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SHENANGO VALLEY Legacy benefits groups



Published: Sun, September 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Two area organizations got $1,000 each from the Ben Franklin Fund this year.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

Young people in Lawrence and Mercer counties are getting lessons in entrepreneurship and job hunting in part because of one of the nation's founding fathers.

Lawrence County School to Work Inc. and Junior Achievement of Mercer County each year receive money from the Ben Franklin Fund -- something the inventor and statesman set up before his death to benefit young people in Pennsylvania.

It is distributed locally through the Shenango Valley Foundation, a nonprofit group that manages grants for different foundations and organizations.

Pamela Wurster, program officer for the foundation, said both groups were chosen to get the annual contribution because they follow the ideals of Franklin.

"They both encourage free enterprise and entrepreneurship among young people," she said.

Establishment of fund

Ben Franklin's vision for the future was carefully set.

In his will, the famous printer, philosopher and founding father first set aside 2,000 pounds sterling to be used toward making the Schuylkill River navigable. But in a codicil, Franklin gave 1,000 pounds sterling each to the cities of Boston, where he was born, and Philadelphia, his adopted home.

"I wish to be useful even after my death, if possible, in forming and advancing other young men, that may be serviceable to their country in both these towns," wrote Franklin, who died in 1790.

But Franklin wasn't about to leave his philanthropy to chance. For the first 100 years after his death, the money he left was to be used to make low-interest loans to young tradesmen getting their start in business.

Franklin knew his bequest would grow over the years, so he stipulated that after 100 years about one-quarter of the sum should continue to be used to make loans, while the remaining three-quarters could be used for public works in each city. He also estimated that after 200 years, his bequest would be worth millions in each city. At that point, the total was again divided, allowing Philadelphia and Boston to keep about one-quarter of the total, with the remainder going to their respective states -- and any restrictions on how the money could be used were removed.

Who's receiving money

In Pennsylvania, then-Gov. Robert P. Casey signed a bill in December 1990 dividing the state's share -- about $1.7 million -- evenly between the Franklin Institute and Harrisburg-based Community Foundations for Pennsylvania, which then divided its share among the state's various community foundations.

The Shenango Valley Foundation got its $31,513 in December of 1993. The group invested the money and gives away a percentage of the profits each year in grants, Wurster said. That fund now stands at $41,713.39.

This year, it gave $1,000 each to Mercer County Junior Achievement and Lawrence County School to Work Inc.

Both organizations use the money in their general operating budgets.

"We utilize the money for buying school district materials and software, as well as keeping our program alive and running," said Kristen Durst, coordinator of Lawrence County School to Work Inc., an organization that teaches young people in kindergarten through high school about job opportunities.

Mercer County Junior Achievement also uses the money to buy supplies, but its mission is a little different, said Dave Ziegler, program director.

The group goes into Mercer County schools to teach youngsters about free enterprise and managing and organizing businesses.

Ziegler thinks it fits right in with Franklin's vision for the future.

"I've heard that things in our literature are amazingly close -- 200 years later -- to what he was hoping would be the legacy of all this," Ziegler said.

XThe Associated Press contributed to this report.




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