Yes is a powerful word.

In preparing for my retirement as president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Lorain County, I emptied a file drawer and found a long-lost set of notes from a meeting in October 2002. That meeting arguably marked the birth of the Fund for Our Economic Future. Steven Minter, then head of The Cleveland Foundation, had recently hired a young(er) whippersnapper named Brad Whitehead as a fellow, and the two had previously convened the CEOs of the three other local community foundations in Summit, Stark and Lorain counties to discuss increasing grant requests for economic development. Steven, Brad, the CEOs, our board chairs, and Christine Mayer from GAR Foundation, attended this follow-up meeting, which has proved to be rather historic. The presentation was brief and simple, and the last PowerPoint slide ended with the question, “Does it makes sense to explore this further as a group?”

As I read that last question, I saw the last 15 years flash by; the Great Again Conference, Voices & Choices, shared due diligence, grantmaking, EfficientGovNow, NEO Barometer, more grantmaking, Advance Northeast Ohio, Engage and Empower, Growth & Opportunity, waterfall charts, still more grantmaking …  and many, many more PowerPoints. Each effort undertaken by the Fund was powerful in its own right, but made truly extraordinary because we advanced these efforts together as a coalition. Many remarkable, bold people created the Fund and an equally remarkable group of members sustain it today. It’s been an incredible honor to have been a part of such a grand experiment.

I want to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Fund from day one on. Maybe it could have happened without any of us, but it wouldn’t be what it has become. To those who will steward the Fund in the future, continue to be bold and use this remarkable vehicle as a transformative agent for the entire Northeast Ohio community. Finally, I want to say how very glad I am that a small group of people said yes back in October 2002. Imagine what would have happened if we had answered no.

Brian Frederick retired as president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Lorain County on October 31, and was succeeded as chair of the Fund on December 7 by Mark Samolczyk of Stark Community Foundation. Frederick, who stepped down after 19 years of service at the Foundation, had been involved with the Fund since its creation, ensuring a Lorain County presence in the regional economic sector.