African American Fund continues to make impact, deserves support

Five years ago six local families had an idea to establish a fund to help a group of residents. What’s been remarkable is the reach and impact the fund has had in the community.

The African-American Fund of Bartholomew County started in 2013 to improve the quality of life for local African-Americans by focusing on five key areas: education, leadership development, economic and career development, health awareness, and arts and cultural events.

The founders — Tom and Mary Harmon, Gil and Dawn Palmer, Dennis and Paulette Roberts, Charles and Lorraine Smith, Don and Shirley Trapp, and Ben Downing and Lori Thompson — raised the initial $10,000, which leveraged $5,000 from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, which administers the fund.

The founders pledged an additional $10,000 each year for the first five years, but through community interest and donations the fund currently has a balance of about $125,000.

Because of donations by local residents, the fund has not only helped African-Americans, but supported a wide variety of programs and initiatives in the community.

The fund has supported, among other things:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities in Columbus
  • Arts for AIDS
  • Speakers and film showings at YES Cinema (including “Selma” and “Hidden Figures”)
  • Healthy cooking classes
  • A racism workshop
  • Leadership Bartholomew County scholarships

The fund’s efforts have fostered community dialogue and promoted diversity, and been done in collaboration with a range of community partners, including:

  • Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
  • Columbus Area Arts Council
  • Interfaith Forum
  • Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization

Such positive efforts by the fund make it worthy of support by local residents, but there’s another good reason, too.

The fund has started a two-year matching campaign. It’s trying to raise $20,000 to leverage an additional $20,000 from an anonymous couple, which has agreed to match up to that amount.

Raising an additional $40,000 or more would help ensure the fund’s ability to support programs and initiatives for years to come, and on a larger scale. That would be a great benefit to the community.

The willingness of the founders to create the fund has been a good thing for the Columbus area. The willingness of its residents to provide continued support would be good, too.

How to contribute

Gifts to the African American Fund of Bartholomew County may be made online by visiting the Heritage Fund website at Type “African American Fund” in the fund field.

Gifts may also be mailed to Heritage Fund at 538 Franklin St., Columbus, IN 47201.

Send comments to