are seeking funds, but the foundation will be a perfect vehicle for people who want to give back to their community by supporting various worthy projects. Not many local residents have the resources to match Oldfather's $5 million contribution, but her generosity should serve as an inspiration to others who share her love of Lawrence and Douglas County.
Oldfather is the widow of former Kansas University general counsel and law professor Charles Oldfather. Since moving here in 1950, they have been active supporters of and participants in the arts and many civic projects. There contributions to the community have included many monetary gifts but also donations of time and hard work. The new community foundation will be a suiting and lasting tribute to a couple that has meant much to Douglas County.