by Sarah Einselen
Most of the speakers at the Cass County Community Foundation’s “Thanks for Giving” award reception Thursday night were interrupted periodically by a heckler.
But it was all in good fun. The heckler was none other than Bill Fouts, recipient of the foundation’s 2012 Richard W. Cassidy “Thanks for Giving” award and the subject of the speakers’ accolades. He commented periodically — and laughed often — during stories told about his jokes and his life.
Fouts, a Young America native and lifelong farmer, was recognized for outstanding community volunteer work.
The award, named for a founding member of the foundation, is given periodically to someone who displays unselfish and outstanding commitment of time, talent and treasure, embodying the CCCF spirit of giving, according to a press release from the foundation.
Fouts, 84, is the ninth recipient since the award was established in 2001.
When he found out a month ago he’d been selected for the honor, he felt he didn’t deserve it. But his friend Joyce Eshelman talked him into accepting the award, he said.
“I don’t really deserve it, I don’t think, but I’m glad that people think that of me,” said Fouts.
Fouts and Eshelman were on the steering committee involved with the Foundation’s efforts to build a Lewis Cass Scholarship Endowment Fund. Fouts suggested the first Corn for Kings Grain Drive to encourage farmers to donate grain to support the new scholarship in 2004. It was a drive inspired by 1940s-era grain drives.
The fund has grown to almost $175,000 in endowed funds, producing five $1,000 awards annually to Lewis Cass seniors. Two dozen Lewis Cass graduates have benefited from the fund since the spring of 2005.
A 1946 Young America High School graduate and Korean War veteran, Fouts is currently an active supporter of Cass and Carroll County 4-H programs, an elder at Deer Creek Presbyterian Church and a 56-year member of the Young America Lions Club. He attended Purdue University’s short course in 1947 and grew soybeans, corn and tomatoes and ran a hog confinement operation before retiring.
Fouts served on the Southeastern school board from 1970 to 1974 and has been on the Deer Creek Township advisory board as well.
“It’s not important to Bill that anyone know” what he’s done for Cass County, said state Sen. Randy Head, a former foundation board chairman, during his comments. “Bill is someone who takes community service very seriously, but he doesn’t take himself seriously.”
Many others in attendance commented on Fouts’ ready sense of humor and kindness.
Six charitable organizations also received mini-grants from the foundation during the evening.
Foundation president Deanna Crispen said the foundation had planned to award just five grants, but a former Cass County couple provided the sixth.
Former Royal Center residents Richard and Rose Gates donated $1,000 this year for an additional mini-grant for a local charitable organization.
Now residents of Apache Junction, Ariz., for most of each year, the couple mailed in a blank organization nomination with a note written on it, directing the foundation to use an enclosed check for a sixth grant.
The foundation received more than 10,000 entries for the mini-grants. Fouts drew the six grant recipients from a large box.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Cass County was nominated by April Zartman and was drawn for the first grant.
Other grant recipients included: The League of Women Voters of Cass County, nominated by Pam McKinney; A Cause for Paws, nominated by Randy Nicholas; CARE Food Pantry serving southern Cass County, nominated by Tom and Barb Perkins; Franklin Elementary PTF, nominated by Jennifer Savini; and the Berryettes, nominated by Bailey Terrell.
The six grants brought the total amount of “Thanks for Giving” mini-grants awarded to $31,000.
• Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.