It all began in 1972 with some area businessmen – G.B. Johnson Jr., of Ashland’s First American Bank; Samuel J. MacMullan, of Armco Steel; and Ashland Oil’s Clyde M. Webb. They wanted to see Ashland’s Paramount Theater restored, for use as a community arts center.
The three soon realized, however, Ashland needed more than an arts center; it needed a foundation. If molded after the very successful Greater Cincinnati Foundation, it could serve the entire community.
Recruiting Bank of Ashland’s Paul W. Grumbles and Third National Bank’s John W. Woods III to their fledgling board, and signing on L.W. Pilstl, executive secretary of the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce, as registered agent, they set about making it happen.
And it did. On June 24, 1972, The Greater Ashland Area Cultural and Economic Development Foundation Inc. was incorporated in Kentucky. Shortly thereafter, the Foundation purchased the Paramount Theater, with funds provided by Ashland Oil, Armco Steel, the First American and Third National banks and the Bank of Ashland.
During its first 10 years, the Foundation operated the Paramount Arts Center, Ashland Tennis Center and Jean Thomas Museum. Yet by 1984, a new purpose was realized: “to serve as a base of support for all area non-profit, community-betterment projects.”
In ensuing years, the Foundation’s board was restructured, membership increased to include greater community representation and three primary objectives were identified. The first, to establish an unrestricted endowment, was realized in 1985, with creation of the 21st-Century Endowment Fund.
The second objective, to provide an “umbrella” for bestowing grants, gained momentum as agency accounts, scholarship, advised and restricted funds were added to the Foundation’s growing list of offerings.
The third objective, to serve as a catalyst by providing initiatives for new community projects, led to leadership roles in the formation of the Tri-State Cultural Development Plan, Ashland Teen Center, G.B. Johnson Cultural and Economic Development Center and other projects.
PAC Inc., a separate 501(c)(3) organization formed to operate the Paramount Arts Center, was created in 1990. In addition, the Greater Ashland Foundation became the Foundation for the Tri-State Community, reflecting its expanding focus on the three-state, five-county region. This marked the realization of a dream only glimpsed by its founders. The Foundation for the Tri-State Community had become a full-service community foundation.
Today, the Foundation serves 11 counties in three states and continues to work to improve life in the Tri-State.