Stories like these are why we at the Clinton County Foundation do what we do. They are the result of our efforts to meet the most pressing needs in our county and bring out the best in our whole community.
Of course, we couldn’t do it without the generosity of the many donors and nonprofits who leverage our local expertise, relationships, and resources to make life-changing investments in Education, Health & Wellness, and Economic Development throughout our county.
We hope the people, places, and events in these stories demonstrate the pride and possibilities that come from getting involved in creating a vibrant future for Clinton County.
“You can never train enough for a job that can kill you,” is the core belief that motivates and inspires the first responders of the Clinton-Warren Joint Fire and Rescue District (CWJFD). The CWJFD, located in Clarksville, OH, serves an estimated population of 9,000, in mostly rural settings and responds to nearly 1,000 emergencies per year. Nearly nine miles of I-71 run through the CWJFD which is also home to Cowan Lake State Park, the World Equestrian Center, Clinton Massie Local Schools, and Camp Joy Outdoor Education Center.
One particularly rural-specific and life-threatening emergency occurred in March 2023, when the CWJFD (along with the Sabina and Wilmington Fire Departments) were called upon to rescue a Sabina man trapped in a grain bin for nearly five hours. Without the specialized equipment the CWJFD had on hand, courtesy of a grant from the LEGACY Fund at the Clinton County Foundation, this rescue may not have succeeded.
For the last three years, the LEGACY Fund has provided the CWJFD with specialized equipment enabling them to train for and respond to highly technical and life-threatening emergencies. Such low frequency but highly impactful events include grain bin entrapments (aka, engulfment hazards), various rope rescues, water rescues, and fire suppression. “All our equipment is loaded onto one truck, so we are ready to respond at a moment’s notice to these types of unique and rapidly changing critical events,” shared Captains Andrew Wysong and Brad Burton.
The key to these rescues is not only having the right equipment, but also using it to create lifelike training for firefighters throughout Clinton County. Thanks to the LEGACY Fund, the CWJFD has been able to acquire a Bullard Satellite Fire Attack panel (to simulate fire flames and smoke without the corresponding toxic fumes), corresponding fire extinguisher simulator props, multiple rope rescue items, water rescue equipment and a Great Wall Grain Rescue Tube. Rather than having to rely on regional teams from Cincinnati, Dayton or Columbus, our local firefighters can now hone their rescue skills locally through repetitive training. “Training is the most fundamental form of preparedness we first responders can get in order to have a high probability of preventing severe injury or death,” explained Chief Bob Wysong.
As a community foundation, the Clinton County Foundation is home to over 100 funds that, like the Legacy Fund, are dedicated to improving lives through philanthropy. In a rural community where resources are often scarce, grants can provide much needed support to local government and nonprofits. This example of local grantmaking exemplifies the profound impact of local grant dollars focused on local needs. And in the case of a Sabina man, equipment and training for local volunteer first responders saved the life of one of our own.
About the Legacy Fund
Established in 2019, The LEGACY Fund focuses on improving the health, welfare, and safety of Clinton County citizens through project-based funding of transformative ideas and creative, pioneering programs. LEGACY Fund projects often lay the groundwork for systemic changes that utilize local strategies and visionary leadership. Grant applications are accepted through the Clinton County Foundation grant portal one time each year.
Most donors want their philanthropic dollars to be used effectively and to bring them joy and satisfaction from giving. While some donors may have specific passions or be aware of the areas of greatest need in their communities, many find the world of philanthropy a challenging maze. Individual donors and families often don’t have the expertise to decode tax law, identify the right nonprofit, or determine whether to create their own donor advised fund. Even those who understand philanthropy may not have the time to develop and implement a strategy. Enter estate planners, attorneys, and other financial advisors.
“It is incumbent upon the advisor to listen to their client and understand their vision. It should be a collaborative discussion,” explained Bill Peelle, attorney and managing director of Peelle Law Offices for the last 45 years. “And if my client has substantial means that could benefit the community and reward them with significant tax benefits, I will advise them to seek the support of the Clinton County Foundation. The Foundation has the expertise and the safeguards in place to steward my client’s philanthropy while relieving them of nearly all administrative burdens.”
Karen Buckley, attorney with Buckley, Miller & Wright who has concentrated on estate planning, also stresses the importance of understanding current and pending state and federal tax law. “For instance,” explained Karen, “while the current Federal Estate Tax only applies to estates valued at $12 million or more, in 2026 that will change, and estates valued as low as $3.5 million might be affected. Knowing what’s on the horizon can help you and your estate planner develop the best charitable giving strategy to avoid unnecessary taxes.”
Like Bill, Karen has referred several clients to the Clinton County Foundation to develop the most appropriate vehicle for supporting the community. She adds, “The Foundation excels in helping my clients not only realize tax benefits, but more importantly feel the pride and joy in giving to our community, and leaving a legacy of giving for years to come.”
You’d expect the demeanor of a former IBM Electrical Engineer to be even-keeled, always logical and highly detailed. While those are characteristics that Bill Robinson certainly possesses, he is also quite an emotional guy.
Bill graduated third in his class from Wilmington High School in 1963 with a thirst for additional knowledge, but not the means to acquire it. At the urging of his parents, neither of whom finished high school, and encouragement from several of his WHS teachers, he applied for and was awarded a modest scholarship.
“Upon graduating from WHS, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief—relief that the pressure of final exams, for the last time, would be something to recall rather than something to dread. But I also felt exhilarated at having achieved the class ranking which granted me the Beckett-Harcum scholarship to help with my freshman year of college,” Bill explained. Bill went on to earn his B.S. from the University of Cincinnati and build a successful career in Electrical Engineering.
Upon retirement, he reflected upon his very fortunate life, which was made possible, he says while choking up, “largely to the unconditional love and support from my parents and many of my high school teachers.” It became clear to Bill that he wanted—no, needed—to support students such as himself who had a passion for learning, but few resources. In 2016, with financial modeling and help from the Clinton County Foundation, Bill established a 4-year, $20,000 Robinson scholarship to help WHS seniors, who are also third in their class, further their education. To date, seven students have been awarded this scholarship.
Bill holds a luncheon each year with the new and all past scholarship recipients and speaks with great pride and emotion about their accomplishments–graduating from OSU, becoming a veterinarian, working in Washington, D.C., earning a Master’s in speech pathology. Although an engineer by training, Bill certainly has the heart of a generous philanthropist, crediting the Clinton County Foundation with shaping his raw emotion into a scholarship that now helps others succeed. Bill has come full circle, from receiving his parents’ unconditional love, to developing a successful career, to now being able to financially support today’s aspiring youth.
The Clinton County Community Action Program (CCCAP) may be one of the best kept secrets in the county though many will recognize several of the projects they support to help reduce poverty: Head Start, the Food Pantry, the Aging Up Community Center operating at the Wilmington Savings Bank, Senior Housing at Clinton Commons I and II, Community Commons and Blanchester Senior Villas, and family housing at Clinton Glen and Wilmington Apartments, among others. In operation since 1965, the CCCAP is a local, private, nonprofit corporation funded primarily by Federal and State grants, as well as income from for-hire services (Catering Connections and Clinton Maid), fundraising (Corn 5K Walk/Run) and a few local grants (HealthFirst, LEGACY Fund, Clinton County Foundation).
Recently, the CCCAP benefited from a multiple Win-Win. An anonymous donor was in search of a good cause to which to donate. Referred by a friend to the Clinton County Foundation, this donor was provided the Foundation’s financial and administrative expertise to establish a fund that benefited the CCCAP and enabled them to create vegetable gardens for the CCCAP’s senior housing apartments. Turning to recently retired Wilmington College Ag professor, Monte Anderson, the CCCAP was able to enlist his support and knowledge to transform old, deteriorated gardens into fresh and fruitful garden beds. Nearly 14 seniors including Steve Barber, Lisa Keys, Greg Pitzer and Linda Vantress donated their time in building and installing 16 new beds. Not only have they benefited from having access to fresh food, but they’ve also enjoyed being outdoors, socializing and getting in some exercise. “Every garden bed has a story,” explained Monte. “One gardener traded his beans for zucchini to make zucchini bread, while another learned how to can some of the vegetables from her garden. It was amazing to see how the gardeners helped each other from watering one another’s beds to helping carry vegetables to a fellow gardener’s apartment.”
“Thanks to an anonymous donor and the support of the Clinton County Foundation, we had multiple wins for our community – it enabled the CCCAP to support a new program, the donor was able to achieve her objectives, Monte got to exercise his expertise, but most importantly our seniors were introduced to the healthy world of vegetable gardening,” shared Jane Newkirk, CEO of the CCCAP. Who knew growing a few veggies could have such a broad impact. And next year, the plan is to double the number of garden beds, so watch out!
Vanessa is no stranger to hard work and tough challenges. Having raised four children, with the youngest now in college, and beating breast cancer, the last thing Vanessa ever considered was returning to school.
Vanessa had worked in the medical field for many years at Clinton Memorial Hospital, primarily as a nurse’s aid, but when she became the patient instead of the caregiver, she gained a whole new appreciation for the compassion and support her healthcare colleagues provided her during her battle with cancer. As a result, Vanessa developed an overwhelming desire to give back to the community that had supported her during her greatest time of need.
With her team’s encouragement and the gift of a pink breast cancer stethoscope, Vanessa decided to enroll in Southern State’s nursing program. Her main concern was that she would not fit in, being older than her classmates. But her fears were unfounded, as she joined various study groups and easily made friends. Struggling financially, she was pleased to learn about Southern State’s nursing scholarship available through the Clinton County Foundation.
“This scholarship is not only helping me pay part of my tuition, clinic, and school fees, it will also make a huge difference in my life by reducing the amount of student debt I’ll have,” explained Vanessa.
“The compassion of our anonymous donor to support students in need like Vanessa is a remarkable example of paying it forward. This is how foundations and individuals work together to benefit future generations,” shared the Foundation’s executive director, Alison Belfrage.
Today, Vanessa continues to juggle a very busy schedule, working and attending school full time while also serving as one of three campus ministry leaders. She’s looking forward to graduating in spring 2023 and hopes to continue working in the Clinton Memorial Hospital ER where she’s worked for the last seven years, giving back to the community that helped her survive those tough times.