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History Of Community Foundations

When Benjamin Franklin left 1,000 pounds in his will to the city of Boston for the “encouragement of worthy apprentice boys,” he did not know that as the needs and interests of our nation continued to change, the intent of his gift would no longer be applicable. It took more than 200 years for the courts to intervene and change his will so that his gift could again be relevant to our society (in fact, the Lancaster County Community Foundation is proud to manage a portion of this original trust).

In 1914, a new “community foundation” movement emerged that would change the way donor interests are met while adapting to changing circumstances.  The Cleveland Foundation, a pioneer community trust, worked to ensure that charitable bequests live on in perpetuity, especially when original charitable purposes are no longer applicable. This innovative concept has now spread throughout the country in over 700 Community Foundations.

Our Story

Our story begins when Martin Harnish, a well respected attorney in our county, heard about this new movement.  After hearing about the work at the Cleveland Foundation, he wanted to bring this exciting idea to Lancaster.  He enlisted supporters from the community and local banks and founded the Lancaster Community Trust in 1924.

At the time, the Community Trust encouraged donors to establish trusts for “charitable, benevolent and educational purposes,” with a plan to meet the changing needs of society. We received our first fund in 1928, which annually provided a $600 grant to a teacher selected by the Pennsylvania State Council of Education. Our first Executive Director was hired in 2003, and we then changed our name to the Lancaster County Community Foundation to better reflect our commitment to all communities throughout Lancaster County.

Today, the Community Foundation cares for more than $200 million in community assets, and is more involved emboldening extraordinary community in Lancaster County than ever before. Each year, the Community Foundation impacts the quality of life in Lancaster County by improving our health, education, youth programs, environment, neighborhoods, and access to arts & culture.