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Well Done, Mr. Franklin, Well Done!

November 27, 2023 | By Betsie Trew and Megan Fabyonic

Ben Franklin Close Up
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Benjamin Franklin lived by these words he penned, bequeathing 1,000 pounds sterling (about $4,000 currently) to his adopted home of Philadelphia. He specified that the money should be invested for 200 years and then used for the Commonwealth’s benefit. Franklin died in 1790. By 1990, his gift had grown to over $2 million! The Pennsylvania legislature dispersed a portion of that amount to create Ben Franklin Funds at community foundations across the Commonwealth.

All children deserve to be loved. But in Franklin’s time, children with special needs frequently received no love at all. Instead, they were locked away in attics, forced to live a life of menial existence. Some were sent to cold, uncaring institutions, and erased from memory. It was a cruel life for an innocent child.

Special-needs children were the first to benefit from the Ben Franklin Fund at the Washington County Community Foundation. A grant to Pathways was used to secure specialized computers to improve learning opportunities for students enrolled in its special-needs preschool program.

Pathways is a premier provider of services to people with disabilities.
Pathways is a premier provider of services to people with disabilities.

The second grant was awarded to the Center in the Woods for its adult day program that serves seniors struggling with dementia. With longer life spans today, there are far more people with dementia than during Franklin’s time. In addition to isolation, dementia patients sometimes are at the mercy of uncaring caregivers, and their lives become a demeaning experience. By supporting the adult day program at the Center, the Fund helped seniors retain dignity in their twilight years.

“When deciding the first two grants from the fund, we were very intentional in selecting worthy causes that could also serve to illustrate the value of a discretionary grantmaking fund,” said Betsie Trew, WCCF President and CEO. “Although the gift to create it is over two centuries in the making, the Ben Franklin Fund remains relevant.”

Franklin had many interests, but one of his greatest passions was to assist and encourage young people to advance themselves in life by furthering their education. He said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Center in the Woods
The Center in the Woods mission is to provide the highest quality of life for older adults.

The most recent grant issued from the Ben Franklin Fund to the Bentworth School District is helping young people to advance themselves through education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). A specialized Makers Space is being developed to provide STEM curriculum with a particular emphasis on engaging girls. During Franklin’s time, girls were often excluded from educational opportunities, especially those in STEM courses.

Other grants supported educational opportunities for youth including school-based theater programs, robotics kits, history trunks, and aquatic programs. Additionally, grants have provided equipment for budding astronomers, as well as educational classes for individuals battling Parkinson’s disease and exercise classes for people dealing with the debilitating effects of diabetes. No matter the need, the Ben Franklin Fund is able to respond.

During this time of thanksgiving, we give thanks for Benjamin Franklin and his foresight to not overly restrict his gift. Franklin was a prolific writer, but he acknowledged that action often speaks louder than words when he wrote, “Well done is better than well said.”

To that we say, well done, Mr. Franklin, well done!