It was not coincidence that the first gift to The Indianapolis Foundation was announced on Christmas Day, 1920. Like everything else about the gift – and for that matter, the Foundation itself – the announcement was planned to create maximum impact. Made by Alphonso Pettis, a New York businessman who never lived in Indianapolis, the $300,000 donation consisted of railroad, coal mining, bank and oil stocks, and bonds.
The owner of the New York Store (near where the Indianapolis Symphony Centre now stands on Washington Street), Pettis wanted to give something back to a community that had patronized his business. “When I made this gift to the citizens of Indianapolis, I had only in mind doing something for those who had done so much for me,” Pettis said in a letter. The Foundation’s first expenditure from the Pettis gift went to a forerunner of the Visiting Nurse Association of Indianapolis, Inc., followed closely by the establishment of a scholarship fund for needy students. Over time, Alphonso Pettis’s $300,000 gift has resulted in more than $2,000,000 in grants to support central Indiana charities. It continues to benefit people living in Indianapolis, the vast majority of which never knew their benefactor.
Pettis wanted his gift to make the biggest difference it could. He knew the fledgling Foundation had meager resources, and his contribution was meant to seed the Foundation with hopes of spurring generosity from others. When Alphonso Pettis died in 1929, his eulogy noted that his original gift to The Indianapolis Foundation “became an inspiration to other prominent business men of the city to make similar gifts.”
It has indeed become an inspiration, and over the years, The Indianapolis Foundation has received thousands of gifts of all types and sizes. Many donors have made unrestricted contributions, trusting the Foundation to identify the community’s most pressing needs, and then granting those funds to organizations where they will do the most good. As the end of 2010 approaches, Central Indiana Community Foundation would like to thank each and every donor, and in particular, those who’ve given to The Indianapolis Foundation.
Like Pettis’s founding gift, The Indianapolis Foundation became a cornerstone to Legacy Fund, Women’s Fund of Central Indiana and other field of interest, scholarship, and donor-advised funds, and ultimately Central Indiana Community Foundation. On our website you will find examples of how many are changing our community. In 2010, it has been our privilege to partner with every single donor, and to participate with them as they’ve turned their philanthropy into inspiration for us all.