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Doris Highsmith Memorial Fund

One of the great things about Community Foundations is that we always keep our focus on donor intent despite any changing circumstances in our nonprofit community.

To give just one example, consider the Doris Highsmith Memorial Fund established by Mrs. Highsmith’s family in 1988 after her death the previous year. The purpose of the fund was to supply operating funds to help establish and operate a First Call for Help service for City of Fort Atkinson, WI and Jefferson County. The Highsmith family was aware of a similar referral service in Madison that linked people in need with the charity or government service most likely to help and given Mrs. Highsmith’s own volunteer activities, they thought this would be a wonderful way to remember her and help others. Working with our local United Way, they established this local service in 1989.

Over the next 24 years, our Doris Highsmith Memorial Fund provided over $240,000 in funding to sustain the local First Call For Help program – a confidential information and referral service serving all of Jefferson County that helped people with issues of aging, addiction, health, family issues, counseling, shelter or food assistance, consumer problems, the list goes on and on. You could even call and ask if there were any piano teachers in town!

Then, in 2014, the First Call for Help program became a statewide United Way service with its own funding formula and our support was no longer needed. So how to best use Mrs. Highsmith’s fund? Looking back to the original documents, it was noted by the family that if the fund could ever not be used for this service, it should be used for “other social welfare programs.”

Therefore, in 2014 the Foundation Board renamed the fund the Doris Highsmith Social Services Fund and added the purpose of assisting local nonprofits providing social services for our residents. Recent grants from this fund include almost $10,000 for the school-based behavioral health counseling program at Fort Atkinson High School and $14,000 to Rock River Community Clinic for dental x-ray sensors.

Despite changing circumstances over the past 35 years, the Foundation kept the focus on the Highsmith family’s goal of supporting organizations that were assisting people facing challenges. Mrs. Highsmith is still making a difference.

Photo Courtesy of Hoard Historical Museum 

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