Although we know Benjamin Franklin was many things – an author, Freemason, humorist, inventor, printer, scientist and statesman -there is one aspect of his remarkable life that is rarely reported. His philanthropy.
In his will, he bequeathed 1000 pounds each (about $4,400 at the time) to his native city Boston and the city he had come to call home – Philadelphia. But there was a caveat. The money was to be invested for 100 years, after which around 75% could be used to help tradesmen and fund civic projects. The remaining monies were to be invested for another 100 years at which time it would be given in full to the cities. By 1990 the trust fund for Philadelphia had grown to $2 million. The Pennsylvania Legislature used a portion of this amount to create Ben Franklin Funds at community foundations across the Commonwealth.
The Ben Franklin Trust Fund at The Luzerne Foundation began with $30,000. In keeping with Ben Franklin’s interest in and support of young people and educational programs, the trust has most recently funded United Way’s Dolly Parton Library Reading Project for children ages birth to 5 years old; Camp Orchard Hill’s special needs summer day camp; and the Osterhout Free Library Turn the Page Wyoming Valley program which encourages kindergarten and first grade students to use the library.
Perhaps Ben Franklin’s most famous quip is “A penny saved is a penny earned.” His philanthropy during his lifetime funded many organizations, but the lesson from his bequest is one we can all learn . The Luzerne Foundation, as a community foundation, will continue to build permanent funds that will live on in perpetuity to support our community far into the future.