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Philanthropist's gift to community nearly doubles

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Martha Beckenholdt
Martha Beckenholdt

GREENFIELD — A key funding commitment by one of Hancock County’s leading citizens more than 20 years ago has matured into the largest gift to date for the Hancock County Community Foundation.

In December 1993, Martha Beckenholdt, a longtime county business, civic and philanthropic leader, committed nearly $1 million to establish the Martha Beckenholdt Endowment Fund; however, last week, foundation officials found the gift had matured into almost double that: $2,086,164.79.

“We had a very nice surprise,” said foundation president Mary Gibble. “We received a lot more than we anticipated.”

Beckenholdt’s charitable remainder trust commitment also received a match from the Lilly Endowment to further the foundation’s work, Gibble said, but “it appears Martha added to her gift, and the markets performed well.”

Beckenholdt set up her fund to benefit some 56 charitable and philanthropic organizations that range from faith-based groups to veterans organizations and non-profits serving those with disabilities, Gibble said. The beneficiaries are located not only in Hancock County but throughout central Indiana and even out of state.

The fund principal will be invested for a year to generate income ahead of disbursement of the initial grant cycle.

“It’s definitely an exciting time,” Gibble said. “And we’re incredibly grateful to those individuals who came before me who made the community foundation the strong vehicle that it is.”

Those who were involved with laying the cornerstone for the foundation in the early years remember Beckenholdt’s commitment as a turning point for the foundation.

“It was a very significant gift at the time, and it’s a very significant gift today,” said Bert Curry, who served on the foundation board at the time of Beckenholdt’s 1993 commitment.

“The thing that was key about that gift was that it said to others that Martha thought (gifting to the foundation) was a good thing. Of course, she was highly respected in the community, and it gave the foundation some credibility,” Curry said.

“At that time we were just trying to start something. We couldn’t begin to visualize where it has gone today,” he said.

Beckenholdt died in March in Muncie at age 98; however, during her long tenure in Hancock County, she left a legacy of endowments, scholarships, service and even parks in the form of Beckenholdt Family Park northwest of the city.

Born Dec. 27, 1915, in Dearborn County, near Cincinnati, Beckenholdt graduated from tiny Cowan High School and then attended Ball State University.

She served as president of Greenfield Gas Co. until she retired in 1975. She also worked at Muncie’s McClellan Law Office and Greenfield Gas Realty Co.

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