Highlights of Our History

In October 1997, The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County was conceived when four leaders in our community, Lawrence H. Hoover, Jr., Andrew M. Huggins, Phillip C. Stone, Jr., and John L. Vincie, III, began to explore the potential benefits to the local area that could be derived from a community foundation. These Founding Fathers began to educate the community, focusing on professionals, civic groups and agencies, to increase awareness of this new philanthropic organization.

The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County (TCFHR) was incorporated in June 1999, receiving its first gift of just over $56,000 from the Estate of C.D. Lantz to establish its first designated fund.

In July 1999, Emily Purdy, former Executive Director for the United Way of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County for 14 years, was hired as The Community Foundation’s first Executive Director. Emily brought a tremendous knowledge of the needs of the community and gave TCFHR instant credibility.

At the beginning of 2002, Stephanne Strickler Byrd succeeded Emily Purdy as TCFHR’s Executive Director. Coming from a family with a strong philanthropic philosophy, Stephanne was very proactive in promoting and developing The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County during her tenure. When she decided to step down as Executive Director in 2006, total assets were $7,619,470 and grants were more than $2.6 million during fiscal year 2005-2006. Stephanne continues to be a tireless advocate for TCFHR, currently serving on its Board of Directors.

For the first seven years, TCFHR operated with minimal paid staff and concentrated on establishing trust within the local philanthropic community and growing assets, while assisting donors who provided grants to address the needs of nonprofit organizations in the community.

n 2006, TCFHR hired its first full-time employee, Revlan Hill, as the Director of Development and Community Relations. Mike Fiore was hired to succeed Stephanne as the Executive Director during the same year, after his retirement from 30 years in the insurance industry. Mike previously served for several years on the Foundation’s board and desired an opportunity to give back to the community.

Also in 2006, the Community Needs process was developed to provide nonprofit organizations in the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County community a means of applying for grants through a process that communicated their needs to area donors and charitably-minded organizations twice a year.

In June 2007, The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County received confirmation of compliance with National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. The National Standards seal by our name indicates official confirmation from the Council on Foundations that we have met the most rigorous standards in philanthropy. This certification affirms our commitment to financial security, transparency and accountability.

2007 was also a busy year for The Community Foundation with regard to the support of local community projects. Four fundraising funds were established to provide back-office support for the fundraising campaigns of Generations Crossing, A Dream Come True Playground, Harrisonburg First Tee and the Harrisonburg Downtown Farmers’ Market.

In 2010, The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County established a fundraising fund for the Harrisonburg Children’s Museum, now the Explore More Discovery Museum. The museum experiences more than 60,000 visits each year.

The Foundation announced its first Community Ambassador Award and made the presentation at a donor event in May 2013 to Chester Bradfield, a longtime supporter of the work of The Community Foundation and a great friend to our local community.

In 2013, The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County was named an approved Scholarship Foundation by the Virginia Department of Education. This designation allows the Community Foundation to provide funds for students qualifying for assistance with education expenses at eligible Virginia nonpublic schools and benefit donors with a 65% state tax credit.

The Community Foundation grew to $20 million in assets in 2013, under the leadership of Mike Fiore. At the end of that year, Mike was ready for retirement and turned the reins of the organization over to Revlan Hill. She became the organization’s fourth Executive Director in December 2013.

In December 2013, The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County received its largest private foundation gift of over $2 million, the Harry F. Flippo and Margaret M. Flippo Foundation.

The Community Foundation’s first giving circle was developed in 2014. IMPACT Harrisonburg was created for young leaders in the local community and seeks to engage in meaningful philanthropy and learn about local nonprofits, meet new people socially and professionally while collectively leveraging charitable dollars to make a positive impact in the community.

In July 2014, The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County hired its first CPA, Melissa Mayhew, to continue giving donors and nonprofit organizations peace of mind with regard to accounting.

In 2015 The Community Foundation received its largest gift to date, totaling over $3 million, from an anonymous donor.

On April 12, 2016 the Harrisonburg City Council approved the gift of the Eastham House (c. 1890) to The Community Foundation. TCFHR worked with Blue Ridge Architects and Sustainable Solutions of Virginia to renovate the historic house to create the Plecker Center for Community Philanthropy. The staff moved its offices into its new building on October 9, 2017 and were joined in November of that year by five nonprofit organizations. The sixth tenant moved into the last available office space in March 2018.

$276,820 was raised for the 53 Harrisonburg and Rockingham County nonprofit organizations participating. 47 local businesses and individuals provided $70,000 in sponsorship prizes for the event.

The Community Foundation received a $10.5 million gift from the estate of an anonymous donor, with instructions for the gift to benefit nonprofit organizations in Highland County, Virginia. The gift established a permanently endowed fund, whose monies are invested and provide an annual distribution to benefit the Highland County nonprofit community. The Community Foundation will distribute grants annually, each fall, from the Little Swiss Fund to 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations in Highland County. Grants will be awarded through a competitive application process.

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