The late Ed Dils, a life-long volunteer for the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, wrote that the first person to suggest a community foundation for Parkersburg was Albert Wolfe in 1961. Originally from Parkersburg, then residing in Cambridge, MA, Wolfe spent his early years in the Mid-Ohio Valley area where he was president of Parkersburg Property Management and the Keystone Foundation, a private foundation. Having become impressed with the Cambridge Community Foundation in his community, Wolfe recommended to Ed Dils that Parkersburg develop such an organization.

Nineteen citizens met at the Blennerhassett Hotel’s Oak Room on Thursday, June 22, 1961, for the purpose of discussing interest in a community foundation. Attendees represented the Union Trust and Deposit Company, Parkersburg National Bank, Wood County Bank, Commercial Banking and Trust Company, area industries and professional organizations. Local attorneys also attended. Mr. Wolfe pledged a gift of $5,000 per year for three years, to pay for start-up costs if Parkersburg citizens formed a community foundation.

After a series of additional meetings, on July 10, 1963, five persons were recruited to form the Parkersburg Community Foundation’s first Board of Governors (the word “area” was added later). On Oct. 18, 1963, that first Board was officially charged, and at its next meeting, officers elected, with Edwin L. D. Dils named chair; Dr. S. William Goff, vice-chair; and Thomas W. Bayley, Secretary. John R. Morris, and Jack L. Rhodes were elected members. Soon thereafter, Edith M. Parker Cather, Max Beren, and Robert L. Stock were added as members of the 1963 founding Board. Later that fiscal year, Mr. Wolfe’s founding gift of $5,000 was deposited and an initial grant of $500 distributed.

Fast forward to 2023 and the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and Regional Affiliates (PACF)’s 60th Anniversary Year, and Executive Director, Judy Sjostedt Ritchie notes, “Margaret Mead once said that we should never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; that indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Because of that inspired action taken by a handful of concerned Parkersburg residents six decades ago, the PACF began. Our leaders and supporters have represented a broad spectrum of caring citizens from throughout our service area. It has taken thousands of people over many years, steadfastly building on the work of generations before them to get the PACF to the point where we can now distribute more than $3.5 million each year and manage nearly $80 million in assets for the broad public benefit. Just in the last 24 years alone, since 1999, we’ve distributed $47 million across the region.”

The PACF announced earlier this spring that to recognize its Diamond Anniversary, it would acknowledge some of the ‘Hidden Gems’ locally, meaning those people who exemplify the Foundation’s core values and work daily to build better communities. The public nominated 34 persons and starting on June 22, 2023, nominees will be featured on the Foundation’s Facebook page. Each nominee will be recognized with a certificate and the gift of a special sculpture produced by the Wood County Society’s “ArtBeat Studio.” All nominees will be honored as “Hidden Gems” at the PACF’s fall Anniversary event. From the 34 initial nominees, a committee of past foundation Board members will name five as, “Diamond Anniversary Gems,” representing the Foundation’s five core values of partnering, learning, generosity, inclusiveness, and integrity. The five “Diamond Anniversary Gems” will receive a gift certificate redeemable at select Foundation partner locations and the ability to direct a mini-grant to a PACF Fund of their choosing.