Celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year, the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation (WTCF) is a tax-exempt, charitable foundation providing resources for a broad range of needs in Boyle, Mercer, Garrard, and Lincoln Counties.  The Foundation enables the charitable wishes of individuals and cooperates with each county, community, agency, and nonprofit organization to build endowments to enhance their long-term financial stability and services.

Wilderness Trace operates as an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Louisville, and like all community foundations is overseen by a volunteer board of citizens with expertise in identifying and funding community needs.  The Board’s current Chairman, Pete Chiericozzi, has served the Foundation since 2008.

Chiericozzi, who was recruited to be the business leader at Wausau Paper Bay West in Harrodsburg, moved with his wife Barbara from Atlanta in 2003 and bought 115 acres in Mercer County overlooking the Kentucky River.  They built a house that Barbara designed, purchased nearly 100 cattle and named their new homestead Bella Vista Farm.  Chiericozzi committed five years to his position at Wausau Paper and joined the Mercer County Hospital Board, Industrial Development Board, served as President of the Ragged Edge Community Theatre and volunteered with the Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation.

Carol Conover, one of Wilderness Trace Community Foundation’s founding members, noticed the Chiericozzi’s participation in community activities and invited Pete to join.  “I didn’t have a lot of experience with community foundations at that time,” he said.  “But after learning more and speaking at length with Carol, I started to believe that Wilderness Trace could truly help the local area.  Most people don’t understand how money set aside today can benefit generation after generation.  It was what I like to call a BFO – a blinding flash of the obvious – and I wanted to help.” 

“WTCF began in 2002 with no assets, but today has $2.9 million in committed assets,” said Chiericozzi.  “Donors over the past ten years have provided grants exceeding $733,000, mostly from the earnings of endowment funds, which means the sources of the grants remain and principal balances increase, further advancing the granting capacity of the funds.”

This growth is due much in part to initial gifts from the Conover family.  Carol Conover’s father, the late Mr. C.B. Rowland, established The Rowland Family Scholarship Fund and The Rowland Family Charitable Fund.

“WTCF’s last fiscal year provided 127 grants totaling $135,779, benefiting over 25 non-profit organizations and providing scholarships in the last year to 30 students,” said Chiericozzi.

Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts is counted among the organizations benefiting from this growth, through a recent grant to its Norton Center A.C.T.S. (Arts for the Classroom Ticket Subsidy) program.  The program, established by the Center in 2011, makes available a number of free or deeply discounted tickets, based on qualifying criteria, to public schools in Kentucky, providing access for students to attend and engage in high quality and professional performing arts programs presented on its stages. A.C.T.S. helps to maximize attendance and provide access to these crucial life-enhancing experiences for Kentucky youth by greatly reducing financial or geographic barriers.  Thanks to a gift from WTCF, the A.C.T.S. program is now available to public schools in Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer County as well as Burgin and Danville Independent Schools.

The number of A.C.T.S. tickets provided for each county is determined by the number of students within that service area who participate in the free/reduced lunch program.  Public school teachers in these areas may apply to receive an $8 subsidy per ticket, making Norton Center Student Matinee ticket prices completely free or just $2 per student depending on the performance.

The generosity of WTCF has made 1,500 A.C.T.S. tickets available to these counties for the 2012-13 school year and area classrooms have already claimed over 1,000 for this, the pilot season of the program.

“We’re very happy to be involved with this program,” Chiericozzi said.  “It is exactly the type of program we welcome, and we look forward to further opportunities to become involved in initiatives that will improve the quality of life in our area.”

The Chiericozzi’s also provided the seed money to help kick start the new Mercer County Community Endowment.  Beginning with a $10,000 gift in January 2012, through continued donations from Mercer County citizens, the Endowment has grown in just 11 months to $83,000.  This success spawned a recent press conference held at the Norton Center on October 22, 2012 where Judge Executives from Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln, and Mercer Counties united to endorse the establishment of county foundation endowments for the other areas of the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation region.

In looking forward, Chiericozzi has a few recommendations: “I think the most important thing is that, individually, we look at what our role in society should be.  How do we become more active?  How do we collectively work together so that we’re not stuck in our own individual charters?  How do we build bridges?”

His is a hopeful and earnest resolution that bodes well for the future of our communities.
The 2012 Wilderness Trace Community Foundation Board also includes:

Vice Chairman Stephen Dexter, who will take over as Chairman in 2013; Board Secretary James Bushnell; Paul Elwyn, Flem Messer, and Tom Poland from Boyle County; Judge Milward Dedman, Carol Conover and Pamela Sims from Mercer County; Joe Brown, Billy Lanham and Steve Manning from Garrard County; and Jonathan Baker and Jerome Flynn as representatives from Lincoln County.

To learn more about the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation, please visit www.wildernesstrace.org.

For information on the Norton Center A.C.T.S. program, visit www.nortoncenter.com/norton-center-acts