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The year-old Centra Foundation, after relying on a longtime community leader to get the agency on its feet, has chosen a new leader to help it walk into the future.
The foundation announced Friday that Lyn Morgan, former director of grant programs at Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, has taken over as president of the Centra Foundation and its only full-time employee.
Sherry Stark, the former president of Heritage Fund, started working on the new foundation in the spring of 2012, and it gave its first grant last fall.
“Sherry hired me at the Heritage Fund, and I learned a lot under her direction and mentorship,” Morgan said. “She did a wonderful job setting up the foundation, and anything Sherry does she does it to the highest possible standard because she has such great abilities.
“I feel honored to be taking over what she started.”
Centra Credit Union, founded in 1940 by Cummins Inc. employees, has nearly 280 employees, more than 125,000 members and assets exceeding $1 billion. The foundation is active in 20 communities in Indiana, from Carmel to Jeffersonville, and in North Carolina and New York, where Centra has branches in Cummins plants, Morgan said.
Alan Degner, chairman of the Centra Foundation Board, said the board knew Stark’s role was going to be temporary, and she was responsible for putting all the pieces in place to start the foundation, from establishing bylaws to getting proper IRS documentation.
“She wasn’t looking for an operational role. There was a natural hand-off when we had the operational structure in place,” Degner said.
He said Morgan’s mission will be to put the meat on the bones of the new organization — figuring out the programming to achieve its objectives and continue to build the organization.
The Centra Foundation has three major objectives:
Supporting financial literacy.
Helping with disaster relief.
Addressing pressing community needs.
It also offers scholarships and teacher awards through a program recently renamed after Loretta M. Burd, who retired at the end of last year as Centra’s chief executive officer after 47 years with the company and 25 as CEO.
Morgan said the way the foundation is organized, it is able to receive grants from outside donors, not just Centra workers and customers. Although the foundation is operating now on a cash-in, cash-out basis, she hopes to begin to build an endowment to sustain its operations.
“The way to grow those assets is to begin to demonstrate the value it is bringing to communities and how it is helping people, which will attract donors,” she said.
Even before starting the foundation, the credit union was active in financial literacy education, providing programming for schools in the communities it serves teaching how to balance a checking account, manage credit cards and other financial lessons, Morgan said.
“Centra has always had that philosophy of people helping people and creating the foundation was the next step and perhaps being more of a proactive step in doing that,” she said.
Since getting back into the workforce 20 years ago, after raising her family, Morgan has always worked in the nonprofit world, including roles at Turning Point, Advocates for Children and Heritage Fund.
“People in the nonprofit field definitely care very much about others, helping them and making this community a better place for us to live,” Morgan said. “That caring, people-focused environment has always sort of appealed to me — helping other people.”
Morgan said it is a bit daunting to be leading a new foundation in Columbus, a community that has benefited over the years from the largesse of foundations such as those operated by Cummins, Irwin-Sweeney-Miller and Arvin.
“The foundation world has changed over the last 10 years or so in Columbus,” Morgan said. “We have lost several large foundations like Arvin, Irwin-Sweeney-Miller. The main players are the Heritage Fund and the United Way, and they are always going to have that role. We need more charitable dollars in the community to really support the great work of the nonprofit organizations.”
She said Centra Foundation is another vehicle to increase the community’s charitable dollars.
“We are not competing with any of the other foundations. The idea is to complement them,” she said.
Stark said she enjoyed the process of starting the new foundation and the people of Centra Credit Union were great to work with. But she said her mission was always to get it pointed in the right direction and hand it off to somebody else.
“I recognized that for it really to take off, it needed a full-time person who is really committed to it,” Stark said.
Stark praised her replacement, whom she supervised for years at Heritage Fund.
“She is a very bright, capable woman with a tremendous range of experience in foundation work, particularly in grants and programming,” Stark said. “She particularly knows the community, which I think is good.”
Stark plans to continue with her local volunteer work such as her role as president of The Commons board and the downtown arts district coalition.
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