Jones Center fulfills $30 million endowment campaign

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 157 views 

The Jones Trust and advancement staff of the Jones Center have in two years completed the task of raising $30 million to reinforce the $30 million endowment left by Harvey and Bernice Jones. 

“It’s been a long journey but today this $30 million endowment campaign is closed,” said Russell Tooley, board chairman of the Jones Trust. “Our business operations of revenue and expenses was back brought in line under Ed Clifford and staff. Our donors told us loud and clear that they wanted us to be responsible with their money. They expect to see a return on this investment.”

Tooley said the money raised will be managed as it should be to provide the greatest return. 

Chief advancement officer Kelly Kemp-McLintock said a year from now the endowment, once all the funds have been invested, will provide between $1.5 million and $1.7 million toward the Jones Center’s $3.6 million annual budget. The rest of Jones Center income will be provided from membership fees, space rental dues as well as the $1 million raised annually by the Development Council fundraising arm of the organization. She said this diversified model for the Jones Center operations is the sustainable answer the Jones Trust has sought for many years.

One thing apparent among the donors in this recent endowment effort is that Springdale roots run deep among some of the more prominent families in Northwest Arkansas. Families like Gene George, John Tyson and Johnelle Hunt had personal connections to the Jones Center founders. Other major donors with deep roots in Springdale include: Bob and Diane Shaw, co-founders of Willis Shaw trucking; Buddy and Linda Wray, of Tyson Foods; and David Van Bebber, general counsel for Tyson Foods.

Archie Schaffer III, a board member for the Jones Trust, spoke about the importance that the Jones Center means as an anchor to the ongoing downtown Springdale revitalization project. He said the Tyson family’s connection to Harvey and Bernice Jones dates back to 1950s when Tyson founder John W. Tyson was a neighbor to Harvey Jones. 

When the senior Tyson was killed in an automobile accident in 1967, his son Don Tyson sought out the advice of Harvey Jones who told the family to make no significant changes for one year. John Tyson, grandson of the founder, shared that story last year when the Tyson Family Foundation made its $2 million donation to the endowment campaign.

The fundraising was kicked off in early 2013 with a $10 million matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The Care/Endeavor Foundation matched the grant in full with a $10 million contribution, which left $10 million to raise.

Kemp-McLintock said the entire Jones Trust board played a role in the process of determining how to raise the remaining $10 million. The George family gave $1 million to the endowment saying they felt honored to help carry on vision of Harvey and Bernice Jones that has already blessed so many. Ed Clifford, CEO of the Jones Center, said Johnelle Hunt wrote the check to close out the endowment campaign but she did not want to make a big deal of the gift.

Hunt’s modesty matches what is known about the Jones’. Those who knew Harvey and Bernice say they handed out funds and helped their community and never once sought recognition.

The City Wire reached out to Johnelle Hunt for a comment on the Jones’s legacy. She responded with this statement: “Harvey and Bernice Jones had a heart for helping others with endeavors that could encourage families to feel connected with their community and promote a sense of social responsibility. The dream for the Jones Center was to enhance the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas and in doing so encourage others to do the same. So it gives us great joy to be a part of helping sustain the Jones Center for many generations to come.”

Clifford said the biggest challenge for the Jones Center in its 20th year of operation is to increase the number of people who use the facility on a regular basis, which is already happening as the giggles of children playing could be heard in the distance during the press conference. Memberships are up 15% as more programing is becoming available. 

Clifford told The City Wire that the next step for the Jones Trust is raise about $2.5 million to retire the debt on the Center for Non-Profits in Rogers, a sister non-profit managed by the Jones Trust. Kemp-McLinctock said the mini campaign is small in comparison to the $30 million, but is important in that once the funds are raised, the Center for Non-Profits will be a revenue generating, sustainable facility.

Mike Gilbert, chief operations officer for the Jones Center, said when he joined the non-profit in 2010 his goal was to work himself out of job.

“My true vision for sustainability is that they won’t need me,” Gilbert said. “That’s when I will know my work here is done.”