MANSFIELD -- It wasn't the year Julie McCready expected when she became chair in 2020 of the Richland County Foundation board of trustees.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, however, the long-time local business owner and teacher said she and other board members appreciated the words of foundation President Brady Groves.
"There was so little we had control of," McCready said Wednesday during the foundation's 2021 annual meeting, done online. "How we acted and how we reacted. That was about all the control we had when (COVID-19) started happening."
As shutdowns and closures hit home, McCready said Grove reassured the board.
"Brady said to the board in a very stable way, 'Look. We need to be all in on this ... with our unrestricted grant making. (Brady) was like, 'This is what we were built for. We were made for this. This is what the foundation was built for.'
"It really did calm us down," McCready said in her final meeting as board chair.
It wasn't the 75th anniversary year of the organization anyone envisioned. But it proved the flexibility of the community foundation.
"We had something planned. It was gonna be big," Grove said with a laugh. "But like everyone else, we needed to recognize our environment and pivot."
The decision was made to quickly infuse funds in ways to address the needs of the most vulnerable segments of the population, first by assisting those in the health and human service sector and then in the arts and culture sector.
Working with donors, government agencies and community organizations, a total of $743,902 was awarded through the foundation’s Covid-19 Rapid Response Initiative.
"Many, many organizations benefitted from those funds," McCready said. "We are grateful we were able to act quickly to assist."
The COVID-19 response was just one of several areas discussed by McCready and Grove during the nearly hour-long session devoted to the review of a year that saw RCF award $6,472,588 in grants.
The foundation focused, Grove said, on the "connective tissue" that has served the organization for the past 75 years, the desire to "foster good" in the community.
That desire has its roots to just after World War II when seven community leaders, inspired by local philanthropist Anna Scattergood, launched the foundation on Oct. 7, 1945.
It has continued to be a source for good in the community and now has assets totaling $200 million with grant awards of $102 million during the past 75 years.
"I am proud to be a part of an organization that can make that kind of an investment into the community," McCready said. "Let those outsiders say what they want about us. Here is what we can say -- look at the generosities and the abilities we have in this community."
Of the grants awarded in 2020, 29 percent ($1.9 million) went to organizations benefitting children, families and youth. Another 23 percent ($1.4 million) went to arts and culture while another 16 percent ($1 million) went to community development.
The remaining grants went to education ($992,213), human services ($390,646), economic development ($200,630), health services ($186,585), environment ($165,683), and churches ($158,381).
Groves also discussed the success of the ongoing Mansfield Rising downtown reinvestment plan, aimed at making the city "a place to live, a place to work and a place to gather."
Groves said the plan, developed by local residents, has 39 different ideas, with costs ranging from "sweat equity" to millions of dollars. He pointed to recent conversions of a pair of downtown Mansfield roads and also the Main Street improvement plan now underway.
During the meeting, the board approved two members to initial three-year terms -- Nikia Fletcher, the career technical education director for Mansfield City Schools, and Mike Whisler, chief financial officer for the Adena Corp.
It also thanked two outgoing board members -- local attorney David Carto and Mike Chambers, retired president of J&B Acoustical Inc.
At the conclusion of the session, McCready welcomed her successor, new chair Jessica Gribben, the economic development liaison to Shelby and northern Richland County with the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development.