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1966-1972: Reflections of Integrity

Reflections of Integrity

Forty years ago, in 1966, a trio of Fresno men gathered to talk about a community they loved and the things that defined the quality of life for its citizens including its government, the arts, education, civic groups and youth groups. What if, they said, we could create something that would outlast us all, perpetually supporting that which is good and right in our community? And what if, they speculated further, it benefited not only the organizations that received the funding but benefited the donors as well? The idea for the Fresno Regional Foundation belonged to O. J. Woodward, a member of one of Fresno’s oldest, most influential and philanthropic families. He was helping settle a relative’s estate, a large portion of which had been given to the SPCA. Concerned that the agency would need help handling the funds, he accompanied the director of the SPCA to court where the bequest was approved. Following court, the director suggested they have lunch “on the dogs and cats.”

"Incensed that funds intended to protect unwanted pets might be squandered without any personal accountability, Woodward declined the lunch date and decided instead to change a community."

Woodward and his good friend Lewis S. Eaton, a member of another well-respected, philanthropic Fresno family, enlisted the help of Fresno lawyers Kendall, Manock and Newton Russell to help draw up the trust documents for what would become the Fresno Regional Foundation (FRF). The founders all saw a need for a foundation that would benefit a community, not just a cause, something that would be “as permanent as we could make it,” said Manock. Modeled after already-successful community foundations in San Francisco and Cleveland, the Foundation was intended to be a vehicle to which donors could allocate funds, get a tax credit, and know that the money would be managed by community leaders in perpetuity. “The idea was that there should be a trust that would perpetually benefit and represent the community,” said Manock in 2007. “I’m pleased that I have been able to see it reach that vision.” The founders started with nothing but a desire to put in motion something that would last forever. In fact, the first financial report was two pages long and showed a fund balance of $331 at the end of 1968. Four decades later, founder Manock would say, “The Foundation has far exceeded what we thought possible.” It was not an overnight achievement, however. But we’re getting ahead of our story.


Next: 1973-1997: Reflections of Vision


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