Dayton Foundation to mark centennial of public philanthropy

Over its first 100 years, the Dayton Foundation has helped people become local philanthropists to aid others in the community. Early programs supported children stricken with polio and later efforts sent orphans to camps and kids to college. Recently, the foundation oversaw assistance to victims of devastating tornadoes, a deadly mass shooting and the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s incredible to look back at the past 100 years and see all of the good that has been accomplished through nearly 4,000 individual charitable funds established by caring and generous individuals, families and organizations,” said Michael Parks, president of the foundation.

The Dayton Foundation launches a year-long centennial celebration, 100 Years of Helping You Help Others, on Thursday with a live — but virtual — event. Celebrating 100 Years Together from Afar! will begin at 4:30 p.m. and streamed on the foundation’s Facebook page and website at

The program will include performances from the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s Brass Quintet and Grammy-nominated Central State University Chorus as well as a spoken word performance written for the occasion.

The Dayton Foundation is the largest grantmaker in the greater Dayton region, exceeding $64 million in nearly 20,000 grants awarded during the fiscal year ending June 30.

Dayton Foundation fund holders will also describe how their gifts are touching the lives of individuals and families and the foundation will provide an update on the impact from donors who gave to tragedy and disaster funds in 2019.

The Dayton Foundation credits its beginning to D. Frank Garland and the family of John H. Patterson, the founding president of National Cash Register Company. Starting with an initial $250,000 donation by the Patterson family, the foundation has grown to an all-time high $652.7 million in assets as of June 30, according to the foundation.

Anyone can be a philanthropist and they don’t have to be rich, Parks said.

“While the concept of community foundations — a place where everyone, not just the wealthy, could have a place at the table to help make lasting charitable impacts in their respective regions – was relatively new in 1921 when The Dayton Foundation was born," he said. "However, it was a concept that had long been a part of this region’s DNA for generations before.”

Through the decades the foundation has also been instrumental in pulling community members together to work on local problems.

In 1927, the foundation supported an investigation that helped improve accountability at the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Despite struggling itself in the aftermath of the Great Depression, the foundation helped fund free dental clinics. The foundation underwrote local studies, including one in 1961 that assessed a shaky Sinclair College; the study’s results helped put Sinclair on a stable path to growth. In more recent decades, funds like the African-American Community Fund were established to help Blacks in the community prioritize and direct that funding, according to the foundation’s history.

Parks will host Thursday’s event along with James Brown, WHIO-TV anchor; Megan Cooper, development manager for Dayton Metro Library; and Marva Cosby, chair of The Dayton Foundation Governing Board.

“The Dayton Foundation’s Board, staff and volunteers are so excited to launch this next chapter of The Dayton Foundation’s history in Greater Dayton and recognize the impact that others have made through their Foundation funds,” Parks said.

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