Charles Fay Foundation coming to close 2009.11.04

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

When it comes to giving away thousands of dollars, it’s not as simple as it might seem.

“We found out it’s not the easiest thing to do,” said Doyle Collar of the Charles Fay Foundation.

Collar and fellow foundation board member Dorothy McDowell met last week to announce the end of the Fay Foundation. Continued funding of an electronic alert system for senior citizens will deplete the foundation’s savings, leaving behind a legacy of giving that remains evident in many locations around the community.

“Everything we’ve done is for the benefit of senior citizens in the area,” Collar said. “We made some mistakes, but nothing major.”

Collar remembers the 1995 phone call from Charles Fay Trust administrator Ralph Kohn who invited Collar to join a board of trustees to manage the funds.

McDowell joined at the time, also, along with Jim Smith, Roger Porter and hospital administrator Rod Nelson. Nelson moved away and Porter later resigned. Judy Randall joined the group.

“The original purpose was to support a local poor house,” Collar said.

Fay wanted to help elderly citizens without financial means. Many were forced to leave Morenci to live in the county poor house, and he wanted his savings to go toward a local establishment where seniors could live.

His will was written in the 1950s, but his wishes didn’t keep pace with the times. When the trust was finally opened in 1995, the concept of the “poor house” was long gone.

Kohn gained court approval to change the purpose of the trust to a fund for the benefit of senior citizens in the Morenci area, Collar said, and the board’s work began.

The Lenawee Department on Aging cautioned against construction of a senior citizen apartment complex, stating that the need did not exist in Morenci, but Kohn wanted to explore the issue more thoroughly. A research firm was hired to conduct a survey and its findings suggested that a 12-unit facility would be used by seniors in the area.

The Fay Trust contributed $1.2 million toward construction of the Charles Fay Village senior citizen apartment complex, owned by the Lenawee Health Alliance. Ground was broken in September 1997.

Months before that event occurred, the Fay Trust voted to contribute $150,000 toward Stair Public Library’s renovation and expansion project. The new library building would include the Charles Fay Senior Reading Room and the Fay Trust office. Furnishings for the rooms and a computer were purchased.

The next major gift came in 1999 when $300,000 was given to help with construction of the ambulance garage and training room. The structure was built onto the former hospital clinic building and served the advanced life support ambulance service.

A four-wheel drive rescue truck was purchased for the ambulance crew in 2000—a vehicle later sold to the police department—and furnishings for the training room were bought.

In 2000, the trust voted to contribute $300,000 toward renovation of Charles Fay Village from the original independent living arrangement to an assisted-living facility.

In August of that year, the trust was dissolved and the Charles Fay Foundation formed to disburse the remaining $218,000 of the original $2 million from Fay’s estate. Board members sought suggestions for projects to fund.

“We’ve had so many requests for things we had to turn down,” Collar said. “Anything we thought was good for the senior citizens of Morenci we considered.”

Funded projects included:

• Renovation of the Stair Public Library annex, Oct. 2001;

• Renovation of the senior citizen center at the Morenci Health Center, July 2005;

• Tables for the senior citizen center, July 2005;

• Exercise equipment for the senior center, Nov. 2005;

• An engineering study for a walking trail in Wakefield Park, October 2006;

• Petty cash fund for the senior center, Nov. 2006;

• Electronic alert system for senior citizens, Jan. 2007;

• Thermal imaging camera for Morenci Fire Department, July 2007;

• Kiwanis Wishing Tree project, Dec. 2007-09.

The foundation’s funds will be depleted by the end of the year through continued payment of the alert system. More than 70 subscriptions are paid through Dec. 31, with a total cost of more than $5,000 every quarter.

“We were going to do that just one year and it went over so big that we did it a second year, and then another,” McDowell said. “I expect that many people will continue it on their own.”

The foundation is drawing to an end of an era that began in 1995.

“We’re going to close up and cancel the post office box,” Collar said.

The group’s meeting room at the library will be given to the library for use as a public meeting room.

When 2010 rolls around, the money that farm implement dealer Charles Fay accumulated will exist no more.

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