The Washington County Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, is concerned with the promotion and facilitation of local philanthropy. In its promotion of philanthropy, the Foundation believes that philanthropists should be encouraged, thanked, and recognized for their contributions to the Washington community.
The Foundation created the Philanthropist of the Year award in 1999 to recognize local philanthropists for exceptional generosity to the Washington County community. In 2018, the WCCF renamed this honor to the Northrop Family Excellence Award for Community Philanthropy in recognition of the Northrop Family’s tremendous support of the Washington County community during their 116 years of ownership of the Observer-Reporter and Observer Publishing Company (OPC).
To be a successful community newspaper, you need to be part of the community,” remarked Thomas Northrop, who served as the President & Publisher of the Observer-Reporter.
And to the Northrop Family, being a “part of the community” has always meant being involved in charitable giving and service.
Over the years, countless charitable organizations and activities have received generous support from the Northrop Family either directly or through the OPC and its employees. At the direction of the Northrop Family, the paper covered the local non-profit community extensively: running news articles on programs, fundraising efforts, and awards, as well as donating advertising space.
"There are few families in the region who have made such a broad, long-standing impact on local philanthropy as the Northrop Family,” remarked Betsie Trew, WCCF President and CEO. “They were a driving force behind the creation of the WCCF, and through their financial contributions, both as a family and individually, they helped set us on a path for future success. John and Rose Northrop and the Observer Publishing Company have attained the prestigious ‘Founder’s Circle’ status in our Family of Founders recognition society and Tom and Peggy Northrop were one of the first members of our Golden Oak Guild recognition society.”
The Northrop Family has given more than financial contributions and free publicity to local charities; they have given generously of their time and talents by serving on a multitude of local boards. Both John Northrop and Tom Northrop have served as Chairman of the Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees, the only father-son duo to have done so. William Northrop, Sr. is a past Chairman of the United Way of Washington County, and Lucy Northrop Corwin currently serves on the Board of the Community Foundation of Greene County.
For the Northrop Family, community philanthropy is an inherited trait that can be traced back to Tom Northrop’s great-grandfather, John L. Stewart, who led the charge nearly a century ago to raise money for the Washington Hospital which was struggling financially at that time. Stewart’s widow, Margaretta Stewart, continued her husband’s commitment to the community by serving as a driving force behind the preservation of the David Bradford House in Washington more than 50 years ago, as well as numerous other community causes. Four generations later, the Northrop Family has continued to give generously to the Washington County community. For their decades of commitment and generations of community philanthropy, the WCCF leadership felt compelled to rename its most significant award for community philanthropy to the Northrop Family Excellence Award for Community Philanthropy.
Criteria for the award are as follows: Demonstrated exceptional generosity, relative to one’s ability to give, through personal financial gifts to local charitable causes; Demonstrated encouragement and motivation of others to financially support local charitable causes; Documented efforts to improve the quality of life in Washington County through volunteer leadership of local charitable and other community activities; and Documented efforts to advance philanthropy in general.
Although Trustees of the WCCF are not excluded from eligibility, the Foundation will first consider individuals or families that are not currently serving on the Board of Trustees of the Foundation.