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The Benton Community Foundation recently announced a gift of $734,000 to Philomath’s Clemens Community Pool. With the pool facing closure due to financial challenges, the funds from the foundation will ensure that this treasured community resource will remain open for another decade.

In so many ways, this transformational gift highlights the foundation’s purpose in Benton County. The gift is also a wonderful example of the power of endowment funds in our community.

The Benton Community Foundation works with local philanthropists to support charities, provide scholarships and build and sustain permanent community resources such as the Clemens Community Pool. We also collaborate with community leaders to identify positive solutions to newly-arising issues and challenges.

Rex and Ethel Clemens, beloved local philanthropists who wanted the children of the greater Philomath area to have a safe place to learn to swim, originally established Philomath’s swimming pool 58 years ago with a generous gift. Then, 25 years ago, the Nitka family established the Philomath Community Pool Fund by creating an endowment at the Benton Community Foundation to maintain the pool and sustain the vision of the Clemens family.

Kitty Nitka used the pool growing up and went on to swim the English Channel. She and her husband, Leonard, understood that the pool was one of the things that made their community wonderful. They believed that by contributing to its future through an endowment fund they could sustain their gift to the pool year after year. They were absolutely right.

Like the fruit trees that thrive in Willamette Valley orchards and backyards, endowments hold the principal of a donation (the tree) in perpetuity and pay out a portion (the fruit) every year. Endowment investments have two objectives: grow the principal and generate income.

In addition to supporting the pool annually, the Benton Community Foundation was able to make this unusually large gift thanks to our sound investment strategy that has enabled the fund to grow substantially over the years. The Philomath Community Pool Fund will continue supporting Philomath’s pool in perpetuity. But the foundation’s work doesn’t end with writing an annual check. The current pool structure is projected to reach the end of its lifespan in 10 years. We hope to foster a conversation with residents of Philomath and surrounding areas about what comes next as they envision a future aquatic resource for the community.

While few people have the kind of resources the Clemens and Nitka families had, most of us can engage in activities that really make a difference for our community. Whether actively participating in community events, volunteering time, or donating money to causes and organizations we believe it, we can all add a stitch to the fabric that makes Benton County the amazing place we call home.

We are so grateful for the Nitka family’s vision and for the trust people have placed in the Benton Community Foundation as we fulfill our commitment to enhancing the quality of life in Benton County.

Community members can contribute to the Philomath Community Pool Fund or start an endowment fund of their own by contacting the Benton Community Foundation. It’s a wise investment for the future.

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Gerry Kosanovic serves as chair of the board of directors of the Benton Community Foundation. He and his family live in Benton County.