A northern Indiana county’s charitable foundation faces a daunting task in figuring out how best to use a $150 million donation from the estate of businessman who grew up there, the group’s president said.
The Elkhart County Community Foundation has received much of the donation from insurance executive David Gundlach’s estate that was announced in August.
Foundation president Pete McCown told a gathering of local government and business leaders Tuesday that “I want to make sure it’s not just free money” for organizations. Gundlach wanted the money to benefit his hometown area.
“It’s this role that I’m a little fearful of,” McCown said, according to The Elkhart Truth. “… This is the scary part, the amount of the degree of influence we now have.”
McCown said he wanted the estimated $7.5 million a year the foundation expects to award to help increase — and not replace — local support for organizations.
Gundlach’s gift more than triples the foundation’s holdings in the county that struggled with a double-digit unemployment rate after the recreational vehicle industry collapsed during the recession.
John Letherman, president of the Elkhart County Council, said he hopes the foundation focuses on ideas that “teach us how to fish, rather than just funding guys who have a good idea.”
“I can come up with about 15 good ideas before noon,” Letherman said.
Gundlach grew up in Elkhart and made his fortune in insurance, including founding the English company Hastings Direct. He died last fall in California at age 56.
The foundation should focus on projects that can make a major difference in the community, said Dave Daugherty, president the Goshen Chamber of Commerce.
“I get a little frustrated with all the people trying to dream of ways to spend the money,” Daugherty said.