Something special happening in Leigh

Originally published in the Columbus Telegram

Today we take a break from the current news for a look at a group of people doing awesome things for their future in Leigh! Having observed the new Leigh Legacy Fund during their launch as an affiliated fund of the Nebraska Community Foundation, I can tell you there is really a positive vibe in Leigh.

LLF is actually just the latest version of a local philanthropic vehicle in Leigh. The former Leigh Area Foundation existed since the 1980s but a new group of dynamic young leaders in Leigh decided they should be doing more. Justine Fischer, the LLF chair, said since joining NCF they have gone from four to 13 ambitious leaders, they went from meeting twice a year to meeting every month, and they’ve taken ideas from a recent community visioning process to really drive a future plan of work.

The Legacy Fund committee has set their overall goal to “increase charitable giving among those who love the Leigh community and to make grants that enrich the quality of life for present and future generations, preserve our heritage, and nurture our sense of community.”

Many new affiliated funds in the Nebraska Community Foundation don’t start committed to the idea of building their unrestricted endowment, because it’s really a new concept to most. That was certainly not the case in Leigh, as the local committee was focused on endowment building from day one. Even the name of their fund is a reflection of that focus, as they intentionally used the word “Legacy” to reflect their desire to make a lasting impact on the community of Leigh through that permanent endowment.

To me, that fact is all the more impressive because the local committee in Leigh is arguably the youngest in the entire NCF network. These are young leaders, some Leigh alumni and some not, who really see the long-term vision for their hometown through the eyes of their current and future children and grand-children! Anyone who wants to claim that millennials don’t get involved hasn’t been to Leigh!

Speaking of youth, the Leigh Youth Advisory Committee is a group of high school students who are involved in community projects and they’ve been part of the launch of the Legacy Fund. It’s obvious these young people are involved in the process, they truly enjoy having a voice, and they’re being raised with community involvement as an expectation. Most of the kids in the group could say how an endowment works and they know what Leigh wants to do long-term . . . and that’s really impressive!

One important point to make is that the Legacy Fund is just one cog in the machine in Leigh. They have already combined efforts with the existing Leigh Community Club and the Youth Advisory Committee. The YAC and the Community Club sponsor community events already, so it made sense to the team in Leigh for LLF to be added as a charitable resource without trying to replace or compete with these other local efforts. One awesome early example of their combined strength will be hosting the first-ever “Leigh Maple Creek Days” June 5–6, featuring a street dance, kids’ activities in the park and a bowling/golf/horseshoe triathlon. And importantly, they’ll use all that fun as a great chance to connect residents and alumni more strongly to their hometown! This collaborative approach will maximize impact in Leigh, with everybody rowing the same direction.

Because they have strong relationships already in place, this new collaborative can also work alongside a strong local investment club to make things happen in local business as well as charitable causes. I must say, Leigh has a group of local resources that would be the envy of lots of communities, smaller and larger!

The Legacy Fund is new, even if philanthropy isn’t, to Leigh. So at this point they have the job of simply educating their neighbors, friends, and Leigh alums about who they are and what they want to do. But trust me, keep your eyes on them because it won’t be long before they’re a great example for others to follow in creating community impact through philanthropy…and Colfax County will be better as a result!