A file photo of the Worm Creek Opera House in Preston, Idaho still in use today. The organization that still uses it today can benefit from a community foundation.
PRESTON – City of Preston is in the process of forming a community foundation to steer donations into projects the city can’t legally fund.
“We stole the idea from Montpelier City,” said Preston Mayor Dan Keller. “I worked in Montpelier for a while at a bank and saw firsthand how a community foundation can benefit the community.”
Montpelier formed a community foundation when they had big ranchers and businessmen who wanted to donate money to be used in specific ways to enhance the city. If people donated money to the city, allocations were already in place. City government can change from year-to-year, but things like the Oregon Trail Center still need funds.
“They say the Oregon Trail Center surprisingly sees a lot of tourist activity,” he said. “A community needs a way to help things like Oregon Trail Center survive. That’s where the foundation comes in.”
Keller said when he was elected, he was confronted by people telling him Preston needs funding for thinks like the Oneida Stake Academy, Community Sr. Citizen Center, a community rec center, parks, and of things of that nature, things that can’t be funded by the city.
“Our hands are tied when it comes to using city funds to funding long term situations,” he said. “A foundation with a board of directors can have funds available to help entrepreneurs that want to come to our city and set up shop.”
The mayor said he already has a long list of people willing to donate to the foundation and it will not cost the taxpayers a thing.
“I’ve already had people wanting to donate to it,” Keller said. “It is not a ton of money, but we are hoping to get it up and going.”
The mayor and city council have turned everything over to their legal team to file the paperwork.
“The city may put a little money into it to get it started,” he said. “I don’t anticipate us spending a lot of money for a while, but it is a vehicle we could also use to revitalize our downtown area.”
Steve Allred, a Montpelier city councilman, has served on the council for quite a few years. He told the Preston mayor they have had a lot of success with their grant awarding institution .
“I hope it works,” Keller said. “We will probably have four board members appointed by the city council and one of them will be a city council member.”
Preston City Councilman Brent Dodge met with Steve Allred and he brought back some good information that the city can use to get it going and be successful.
“The board will be 100 percent volunteer,” Keller said. “We may provide a monthly reimbursement of expenses. There might be some traveling, training or things of that nature.”
Although the community foundation is new to Preston, they have been helping communities for a long time. The world’s first community foundation was formed in Cleveland, Ohio over a century ago in 1914, and they have been playing an integral role in philanthropy across the world.
In 2020 it was reported there are approximately 1,900 community foundations worldwide and they contribute billions of dollars to the world economy. In the past 25 years nearly two-thirds of the institutions were formed in communities like Preston.