The generosity of a Columbus couple who decided to put their money where their hearts are was recognized throughout Tuesday’s community forum on substance abuse.

Mark and Wendy Elwood are offering up to $500,000 in matching funds to provide financial support for educational programs, with the goal of preventing substance abuse among children and young adults.

The Elwoods hope their dollar-for-dollar commitment will help raise $1 million between now and March 31.

While her husband, who is chairman and CEO of Columbus-based Elwood Staffing, was out of town on business, Wendy Elwood explained what motivated them to make the contribution.

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“Mark and I feel strongly that efforts to educate and prevent kids from using drugs is the best way to combat the growing epidemic in the community,” said Elwood, a board member for the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, which will administer the matching-grant program.

In a prepared statement, Mark Elwood said the opioid crisis requires an urgent response by the entire community.

“Every day we delay, another life, another family and our community are negatively impacted,” Mark Elwood said.

Most of the speakers during Tuesday’s presentation made a special point to approach Wendy Elwood to express their appreciation.

The community is facing a long-term challenge in reversing the drug epidemic, said Jeff Jones, executive lead for the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County.

The fund created by the couple will help maintain the momentum of local programs for years to come, he said.

“Mark and Wendy’s generous commitment will enable ASAP to launch important projects aimed at substance abuse prevention, and the timing is perfect,” Jones said. “This will also energize the community in support of the many actions required to address this crisis.”

How to donate

Donations can be made for the matching grant program announced during Tuesday’s substance abuse forum through the Heritage Fund – the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

Contributions to help address addictions and substance abuse may be made via check, and either mailed or dropped off at the Heritage Fund office, 538 Franklin St., Columbus, IN 47201.

Donations can also be made online at heritagefundbc.org/donate/

Contributors are asked to type “Mark & Wendy Elwood Substance Abuse Prevention Fund” in the “Name” field.

For more information, contact the Heritage Fund at 812-376-7772.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.