It’s all about relationships


Orville and Mary Schnitker lived their lives working the earth, raising crops and creating a family, all within a pretty small range of Hamilton Township in the Cortland area. They attended school together. They attended church together. Orville, with his ever-present big smile, is pictured in the same confirmation picture as Mary, at St. Paul Lutheran Church, also known as Borchers.

Mary died a little more than nine years ago, and Orville died late this fall. Their three children, Donald Schnitker, Lora Willey and Lois Bryden, also have lived in the same neighborhood and continue to do so. When Orville died, they wanted to somehow honor their parents and first approached the foundation about creating a scholarship fund that would assist someone studying library sciences, often more commonly now called informatics and computing sciences.

Mary Schnitker, they said, loved the library and the many doors a library can open for so many people as they turn from page to page in the books, magazines and other resources that a library offers.

After some discussion focused on the family’s wishes to make an active impact on the community that would honor their parents, the family considered a variety of options and determined that creating a donor-advised fund — the Orville and Mary Schnitker Memorial Endowment — was their best option.

Such a fund allows greater flexibility to benefit additional agencies and programs and allows the flexibility to cap the annual grant to allow the fund to grow at a more accelerated rate.

The family plans to have the fund benefit the Jackson County Public Library for at least the first several years but stands ready to aid other agencies and programs as needs arise.

An interesting potential twist in this donor-advised fund is that the family has asked what happens when the foundation’s annual fall grant cycle runs out of money before it runs out of good projects to aid. They said they’d be open to hearing about the fall grant applications that go unfunded to perhaps see if there’s something they could do to help.

The siblings are not strangers to the foundation.

Donald has donated to the Gift of Grain program at the foundation since its inception. His gifts have benefited the Jackson-Jennings Co-Op/Bob Myers Memorial Scholarship Fund. Donald now plans to direct future Gift of Grain donations into the Orville and Mary Schnitker Memorial Endowment.

We should probably offer a thanks here to a member of the foundation board of directors, Ron Sibert, who is a former executive director of the Jackson-Jennings Co-Op. Ron’s work with the foundation has helped reap a harvest of good relationships with area farmers.

Also, the foundation worked with Lois Bryden and her family when providing grant dollars to help build Addie’s Walk at the Jackson Elementary School Wildcat Habitat in honor of their young daughter, Addie, in 2007. We were reminded of that relationship with the family this autumn when we were invited to a rededication of Addie’s Walk, which included some upgrades.

And Lora and her family have been involved with the foundation as well, providing landscaping and landscaping services over the years here in our home along Community Drive.

Relationships. They’re an important part of helping folks assist the foundation while at the same time helping others in our community. This family’s story is a good example of relationships at work, of how those relationships will continue working to benefit the community for many years to come.

As part of the foundation’s 25 Funds for 25 Years program, the new Orville and Mary Schnitker Memorial Endowment will also receive matching dollars to help grow the fund and increase its benefit to the community. The 25 funds program is an initiative to help celebrate the foundation’s 25th anniversary this year.

The foundation started in 1992. Since its first grants in 1994, the foundation has awarded about $5 million in scholarships and grants.

If you’d like to learn more about the foundation and how you might help the community, call us at 812-523-4483. We can share information about how the 25 Funds initiative might be able to help you meet your philanthropic goals. Those endowed gifts can be directed to existing funds or create new funds and earn matching dollars.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County, 107 Community Drive, Seymour, IN 47274. For information about donating to the foundation, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to