Where It Began
Visionary thinking has led to tremendous impact.
Seventy years ago, local leaders came together to create a kind of “community savings account,” a trust fund that would grow in perpetuity to support future community needs.
Thanks to our founders, their insight, and their big idea, the Community Foundation has invested more than $100 million in Herkimer and Oneida counties, built hundreds of innovative community partnerships, and made lasting community improvements.
We believe, as our founders did, that our partners’ generosity and commitment make a powerful impact in our community.
A Detailed History
The Community Foundation, originally the Utica Foundation, was formed in December 1952 to make it possible for individuals to create charitable endowments for our area. Rosamond Childs, a leading philanthropist in the community during her lifetime, created the Community Foundation’s first fund in 1956.
The Community Foundation grew slowly at first and was managed by a volunteer board whose members performed nearly all the daily operations. In the 1980s the Community Foundation began to see rapid growth through a series of large bequests. By 1989, the Community Foundation had $9 million in assets and its first full-time, paid staff.
During the 1990s, the Community Foundation saw both significant growth in assets and tremendous change in its operations, as the Board’s initiatives focused on maximizing the impact of entrusted funds. Major changes included new investment and grantmaking philosophies, expansion of our service area to include Herkimer County, and a name change to make the Community Foundation more accessible to all residents and organizations in Oneida and Herkimer counties.
Today, the Community Foundation works with donors, fundholders and community partners to advance and enhance our unique two-county community. Through strategic partnerships with nonprofit organizations, we channel our donated and invested assets where they can be most effective, and our continuing dedication is making a difference now—and building future capacity for further growth.
Our story has been and continues to be one of leadership, partnership, and innovation.
“The Community Foundation is today’s answer to unforeseeable change.”Utica Foundation Publication, 1953
The Utica Foundation is Incorporated
Utica Foundation incorporated to accept and use funds to care for the “indigent, sick, aged and helpless, young and underprivileged . . . improve living and working conditions, advance health and education.”
First Fund is Established
First substantial gift, $6,000, received from Rosamond G. Childs, establishing the Foundation’s first fund.
Dise Fund Established
Dise Fund established for the benefit of Little Falls, bolstering involvement in Herkimer County and bringing total assets over the $1 million mark.
Staff Hired and Office Location Acquired
The first professional staff was hired and an office space established at 270 Genesee Street.
Foundation Receives a New Name
Name changed to the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, reflecting expanded mission to address the broader needs of the two-county region.
$1 Million in Annual Grants
Annual grants top $1 million mark for first time.
Moved to a new building at 2608 Genesee Street and welcomed innovative community leader Alicia Dicks as President/CEO.
Launch of Lead-Free MV
First major initiative announced; $1 million to launch “Lead-Free Mohawk Valley,” an effort to eventually eliminate childhood lead poisoning.
$5 Million Commitment to Lead Initiative
Board approves additional $5 million, 10-year commitment to Lead-Free Mohawk Valley initiative.
Launch of Community Equity Initiative
Community Equity Initiative announced, committing $10 million through 2030 as an initial investment to address systemic racism and inequity in Herkimer and Oneida counties.
Community-wide Equity Pledge
Mohawk Valley Equity Pledge launched to build grassroots support for meaningful change.
$100 Million in Community Investments
Total investments in the community top $100 million.
Mohawk Valley Gives
Mohawk Valley Gives, the foundation's first community-wide giving day, launched to support nonprofits
Rosamond Childs Award for Philanthropy Recipients
Richard W. Couper
Mr. Couper was a prominent foundation executive who was the first full-time president of the New York Public Library from 1971-1981. He was also a president emeritus of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, an educational philanthropy based in Princeton, N.J. Under Mr. Couper's stewardship, the library computerized its card catalog of more than 30 million entries; balanced its budget for the first time since 1924; and increased the number of private donors to 40,000 from 3,000. It also erected a building in Harlem to house the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Richard L. Hanna
In 1997, Hanna established the sixth donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation. The Richard and Kimberly Hanna Fund has awarded more than $600,000 in grants since its inception, providing support to more than 110 nonprofit organizations. The fund has given multiple grants to organizations such as The House of the Good Shepherd, Samaritan Counseling Center of the Mohawk Valley, Stevens-Swan Humane Society and two organizations of significant importance to Hanna: The Women’s Fund of Herkimer and Oneida Counties and Annie’s Fund.
Addison M. White
Addison M. White, a lifelong resident of the Mohawk Valley and former president of the Foundation's Board of Trustees, was posthumously awarded the Rosamond Childs Award for Community Philanthropy in 2008. White served on the Board for 34 years.
F. Eugene Romano
An extraordinarily generous philanthropist, Romano’s support touched hundreds of local charities and organizations, including the Utica Symphony Orchestra, the New Hartford Public Library, the Stanley Theatre and the Boys and Girls Club of the Mohawk Valley. He was particularly interested in higher education, donating more than $5 million each to Utica University and Hamilton College.
Dwight E. Vicks, Jr.
Mr. Vicks was very active in community affairs in Central New York. His notable accolades include the Paul Harris Award from the Utica Rotary Club, Industrial Man of the Year in 1974, the PIA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, the Distinguished Service Award for his dedication to the Cornell University Big Red Bands, among many others. He also served on the Community Foundation Board for seventeen years including more than a decade on the investment committee and was elected the second President of the Foundation in 1992.
Dr. Theodore Max
Dr. Max worked selflessly to raise funds for Dr. Charles Antzelevitch's internationally recognized genetic research at Oneida County's Masonic Medical Research Laboratory and, with his wife, co-chaired Hospice Care's "Light Up a Light" campaign for several years. He also proudly served on the Board of Trustees of the Community Foundation.
David T. & Janet Griffith
Established in 2008, the David and Janet Griffith Family Fund has awarded more than $1,000,000 to nearly 30 organizations. The Griffiths are well-respected members of the community where David served as president and CEO of M. Griffith Investment Services in New Hartford. Both born and raised in the Utica area, they believe that philanthropy begins at home.
Vitullo is founder and president of Staffworks, a staffing agency providing temporary and direct placement services through nine branch offices in Central and Southern NY. In 2006, she established the Staffworks Charitable Fund to support programs and services related to domestic animal welfare. Since then, the fund surpassed the $10 million mark, becoming the first and only fund of this size at the Community Foundation with a living fundholder.
The Mele Family
Since 2009, the Mele Family Fund has awarded nearly $2.8 million in grants to 73 community organizations across the region. With a focus on education and the elderly, the Mele family believes it is their corporate responsibility to help create a brighter future through the fund’s continuing community investments.
Ron and Sheila Cuccaro
The Cuccaro's have been at the forefront of supporting critical human services needs in the community through extraordinary support, much of it through the Ronald and Sheila Cuccaro Family Fund, for many of the community’s nonprofit organizations. In times of crisis, the couple has led the way by seeding Community Foundation funds dedicated to racial equity and social justice, Ukrainian refugee relief and global pandemic aid. They also established a fund for basic human needs to support the outreach work of the Mary, Mother of Our Savior Parish.