The Aurora Area Community Foundation, a grantmaking affiliate of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, just celebrated 10 years of service as 2016 wound to a close.

The organization started as lunch conversations with a handful of community leaders back in 2006, according to Randy Howard, a longtime Edward Jones associate and the first AACF president.

“It was my belief that as federal and state funds began to dry up, we would need to put something in place to help establish our own way of meeting and funding local needs in the future,” Howard explained.

Patti Holt, a leader in Monett’s Foundation, made a visit to Aurora and participated in a question and answer forum. As the groundwork was put in place, Howard surveyed 30-40 community leaders and asked for recommendations for board members. Six people emerged from that process.

On July 13, 2006, the board was formed, bylaws were created and the first official meeting was held with Gary Funk and Julie Leeth from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. The board consisted of Randy Howard, president; Walt Pettit, vice president; John Jay Lee, secretary/treasurer; Regina Leitle, Nancy Asay and Kevin Newbold.

Three local families stepped forward to donate about $10,000 each to get the ball rolling and another family stepped up to donate another $17,000. Two community grant funds were put into place. More good news came when the group received another $30,000 in a matching Harry Cooper grant to get things rolling to a healthy start.

While the group may use the Aurora name, emphasis is placed on the word “area” so that the people of Verona and Marionville communities can benefit from the grantmaking process, as well.

The mission of the Aurora Area Community Foundation is to establish endowments that enhance the quality of life for current and future generations by reinvesting in the community. The unique role of a community foundation is to work with charitable donors to build a permanent source of charitable assets to meet the emerging, as well as the existing, needs of the community. The Aurora Area Community Foundation seeks to service the area by defining and meeting local needs through leadership and collaboration.

To date, the group has accumulated more than three million dollars in available funds and has given over $931,617 in community grants and scholarships.

“I am most proud of the generosity of the wonderful people that make up the Ozarks. Whether it be donated money or their volunteered time, countless people are always willing to give to help others and make our community a better place to live and raise our families,” explained Howard as the year wound to a close.

“As I look at what we have accomplished in 10 years, I can only imagine where the foundation will be in the next 20, 30 or even 50 years. I have no doubt that it will make otherwise impossible things possible,” he added.

Jack Muench, president of First Independent Bank, is the current AACF president. Jim Ferguson is secretary/treasurer. Other board members include Joe Woodcock, Linda Cook, Scott Pettit, Debbie Stanley and Howard.