Then, he retired and moved to his family’s Newton County farm.
“A few years ago several of us started talking about creating a local fund in Newton County and ultimately joined forces with The Community Foundation in Atlanta starting the Newton Fund. My wife and I transferred our fund as did one or two other locals and we all started passing the word as enthusiastic advocates. We grew from a small base, and now we have succeeded in showcasing philanthropy and the merits of The Community Foundation in our rural setting.”
“Often, in rural communities, people don’t know about local charitable opportunities other than their church, the hospital or the United Way. And all of those do valuable work. But there are other needs and opportunities. Serving on the Newton Fund’s grant review committee was an eye-opening experience. I discovered there were close to 100 501(c)(3)s in Newton County, and a lot of them were worthy and well run. That experience really connected me to a much broader need for philanthropy in my own community than I ever dreamed existed.”
In addition to his early involvement with the Newton Fund’s steering committee and helping to evaluate grant applications, Morehouse took a turn at chairing the fund’s board. “I remember at one board meeting, the Mayor of Covington came in and said, ‘We’ve got a problem. People keep coming into churches and asking for money, yet we have no coordinated way of knowing a particular person’s circumstances or what they have received elsewhere. We’ve got to figure out a better answer.’ So, we started talking it over and came up with the idea for FaithWorks, which now combines the efforts of about thirty churches into a single, more effective approach. When the indigent go there, they can be screened and given appropriate help. The money still comes from the churches but it saves them time and it helps make sure that those who need help, get it. That was a great example of how The Community Foundation can provide a way for people to identify and solve problems.”
“Working with the Newton Fund has been a wonderful thing: it’s a group of people who care about philanthropy and know their community well enough to figure out how to make the best use of local resources to address local problems. By coordinating efforts, we were able to move the food bank from a dilapidated site to a new facility that consolidates what had been redundancy in philanthropy. It’s a good thing.”
Local focus isn’t the only benefit of a local fund. “Out here in Newton County, a $200 contribution can make a bigger difference than it could in the city. People are committed to charitable work, and even smaller gifts are genuinely appreciated.”
The Newton Fund is growing. “When we make grants each year, it generates publicity, which helps broaden our exposure. And that encourages more folks to start funds.” Morehouse knows how important that is. “The needs are always great, in all communities. We do what we can. Before you can implement a program, it takes the spark of an idea and I’ve seen that come from people sitting down and talking about a problem they want to solve. I’ve cycled off the board now, but I’m still an advocate for the Newton Fund because I know what it can do for our community.”