Leaders of the largest local foundation recently wanted to sweeten an opportunity for supporters to help them build up their unrestricted assets known as the community fund.

They gave each person at Thursday’s annual meeting of the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County a box of M&M candies.

With apologies to Forrest Gump, foundations are hardly like a box of chocolates. M&Ms melt in your mouth and disappear.

The Heritage Fund’s resources, on the other hand, are growing, with $3 million in new gifts last year, for a total of $63.4 million in total assets, according to the annual report presented at Mill Race Center in Columbus.

Yet, through a program called the Lilly Endowment GIFT (Giving Indiana Funds For Tomorrow) VI Challenge, foundation staff members are pushing for more, specifically, to obtain $200,000 more in matching funds — part of a total of $1 million — by March 31 of next year.

“We’re well-positioned to get that,” said Heritage Fund President and CEO Tracy Souza, who said that local, fundraising-oriented social gatherings with past supporters are upcoming.

Tony Gambaiani, the Heritage Fund’s development committee chairman, highlighted the fundraising effort that includes Lilly’s mostly dollar-for-dollar match on donations to the community fund.

“The community fund is vital because it responds to critical needs as they evolve in our community,” Gambaiani said. “Growing this fund will allow us to continue to respond to pressing needs in our community both today and in the future.”

Community fund grants last year boosted efforts such as the work of local outreach ministry and social service agency Orphan Grain Train, providing free furniture, appliances and more to the needy; Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators, helping wounded animals return to their habitat; and Tablet Reconnect, giving refurbished electronic tablets to children with special needs.

To help the foundation reach the final 25 percent of its community fund goal, it unveiled its “Get a Gift, Give a Gift” promotion.

Foundation leaders are presenting limited-edition “Love Where You Live” T-shirts to those who donate $50 or more to the fund. The blue-gray shirt, designed by a local artist, features local landmarks, including the Large Arch sculpture, First Christian Church and the Bartholomew County Courthouse. The shirts were a popular fashion statement at the meeting.

In other news, foundation leaders:

Presented an overview of Engage Columbus, a new Heritage Fund program that helps newcomers and longtime residents alike make a broad range of connections related to their business and personal needs or interests.

Introduced its 2015 scholarship recipients, including 2015 Lilly Endowment Community Scholars, Columbus East High School senior Megan Galle and Columbus North senior Connor Boyle. They also enjoyed a performance by North senior singer Tayler Seymour of her first-place vocal piece from the annual Brown Music Competition.

Saw a performance by Folklorico Productions Inc., a 2014 Welcoming Community grant recipient. The troupe provides underserved families opportunities to learn and participate in cultural Latino folk dance instruction and productions.

2014 by the numbers

6.4 — Percent of investment returns

$550,000 — Total of community fund grants

$63.4 — Assets measured in millions

108 — Number of scholarship recipients

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.