Founders & History
Our history, as told by one of Main Street Community Foundation's Founders Sherwood L. Anderson
Like most successful community organizations, Main Street Community Foundation (MSCF) started with a community need, a lot of discussion, a small nucleus of dedicated, patient, and persistent individuals, and plenty of good luck. The acorn has turned into an oak tree.
The original impetus for MSCF came from my good friend Bob Merriman, with a boost from General Motors. Merriman was working at ND Division in Bristol as a crackerjack salesman, and in the late 1960s was told he was being moved to Sandusky, Ohio. Bob's response was to quit his job. Bob soon became involved in charitable work in Hartford, spent time at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (a leading community foundation), and eventually formed and ran a consortium of foundations called the Coordinating Council of Foundations. In the early 1970s, Bob talked to me and also to Ed Lorenson (then President of Bristol Savings Bank), about community foundations. Bob suggested that we try to encourage local people to leave money to a community foundation rather than to specific charities which can go in and out of favor, can be more or less active, or can be merged or disappear entirely. He maintained that many area people would give or leave money to a community foundation if they knew that the money would be kept local and used forever for their intended purposes. Such a foundation doesn't compete with United Way or other annual appeals because we seek permanent, long- term funds. Bob's ideas made sense then, and still do today.
Around 1974, a meeting was held at Chippanee Country Club where I was present along with Bob Merriman, Ed Lorenson, Hap Barnes, the late C. Stewart Anthony (then the Executive Director of the Chamber), and Terry Fletcher. I hope I haven't forgotten anyone. We discussed the concept of a community foundation, and decided that we would try to begin such an organization when we felt there was enough money for start up and sufficient community interest. At that time, we felt we needed a financial base of no less than $250,000.
In 1979-1980, a real opportunity was presented. The Bristol Brass Corporation, a brass foundry and diversified manufacturer, became the subject of a hostile tender offer. The President, Les Killen, and the directors, including Ed Lorenson, wisely decided to spin off as a separate private foundation. The Bristol Brass Foundation (BBF) at that time had about $250,000 of assets. Prior to 1980, BBF had awarded scholarships to children of Bristol Brass employees. The focus of BBF was changed to grants for capital projects and seed money for the greater Bristol area in the fields of education, social services, health, and others. Les Killen, Ed Lorenson, myself, and others studied the possibility of conversion to a community foundation and decided that we did not have a large enough asset base to succeed. In this period we met with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and attended conferences on community foundations. A board of directors was then named for BBF, which then made substantial semi- annual grants to local charities from 1980 until 1998. We still hoped to start a community foundation when possible.
By 1993, the assets of BBF were over $1,000,000 (and up to $2,000,000 by the end of 1998 when BBF merged with MSCF). Also in 1993- 1994, Ed Lorenson as President of Bristol Savings Bank (also President of BBF) was negotiating with Webster Bank to merge the banks. In the bank merger, Ed made it a condition that $500,000 of bank assets be set aside in the Bristol Savings Bank Foundation and used to start a community foundation. The first MSCF fund was created from that grant of $500,000.
In 1993, a core group of Bristol area citizens was formed to go forward with MSCF, and this group met monthly for two years. This group consisted of Edward Lorenson, Bob Merriman, Hap Barnes, David Preleski, John Smith, Terry Fletcher, Chris Ziogas, and me. Every conceivable detail related to the operation of the foundation was explored to make sure that it would succeed. Hap Barnes came up with the name "Main Street." In the spring of 1995, MSCF was incorporated and by the fall, I. R. S. approval was secured.
Our first "office" was a corner of the Fletcher- Terry Company office, and Ed Lorenson handled what little business we had. We knew that we needed an executive director and a permanent office. One problem was that we had no income. In 1996 Webster Bank leased us (rent- free for three years) a small office at 10 Main Street, Bristol. Fortunately, the BBF, the Roberts Foundation, the Barnes Group Foundation, and the Bristol Savings Bank Foundation came to the rescue with three- year pledges of administration grants. In early 1996, the first directors were elected, including Tom Barnes, Delores Capers, Dave Preleski, Bob Merriman, Jeanne Radcliff, Ann Clark, John Smith, Gary Weed and me. In May, 1996, occurred another fortuitous event - Cheryl Dumont- Smith, with no foundation experience, agreed to be the part- time director of MSCF. Her intelligence and infectious optimism was immediately evident to the board. Cheryl served for over ten years as the Executive Director and then President until stepping down in 2007 to pursue other personal interests. In 2008, Susan Sadecki was appointed President & CEO to lead the foundation through the next period of growth.
I think everyone involved with MSCF will agree that the idea of a community foundation has been fulfilled to an extent greater than anyone's original expectation, with new funds and hundreds of thousands of dollars added each year of our existence. Even more important is that MSCF has a visible presence in six area towns through its officers and directors, staff, committees, donors, and grant recipients. MSCF is now recognized as an organization that knows about our community needs, and can help area citizens with charitable ventures whether funds are set up or not. However, the most gratifying development has been seeing hundreds of unselfish people in the six towns work together for the pure joy of benefiting their communities. We are truly blessed!