R. H. Pfaff was a prominent businessman and philanthropist who founded The Ashtabula Foundation in 1922 with an initial investment of $5,000. Mr. Pfaff and his brother-in-law, Fred K. Lewis, were promoters of the Ashtabula General Hospital, making large donations toward its operation. Mr. Pfaff and Mr. Lewis were instrumental in building the Amelia Lewis Nurses’ Home. Having made other generous contributions to the Ashtabula Foundation, Mr. Pfaff and Mr. Lewis stipulated that Ashtabula General Hospital and the Lewis Nurses’ Home shall continue to receive the net income of the investments annually. Accordingly, the Ashtabula County Medical Center continues to receive quarterly distributions from the Ashtabula Foundation for the general purposes of the hospital.
As investments grew, The Ashtabula Foundation made its first grants in 1924 to the Community Chest (now United Way) of $300, and the Ashtabula County YMCA in the amount of $100. The Board of Trustees has continued its support of both the hospital and YMCA to the present day. In addition to the annual distributions from donor-advised accounts, the Foundation has given outright grants for expansion and upkeep of the facilities, as well as supporting programs of those organizations.
Through the years, several “donor-advised” funds have been established to provide annual distributions to non-profits. Some of the beneficiaries of those funds include Second Congregational Church, the Zonta Club of the Ashtabula Area, and the University of Sciences in Philadelphia.
An educational scholarship fund was established in 1968 by Edna and Edward J. Harvey, for graduating seniors in Ashtabula County to continue their education. An average of $23,000 is awarded annually for four-year scholarships of $1,000 per year.
Many generous contributions have been made to The Ashtabula Foundation for the general purposes of the Foundation. The current Board of Trustees are charged with maintaining the original intent of Mr. Pfaff’s Trust Deed, whereby the principal and income “shall be applied in and for religious and charitable purposes in the relief of the needy and the benefit of humanity, particularly in the City of Ashtabula, Ohio, and vicinity . . . “
The Board currently gives grants in the categories of Human Services, Recreation & Conservation, Education, Religion, Arts/Culture/Historical, and Community Development. The Board is required to grant five percent of its asset value annually to non-profit, 501(C)(3) organizations. Annual grants range from $750,000 to $800,000, with an emphasis on those organizations that “provide relief of the needy."
The Ashtabula Foundation, with its historic tradition for positive, lasting impact, is the best recipient and administrator of funds for philanthropic purposes in Ashtabula County.