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Community Foundation Awards $900K To Organizations | News, Sports, Jobs

This month, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation will distribute grants exceeding $900,000 to 114 organizations through its designated and agency endowment funds. These permanent funds provide annual support for specific nonprofit organizations.

“Establishing a designated fund makes sense for individuals and families who support the general needs of an organization throughout their lifetime,” said Tory Irgang, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation executive director. “Our staff distributes the dollars annually and ensures they are used in a manner consistent with the donors’ wishes.”

For the Lyons family, there were few experiences that compared to summers spent at YMCA Camp Onyahsa. It was this sentiment that led them to create the Lyons Family Campership Fund, a designated fund that ensures local youth who want to experience camp have the opportunity to do so.

“I started spending summers at Onyahsa when I was 8 years old,” Mike Lyons said. “I have so many memories of the traditions and time spent around the campfire. It was a wonderful experience to get outdoors and learn about nature.”

It was also an opportunity to bond with his cousin Jim Lyons, who was 10 years his senior, and worked at Onyahsa as a counselor.

Joanne Nelson trimming brush along the hiking trail at Camp Timbercrest.

“Onyahsa meant a lot to Jim,” Lyons said. “I have spent 20 summers there, as a camper, counselor and eventually waterfront director. It was something that we were able to share as I grew up and then later in life it was something that brought us closer.”

It was also an experience Lyons shared with his son, when he came of age. With all this in mind, the cousins ​​and their families established this fund and were able to witness its impact prior to Jim’s passing of him in 2019.

Today, both Lyons and his wife, Barbara, remain proud stewards of this family legacy as strong advocates for Camp Onyahsa. With a laugh, Lyons even recalls a spirited youngster whom he’s had the pleasure of watching grow into a beloved camp director.

“Onyahsa wouldn’t be what it is today without Jon O’Brian,” he said.

Joanne Nelson has her own fond memories of summer camp, but her summers were spent with the Girl Scouts at Camp Timbercrest.

Mike and Barbara Lyons at YMCA Camp Onyahsa’s annual dinner dance fundraiser. Submitted photos

“I loved my time at Camp Timbercrest,” Nelson said. “I saw so many good things happen there, including watching our counselors grow into doing amazing things.”

In 2019, Nelson established a designated fund for the Girl Scouts of Western New York that grants dollars for the outdoor maintenance and future enhancements at the Jamestown Service Center and Camp Timbercrest.

However, this wasn’t the first designated fund that Nelson established through the Community Foundation. In previous years, she worked closely with staff to create funds to benefit organizations that played an important role in her life and in the life of her family, such as First Presbyterian Church, Zion Covenant Church, and the Chautauqua County Humane Society.

“The staff at the foundation know our community well and make it easy to invest in various funds while making the tax benefits clear,” Nelson said. “They do a great job managing investments and helping ordinary people like me create a lasting legacy without having to spend a fortune to do so!”

One of the ways foundation staff works with Nelson to achieve her philanthropic goals is through its Charitable Gift Annuity program, which allows Nelson to become a member of the foundation’s Legacy Society.

A charitable gift annuity is a contract between a donor and the Community Foundation allowing them to make an immediate gift of cash or marketable securities and in return, gaining a partial tax deduction and a fixed stream of income for the rest of their life.

“Of the many tools available at the Community Foundation, the CGA program has really met my goal of generating retirement income now, while ensuring that nonprofit organizations I have supported throughout my life will benefit when I am gone,” Nelson said.

For others, designated funds are created to honor the memory of a loved one who cared about, or spent time with, a particular organization or cause. After Heather Potter passed away unexpectedly in May 2021, her parents dedicated their time finding the right way to preserve her memory of her.

“If you met Heather, you would never forget her,” said Brenda Johnson, Heather’s mother. “Her warm smile and cheerful greeting were unforgettable. She just made you feel good being around her. Most of all, Heather loved animals and often volunteered with the Humane Society.”

They found the right fit by working with the Community Foundation to establish The Heather Potter Memorial Fund which will annually grant dollars to the Chautauqua County Humane Society.

“We are honored that Heather will be forever associated with our work through this fund,” said Kellie Roberts, Chautauqua County Humane Society executive director.

While the timing and approach may differ, every donor has the same intention, and that is to continue their generosity forever.

“Whether we work with donors during their lifetime to establish designated funds or if those arrangements come at the time of their passing, we find it tremendously heartwarming,” Irgang said. “We consider it a privilege to steward the legacies of generous and thoughtful people every day.”

The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation currently administers more than 700 endowments to support emerging community needs, charitable organizations and local students pursuing higher education. At the end of 2021, the Foundation’s asset level was $142.1 million.

To learn more about how you can make a difference with the Community Foundation, visit or contact their office at 716-661-3390.

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