Heginbotham trustees are pictured from left, John Schneider, Mary Louise Evans and Dave Colver. — Johnson Publications
Heginbotham trustees enjoy giving
Nestled between the post office and Cline Williams law office (formerly Colver, Killin and Sprague) on South Interocean Avenue in Holyoke is a small, inconspicuous building. This is where the trustees for the Heginbotham Trust meet once a month to give money to deserving benefactors of Phillips County.
Dave Colver, Mary Louise Evans and John Schneider are the proud members of this elite group. “We would rather give $1,500 away than spend it on a sign for the building,” said Schneider.
The William E. Heginbotham Trust was formed in 1969 following the instructions in Heginbotham’s will, and it has set forth fulfilling the base requirement of the general betterment of the people of Phillips County ever since. Heginbotham was a banker in Holyoke. With no heirs, he gave his estate to the citizens of Phillips County.
“You have to be extra smart,” Colver said jokingly about qualifications to serve as a trustee. “And real good-looking,” added Schneider, laughing. Heginbotham didn’t spell out any qualifications for the job in his will. It has been left to the trustees to decide who will succeed as the next trustee when a term ends after one’s passing.
Of the nine individuals who have served as trustees over the years, all either knew Heginbotham or have been longtime Phillips County residents, said Schneider.
The most enjoyable thing of being a part of this group is giving money, said Colver, who was appointed in 1985. He pointed out that people have passions about certain things that are even broader than the group could envision. Evans, appointed in 2011, agreed that the most rewarding part of this job is in the giving.
Schneider, appointed in 2005, said the genuine passion people have for their project is impressive. “They are worthwhile and ones we wouldn’t think of on our own,” he added. “We get a real broad base of ideas, and it really moves forward to benefit more people,” noted Schneider.
In many cases, the trust grants a dollar-for-dollar match, which helps make the money go farther, and everyone is more committed to the project. “We have had more and more of those types of requests,” said Schneider.
Most organizations have a sizable investment, but that’s not ironclad, said Colver. Sometimes they give the whole amount because it’s good and it’s needed, he added. Also, the trust has done a number of investments that are set up to pay over a number of years, he added.
The three trustees agreed that the only downside to their job is not having enough money to do everything they want to do. “We’ve really suffered with that over the years since interest rates have been so terrible,” said Colver.
The trust is set up to be perpetually ongoing, but everything has a certain life. “We’ve been here since 1969 giving away money. What was a big amount in 1969 isn’t such a big amount now,” said Colver. “We only have a certain amount we can spend each year,” he added.
“If we were presented with a project that we just felt had to be and we could spend all the money remaining on it to make sure it happened, we could do that,” said Schneider. “But that isn’t our intention; our intention is to try to keep it perpetually,” he added.
Other than not having enough money to give, the only other downside would be if Evans didn’t bring cookies to every meeting. “I don’t think it’s ever happened, but if we didn’t get cookies from Mary Louise on meeting day, that would be one of our least favorite things,” chuckled Schneider. “There really is no downside to speak of,” he said. “When you are giving money, you don’t have a lot of people complaining,” he added.
When listening to a proposal, the base requirement of the betterment of Phillips County citizens is always in the back of their minds, as the project must meet that test. In addition, the organization must be a nonprofit. Almost always the process is that the group hears the proposal one month and lets it sit. Then it is discussed again the next month to make sure the criteria is met.
More requests are approved than turned down. In many cases, projects are turned down only because the trust doesn’t have the money. However, they are welcome to come back the next year, said Colver. Other times it’s just a little bit out of the scope of the guidelines, he added.
All three trustess agree that it’s amazing and very rewarding to be in this position. They all agreed that they believe Heginbotham would be surprised, amazed and really glad with all that the trust has done for Phillips County.
Schneider said he is grateful and proud to be a trustee and feels they have a good group to work with. Colver and Evans agreed.