History


Making a difference in our communities for 44 years

The first community foundation was founded in Cleveland, Ohio by banker and lawyer Frederick H. Goff. His vision was to pool the charitable resources of Cleveland’s philanthropists, living and dead, into a single, great, and permanent endowment for the betterment of the city. From this revolutionary idea, the Cleveland Foundation came into being under the sole trusteeship of the Cleveland Trust bank on January 2, 1914. 

Within five years, community foundations had sprung up in Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Buffalo, N.Y.

Now, more than 700 community foundations in the United States collectively manage more than $48 billion in assets and distribute $4.5 billion a year to community needs. The model has also grown internationally and 1,700 community foundations now exist worldwide.

The Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties was founded in 1972 by Palm Beach residents Winsome and Michael McIntosh. Their goal was to build a charitable endowment that would meet the changing needs of the community. Their vision has led our Community Foundation to become one of the largest in Florida, and we have provided more than $128 million in grants in scholarships over our 44-year history.

In 2001, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the field’s newspaper, cited the inception of the Cleveland Foundation as “one of 10 seminal events that shaped the nonprofit world in the 20th century.” 2014 marks the 100th Anniversary of the first community foundation, and collectively, we’re looking forward to shaping the 21st century as well.

"Having worked with the staff of the Community Foundation for over fifteen years, I can attest to their commitment to the Palm Beach and Martin County communities over a wide variety of programs and initatives. Whether they are at the forefront of environment or human service issues, the Foundation is always there to support the nonprofits. Leadership and stability are the two most important qualities of the Community Foundation." - Nancy Perry, United Way of Martin County

Leadership

Throughout the years, community leaders from a wide range of professions have volunteered their time and expertise to lead the Foundation. Dedicated staff members have helped the Foundation's impact in the community grow dramatically. Shannon Sadler Hull was hired as Executive Director in 1983 and retired as President and CEO in 2009. Leslie Lilly began her tenure with the Community Foundation in 2007 as Vice President for Programs and was named the second President and CEO in the Foundation’s history in February 2009. Today, we are led by Bradley Hurlburt. The Board appointed Brad to take the helm of the Community Foundation in September 2013.

 History of the Community Foundation

Visionary Palm Beach residents Winsome and Michael McIntosh established the Palm Beach County Community Foundation with a $50,000 endowment in 1972. Their goal was to build a charitable endowment that would meet the changing needs of the community.


In 1979, the Foundation received its first bequest when West Palm Beach resident, Ilse Klassen, left $244,000 from her estate. The Ilse Klassen Fund has granted over $300,000 -- more than the original gift -- to many local nonprofit organizations over the last 35 years and is valued today at nearly half a million dollars. This is an example of the power of endowment and Ilse’s legacy will be honored forever. 

In 1983, the first memorial scholarship fund was established by Jupiter residents Larue and Donald Dahlberg in memory of their son, Don Dahlberg, and the first scholarship was awarded. Today, the Community Foundation has more than 100 scholarship funds and has awarded over $7.5 million to 1,700 high school students – making it one of the largest providers of scholarships in Palm Beach and Martin counties.

In 1991, Boca Raton resident Anna Marie Graber Martens left a $15 million bequest to the Community Foundation. Martens was the former president and owner of Autohaus Mercedes-Benz in Pompano Beach and co-founder and president of the Graber Company, a window treatment company in Middleton, Wis. The gift was the largest in the Foundation’s history to date and doubled its assets. It also allowed the Foundation to expand its service area to incorporate Martin County and changed its name to reflect its geographic commitment. 

In 1998, the Foundation received a historic $25 million gift from Mary and Robert Pew – the largest gift in the organization’s history – to improve public education for economically disadvantaged children in the community. This gift helped grow the Foundation’s assets to $50 million and its annual grants topped $600,000. 

In 2000, the Community Foundation broke ground on their new 30,000 sq. ft. building in Downtown West Palm Beach. The building opened in 2002 and was renamed the Center for Philanthropy in 2012. In addition to the Foundation offices, the building is also home to other local nonprofit organizations, including the Palm Healthcare Foundation.

In 2004, the John T. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fund was established with a $20 million gift to address the arts, education, environment and community development. This brings the Foundation’s assets to $100 million.

In 2009, the Foundation launches an unprecedented partnership with its donors and fund holders to raise $1.3 million through the Safety Net Challenge that provided critical funds to local nonprofits following the country’s financial crisis.

In 2009, frustrated by the lack of a coordinated response to hunger issues and aware that local needs were growing beyond the availability of local services, the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties launched the Alleviate Hunger initiative, a collaborative effort to focus on improving access to and distribution of food for those most in need. This effort led to the creation of the Palm Beach County Food Bank in 2012 – a collaboration with six other funders to collect and distribute food to more than 85 agencies.


In February 2012, with the support of a core group of funders, the Palm Beach County Food Bank incorporated and absorbed a locally-led Community Food Truck Operation. In its first full year of operation, the Food Bank distributed more than 4 million pounds of food – valued at $6.2 million— to help feed more than 80,000 hungry residents.

"There is no other organization i credit more with accelerating the launch of the Palm Beach County Food Bank than the Community Foundation. Without them, we wouldn't exist. The Foundation has set the bar for local philanthropic foundations, demonstrating strategic leadership, financial support and community engagement."
- Perry Borman, Executive Director at Palm Beach County Food Bank 

2012 was a milestone year for the Foundation, celebrating its 40th Anniversary by awarding a record $1 million in scholarships to 113 graduating high school students in Palm Beach and Martin Counties. 

In 2013, the Community Foundation partnered with the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund and the Quantum Foundation to launch an initiative to transform education in Palm Beach County by providing over $1 million in grants. The Community Foundation’s support represents the largest grant in its history -- $661,203 over a two-year period to build a world-class educational program focused on STEM curriculum with the Palm Beach County School District and the University of Florida. 

Today, the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties is one of Florida’s largest community foundations. The nonprofit organization has nearly 300 funds and $160 million in assets. It has invested more than $128 million in grants and scholarships over its 44-year history.