Download History of the Community Foundation

Chronological History

Early 1900’s

1914: The first community foundation formed in Cleveland, Ohio, by banker and lawyer Frederick H. Goff. Mr. Goff had a vision to pool the charitable resources of Cleveland’s philanthropists into a permanent endowment. Community leaders would then forever distribute the interest that the trust’s resources would accrue. And, thus, formed the first community foundation.

1921: Over 30 community foundations formed in the United States representing most major cities.


The Tax Reform Act of 1969 introduced new legislation and regulations that provided community foundations with new tax advantages not afforded to private foundations. Finalized in 1976, the new regulatory advantages spurred foundation growth as communities across the United States began to see the potential benefits in having publicly “owned” permanent endowments.


“How will Washington County remember us?” asked Merle Elliott, a businessman and community leader. This question began the need and interest of creating a community foundation in Washington County. Mr. Elliott described the benefits of giving to a community foundation verses giving directly to a nonprofit organization saying, “In survival mode, it’s easy for an organization to invade its pot of money to pay for operating expenses. But a community foundation commits to the notion that it won’t be invaded…When money comes to us, we’re responsible for it, and it doesn’t get used except for the way intended. If you give to a community foundation, that money will be there.”


Early 90’s: The idea of a community foundation in Washington County gained local commitment and enthusiasm. Michael G. Day, a local elder law attorney with training in estate planning, became a catalyst to help the effort stay on track. Mr. Day began speaking to local groups and clubs as well as meeting privately with key individuals to ask for their support and help.

Mid 90’s: A number of key people clearly understood the benefits of a community foundation, including John M. Waltersdorf, president of Tristate Electrical Supply Co., and chairman of the Greater Hagerstown Committee. In 1995, Mr. Day filed the articles of incorporation with the state of Maryland, and the Community Foundation of Washington County MD, Inc. became incorporated on November 3, 1995.

1997: Although almost a decade had passed from conception to birth, the Community Foundation finally launched in November 1997 during National Community Foundations Week. Mr. Elliott became the first chairman of the board. The new Community Foundation had nearly $100,000 in assets at the time and planned to make grants to local nonprofits once its unrestricted endowment reached $500,000.

1998: The Foundation granted almost $19,000 to 32 local nonprofit organizations during its first year of operation. The Foundation also had assets of $200,000.


2000: The People’s Choice Awards begin as the Foundation’s signature event honoring Washington County’s volunteer heroes.

2001: The Maryland Community Foundation Association formed and accepted the Community Foundation of Washington County MD as a charter member.

2003: The Community Foundation established its unrestricted grants program with an initial amount of $25,372 awarded to five nonprofits.

2005: The Foundation partnered with the John M. Waltersdorf Family and the Richard A. Henson Foundation to provide a $5 million, one-to-one match to funds raised by the participating nonprofits in the challenge. The Waltersdorf-Henson Endowment Challenge Campaign would ultimately inject $10 million into the efforts of 16 local nonprofits over the next five years.

2007: The Foundation introduced IMPACT, a publication to showcase its success in its first ten years. As a result, IMPACT has become an annual publication released during the month of November.

2008: The Mary K. Bowman Historical and Fine Arts Trust dissolved and turned their assets of $1 million over to the Community Foundation to manage. Their advisory board remains intact to continue the granting process.

2009: The Foundation hires Mason Investment Advisory Services and adopts a new investment allocation model.


  • Collaboration with the United Way of Washington County began the creation of the first Strategic Community Impact Plan (SCIP), a long range strategic plan to improve the quality of life in Washington County.
  • The Community Foundation lost a true champion and benefactor when John M. Waltersdorf passed away at the age of 84. In total, Mr. Waltersdorf contributed over $6.5 million and helped establish over 20 funds at the Community Foundation.
  • The Waltersdorf-Henson Endowment Challenge Campaign ended, raising more than $10 million for endowment, which resulted in over $500,000 a year in future operating capital for the 16 participating nonprofit organizations. These annual grants will provide services, programs and scholarships to the nonprofits’ clients and members.

2013: The Community Foundation hosts the first Washington County Gives, a 24-hour web-based, fundraising promotion for area nonprofits to help raise operating dollars for their organization. This event raised almost $170,000 for the participating nonprofits. The Foundation also surpassed $25 million in assets.

2014: The Community Foundation began Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, in conjunction with five other funders, with a goal of mailing one book per month to 1,500 low-income children from birth to five. The new Washington County scholarship website launched as a clearinghouse for local students.

2015: The Foundation introduced Endow Maryland, which allows Washington County residents to claim a 25% state tax credit when they create or contribute to an unrestricted community endowment fund or field of interest fund at the Community Foundation. In 2015, 21 donors either contributed to a pre-existing fund or created their own fund through this program.

2016:Responsive grants equaled $125,130, putting the Foundation’s total grants over $1 million since the program’s inception 13 years ago.


  • The Community Foundation of Washington County celebrated its 20th anniversary with more than 285 funds and $35 million in assets.
  • The Foundation moved its offices to 37 S. Potomac Street further demonstrating its commitment to Washington County and downtown Hagerstown.
  • The Forward Funding Challenge initiative began as a way to encourage local nonprofits to develop innovative and ongoing fundraising efforts.

2018: In its sixth year, Washington County Gives saw its biggest year yet, raising more than $700,000 for 87 participating nonprofit organizations.


The Community Foundation of Washington County MD now holds 350 funds and $45 million in assets. We have distributed more than $22 million in grants and scholarships.