Like the pioneers who settled our towns, the people of the Pender-Thurston area continue to be visionaries. In 2004 a small group of local leaders desired a tool that would deepen or rekindle the belief in the future of Pender and Thurston. Their vision: communities that are caring and energetic, engaging in economic opportunity, progressive education and state-of-the-art health care so all people can live a healthy, happy and productive life. They imagined the Power of Place with philanthropic giving to address the current and future opportunities that make these two rural communities better places to live and work. 

History has shown that local residents and those who have graduated from our schools but no longer live here have a strong ethic of giving back. The time had come to build on this ethic. The time had come to provide a tax exempt mechanism for those wishing to give back to a place that holds value to them. With a Dream, Imagine, Believe spirit the Pender-Thurston Education & Community Foundation (PTECF) was formed. 

PTECF is governed by a Fund Advisory Committee (FAC) of 12 volunteers who meet the third Monday of every month. Charter members of this committee were Ray Welsh, Bob Beckman, Larry Rihanek, Al Maul, L.G. Norman, Mark Lorensen, Ryan Kinning, Joan Moeller, Nicholas Jensen, Mike Minert, Dr. Jean Karlen, Renee Lehmkuhl, Matt Samuelson, and Dr. Dave Hoelting. 2010 Fund Advisory Committee members are Jason Roth, Bob Rainer, Randy Moeller, Renee Lehmkuhl, Susan Jensen, Carol Hilker, L.G. Norman, Ray Welsh, Larry Rihanek, Ron Kelly, Bill Hoppner and Mark Lorensen. 

PTECF’s mission is to inspire investment of time, talent and treasure in enriching the quality of life for the people of the area. Our Foundation is a community benefit organization. Building our endowment, a community savings account, is an ongoing mission. At year-end 2009 the Pender-Thurston Endowment reached the $256,000 mark.  The following methods of giving have been implemented: 

Founders Club: nearly 250 generous people have become members by giving annually to the endowment. A $100 annual gift per member is suggested. The goal is to have 600 members by the Q125 Celebration in 2010.  

Charitable Gift Annuities, Charitable Trusts, Securities (stocks, bonds and mutual funds), Real Estate, and Life Insurance: With the help of financial planners and tax professionals several friends of the foundation have used these tools to receive significant tax benefits for these gifts that have increased in value since purchase or acquisition.

Gift of Ag Commodities: farmers have taken the opportunity of tax-advantaged gifts of grain or livestock.  

Scholarships: Robert Clough, a favorite substitute teacher in the Pender School System, became very fond of the staff, students and community. Upon his death a scholarship for post-secondary education was endowed. Since 2004 a $500 Robert Clough Scholarship has been given to the following Pender graduates: Ashley Bessmer, Brandon Hatley, Brandon Leonard, Adam Verschoor, Derek Bargmann, Joseph Guenther, Brenn Kai, Blake Kai, Rachel Verschoor and Nicholas Crippen.  

The L.G. Norman Scholarship is another sought after by Pender graduating seniors. Mr. Norman came to Pender High School in 1968 to teach business classes for just one year. Thirty-five years later in 2003 he retired after having touched the lives of so many students and their families. It is perhaps an understatement to say he is one of the most respected and generous of all residents. One small example of his generosity is the $500 scholarship awarded yearly at the Pender Alumni Banquet. Recipients to date have been: Ashley Kratke, Nolan Fillipi, Jill Lander, Jessica Renz, Matthew Smith and Matthew Hansen.   

Memorials: several honor a loved one or a special friend with a gift of perpetual remembrance.

Gifts of Tangible Personal Property: (property other than land or buildings that can be seen or touched).  After a lifetime hobby of restoring antique tractors and equipment Harold Rink made the decision to auction a portion of his collection. He and his wife, Marilyn, gifted seven antique tractors to PTECF. One tractor in particular was purchased by Harold in 1973 for $1,500.  Restored it was sold at auction by PTECF in 2006 for $86,500. The capital gains tax was avoided by contributing the tractors prior to their sale. $106,000 was a real boost to our endowment!  

Wills and Bequests: some have chosen to leave a lasting legacy of their life and commitment to a community in which they accumulated their assets and/or were educated. They consider their community an extra child in their life. 

The Pender-Thurston Education and Community Foundation is in its infancy. All agree that it should have been organized years ago creating a much larger principal which would lead to greater community enhancement distributions today. Aside from that fact, we do have income earnings from our endowment to make yearly grants. The aim is to make high, impact grants, grants that meet today’s critical needs and tomorrows opportunities. In the few short years of existence the following grants have been awarded:  Pender and Thurston Volunteer Fire and Rescue Departments for technology equipment; Pender Public Schools for an automated external defibrillator; Pender Veterans Memorial; House Memorial and Pender School Libraries; Pender Betterment Group for playground equipment at the Memorial Ball Park; Citizens Improving Thurston for playground equipment in the public park; Pender School for SOCS web design project.  

PTECF is under the umbrella of the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF) whose role is to support our local volunteers through training, organizing, planning and networking.  NCF provides tax-exempt status for our Foundation. Their professional staff handles all the financial management, legal work, investment, tax filing, auditing—all responsibilities that could overwhelm our local organization.

 Everyone is invited to become a part of the Foundation. With the same Dream and Believe spirit of the organizers we will Achieve the Power of Place that holds value to all—today and tomorrow.