BJ Summers, Community Foundation’s  director of Development & Philanthropic Services, meets with longtime supporters Tom and Beth Hershey.



From hopeful yet humble beginnings, the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore has emerged as a $100 million force for good

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

When Bob Cook’s phone rang one day in 1982, he could not have known that he was about to embark upon a journey that would touch the lives of nearly every person on the Lower Eastern Shore, involve thousands of donors, distribute more than $50.3 million in grants and scholarships, harness the enormous philanthropic capacity of locals, and become, 30 years later, a $100 million force for good.

Like many folks on the Lower Eastern Shore at that time, Cook had never heard of a community foundation. Still, when 
Jim Nelson, then-president of the Wye Institute, called him on that fateful day, he accepted the offer and spent three days learning all he could about them. Over the next two years, Cook and Greater Salisbury Committee members Oscar Carey and David Stein developed a plan to establish the foundation, give it a name and establish its geographic scope and mission.

In 1984, the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore was incorporated, with Cook as its first executive director and Carey as chairman of the board. It ended its first fiscal year with a grand total of $14,000 in assets, but following a $1.3 million pledge from the Greater Salisbury Committee (including a $1 million commitment from Richard Henson) CFES’ second year of operation got off to a very auspicious start. Its first two grants, of $1,000 each, were given to the Life Crisis Center, to employ a child-sexual-assault counselor, and to Coastal Hospice, to provide startup costs for a bereavement support group.

Though its assets had reached an impressive $10 million by 1996, it was during CFES’ 15th anniversary, in 1999, that something momentous happened. The Kresge Foundation chose the CFES as one of only six partners nationwide in its “Kresge Challenge to Build Community Capital.” The campaign brought in 19 local nonprofits and $12 million in new agency endowments to the foundation. That gesture effectively launched the CFES into the new millennium with a momentum unprecedented in its history.

In 2000 alone, not only did the CFES complete the first phase of the Kresge challenge by raising $1 million and receiving a $1 million gift from Kresge to support community needs grant-making, they were endowed with $4 million by Frank and Mitzi Perdue, for a massive total of $12 million in endowments earmarked for local nonprofit organizations.

A groundbreaking ceremony in March 2006 marked the start of construction of new offices for the Community Foundation and the Eastern Shore Nonprofit Support Center, while 2008 saw the dawn of CFES’ Help Your Neighbor Fund, which provided assistance for utility bills, food and medical prescriptions to families and seniors in Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico Counties. In the fall of 2009, meanwhile, the foundation became the new home for the ShoreCAN Volunteer Center, which promotes volunteerism and sponsors volunteer training for local nonprofit organizations, and 2011 marked the inception of the Women’s Fund of the Eastern Shore, which was established to improve the lives of women and girls on the Shore.

To date, The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore has received almost $82 million in gifts and has given out over $50 million as part of more than 18,000 grants to charities. It currently holds more than $100 million in assets, making it the second largest of its kind in Maryland.

Happy birthday, Community Foundation! Here’s to your invaluable service to the community — both for the past 30 years and for generations to come!


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