The Darwin Community Legacy Foundation (DCLF) has made its mark on Darwin and the surrounding area by raising more than $1 million in its first six years. The community foundation is an affiliate partner of Southwest Initiative Foundation and serves as a permanent resource that benefits the Darwin area through fundraising, grantmaking and community projects. Local community foundations retain wealth in our small towns and provide a way for people to give back to the places they care about. These community foundations are led by local advisory board members who passionately steward the work of the foundation to help grow and strengthen their communities.
“We have benefited from strong leadership, our relationship with Southwest Initiative Foundation, and the good fortune of having many generous supporters,” said Jenny Smith, who chairs the DCLF.
“The Darwin Community Legacy Foundation has really inspired generosity in the community and beyond. There is obviously a lot of affinity for this small town, both from people who live there and people who grew up there and remember it fondly,” said Jeff Vetsch, community giving officer at SWIF.
One of those generous supporters was the late Chris Hansen. Chris was a lifelong Darwin resident and a founding advisory board member of the DCLF, helping it launch in 2017. He served as advisory board chair and board member over the course of five years. Chris supported the DCLF with the gift of his time and leadership, but he also left a lasting financial impact through his estate plan, making a legacy gift to the Darwin Community Legacy Foundation that significantly increased its endowment fund.
An endowment acts as a kind of savings account and eases financial burden during tough times and helps an organization flourish during prosperous times. Endowment funds are invested for long-term growth; the original gift amount is never touched. Instead, earnings are used to award annual grants that better the community as a whole. As the endowment fund grows, so does the amount of spendable money that can be used to support projects and organization in the community.
“Chris knew our mission of a better community tomorrow was only possible if those that shared the vision continued that work into tomorrow, and he had a plan to help us continue that work, even if he couldn’t be here physically to be a part of it,” Jenny said. “Chris, with his personal relationships, civic involvement and many contributions, has left a substantial legacy in the Darwin community. We are very grateful.”
Chris was a community connector. He could be found volunteering with a smile on his face and often a spatula in his hands at events in Darwin and neighboring communities, serving on other local nonprofit boards, or helping customers at his hardware store. Chris understood the value of community and how helping others is the best way to strengthen a community. Fellow DCLF advisory board member and mayor of Darwin Josh Johnson said the local pride and care Chris showed isn’t rare in the tight-knit community of Darwin.
“The Darwin Community Legacy Foundation has been successful because of our generous community members who see a bright future for our community. But there have been other organizations before us who have helped pave the way for our community to flourish. The Darwin Community Club has been around for more than 85 years, the Rod and Gun Club recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, and the Lions Club has been around for nearly 40 years. These organizations and their volunteers have played a big role in Darwin remaining a strong place,” Josh said.
In its first six years, the DCLF has granted more than $30,000 to support community events, city beautification projects, the Meeker Area Food Shelf, Darwin Main Street amenities and more. Board members also raised $60,000 to construct the Darwin Veterans Memorial completed in 2021, starting their efforts in 2018, just a year after the new community foundation launched. The advisory board credits a strong community bond and the generous spirit of community members, including many former residents who keep the Darwin connection.
“Chris was proud of the work we’re doing. He was grateful for our strong community and the donors who believe and invest in the future of Darwin. He would want us to continue bringing everyone together.”Darwin Mayor Josh Johnson
Together, the DCLF advisory board, community supporters and generous donors like Chris will help ensure the Darwin Community Legacy Foundation continues to make an impact for generations.