COVINGTON, Ky. -- Communities in the three northernmost counties of Kentucky are often lumped in with their larger neighbor to the north, Cincinnati. After all, the Ohio River is all that separates Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties from the Queen City.
But Northern Kentucky is a thriving region in its own right -- and it’s getting a boost. A new community foundation just launched that will focus on increasing funding to key projects and programs solely in those three counties.
The Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky is the first organization of its kind in the growing region, according to Nancy Grayson, the new foundation’s president.
Its mission: Fostering a giving community and building a public charity resource base to better serve social needs and fund projects that benefit the public good in Northern Kentucky.
“The foundation was launched by well-known business and civic leaders who know the unique needs of our region and have a vision for our future,” said Grayson, who previously served as the director of strategic initiatives at the Northern Kentucky Education Council. “They came together and made a decision to do something more for Northern Kentucky.”
The foundation’s Council of Trustees is an impressive group, she said. The growing list of trustees, who govern the organization, includes executives from a variety of local corporations such as Covington-based Bexion Pharmaceuticals, Duke Energy Kentucky, Procter & Gamble Co., and the E.W. Scripps Company. Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelman is a trustee, as is Jim Votruba, former president of Northern Kentucky University.
Bill Butler, chairman and CEO of Covington-based Corporex Companies, LLC, is a founding member of the council. He and a few others came up with the idea for the foundation and have been “putting all the pieces together” and inviting trustees for the past 18 months, he said.
A public charity vehicle designed to bring the community into shared action for lasting support of Northern Kentucky is long overdue, Butler noted.
“It has been an item of discussion among various Northern Kentucky leaders for a number of years,” he said. “It’s something we should have done 35 years ago.”
Public charities in the Greater Cincinnati region bring in about $675 million each year, Butler estimates. But only about $15 million goes directly to Northern Kentucky, he said.
“When you consider we have a population of about 400,000 in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, we make up a little more than 20 percent of the Greater Cincinnati region,” he said. “But we’re only getting about 2 percent of those funds.”
The new foundation will focus on helping to break the cycle of poverty in Northern Kentucky, supporting the arts, sparking development and innovation, enriching education, and improving health and wellness in the region.
“Northern Kentucky’s social needs and demands are relatively the same (as Cincinnati), but the resources we require to meet those needs in our community are simply not there,” Butler said. “This provides a vehicle for all the people to come together and do something as a community to make significant change here.”
That change will require a commitment from all kinds of donors -- and calls for a different kind of public charity, he said.
The Horizon Community Funds will differ from traditional public charities in that the group doesn’t expect to gather significant amounts of money from a relatively short list of donors, Butler said. They expect the opposite in Northern Kentucky: smaller amounts from a variety of sources.
“That opens up some fascinating potential outcomes,” he said. “There’s a special camaraderie that will come with it. We’re not just a place where rich people can make a commitment. People of all ages and backgrounds can make a commitment to support their community and know they’re part of something important.”
For details about Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky, or to get involved, visit www.horizonfunds.org.