Youngstown Foundation’s legacy of giving matures

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One hundred years ago, five industrial heavyweights – John Stambaugh, Philip Wick, Henry Butler, L.A. Manchester and Frank Hitchcock – used their business savvy to help transform the city of Youngstown into one of America’s fastest-growing centers of industry and commerce.

Behind the scenes, however, Stambaugh, Wick, Butler, Manchester, Hitchcock and others also used their unabashed commitment to bettering the Mahoning Valley to create what would become an enduring philanthropic giant – The Youngstown Foundation.

One hundred years later, the foundation has matured admirably, and its good works for Greater Youngstown have grown exponentially.

We congratulate the foundation as its yearlong centennial observance unfolds and salute it as a model for robust community philanthropy nationwide.

True to form, the YF launched its centennial last week by announcing a whopping $3 million gift to the city of Youngstown’s amphitheater and river-walk project downtown.

In return, the philanthropic organization receives naming rights for the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater over the next 20 years. The gift, one of several major announcements expected from YF over the next year, fits perfectly into the broader mission of the proud Valley institution.

“Our mission is to enhance the quality of life in the city of Youngstown,” said Jan. E. Strasfeld, executive director of the downtown-based foundation.

“We couldn’t think of a better fit. It’s something significant that will be here for another 100 years to support the downtown area,” she added.

The foundation’s generous support for this downtown development and entertainment project also should inspire other philanthropic groups, businesses and organizations to likewise help defray costs of the 12-acre project featuring a 3,250-seat outdoor theater. In so doing, they can maximize private capital – and minimize public taxpayer support – for the complex adjacent to the Covelli Centre.

Naming the amphitheater portion of the project after the Youngstown Foundation is apt indeed, not only for the impact the gift will have on expediting project completion but also as a long-term reminder of the YF’s history of community enrichment.


Its undergirding purpose has changed little since forming in 1918 as a response to an influenza epidemic that sickened thousands and killed hundreds here.

Then, as now, its mission statement guided it to success after success after success. That statement is short on words but long on impact: “The Mission of the Youngstown Foundation is to provide assistance to charitable, scientific and educational institutions that promote the mental, moral and physical well-being of the inhabitants of the City of Youngstown vicinity.”

From its initial $10,000 gift in 1920 to the Child Direction Department of the Children’s Service Bureau for an educational initiative to the $3 million grant last week, the foundation has remained steadfastly true to its noble ideals.

Through those years, growth has been the watchword for YF. Though the trend lines of many once-vibrant community groups and causes have steadily fallen in Youngstown since the city’s heyday as an industrial powerhouse, the foundation’s good fortunes keep on rising.

Nowhere is that more evident than in its bottom line. Its assets have increased from $33,000 a century ago to more than $120 million today. Its amazing growth and longevity as the fourth-oldest community foundation in the nation likely can be attributed to several factors.

Prime among them has been its leadership that has put a premium on protecting its resources and maximizing returns on principal. In addition, a community-based board of trustees ensures the dollars collected and disbursed are handled efficiently and responsibly.

Another constant over the past 10 decades has been the compassionate giving spirit of so many groups and individuals in the Valley that make the foundation’s work possible. YF works with legions of restricted, unrestricted and supportive community funds to funnel into viable projects.

Those funds, of course, rely on the intrinsically unselfish and community- minded spirit that has long defined the Youngstown region. With no signs of that collective character trait eroding anytime soon, we’re certain that the legacy of the Youngstown Foundation first crystallized by those 1920s-era industrialists will survive and thrive for many years and decades to come.

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