Martha Beckenholdt Charitable Endowment Fund
“I firmly believe that God has given each of us certain gifts of time, talents, and financial resources and that He does not intend for us to keep these gifts unto ourselves, but that we use them for the betterment of His people here on earth.” These words, shared in HCCF’s 1993 Annual Report, aptly capture the essence of the person who was Martha Beckenholdt. Martha was born in 1915 in Dearborn County. She graduated as valedictorian of her Cowan High School senior class, then completed three years at Ball State University before leaving to work and help fund her sister’s college expenses. In 1941, she became employed as an office clerk by the newly organized Greenfield Gas Company, Inc., but so impressed the company’s leadership with her savvy business expertise that she became Secretary-Treasurer of the Corporation in 1943. She assumed the role of President in 1967 and became the first female in the United States to lead a utility company. In an era where women were not likely to be recognized for their leadership skills, she stepped on the national platform to represent the country’s utility field in Washington, D. C. where she provided important information related to legislative action. This was a fact for which she was particularly proud and loved to share…a rarity from humble Martha.
Martha played a vital role in the success of HCCF, when in 1993, she established a Charitable Remainder Trust naming the Hancock County Community Foundation as its beneficiary. By using the then newly organized Foundation to administer her future philanthropic endeavors, many others followed. A well- respected community servant’s endorsement was key in HCCF’s ability to be recognized as a viable organization, and HCCF will be forever grateful for Martha’s trust. In 1996, Martha once again worked through HCCF to endow a four year renewable scholarship that she established in honor of her family. It benefits students graduating from Cowan High School and has provided 56 scholarships totaling over $117,000 since its maturity.
Martha was deeply involved in the work of many local, state, and national nonprofits. She served on numerous boards and quietly provided substantial financial support. She held a special place in her heart for children and adults with special needs and played a pivotal role in the establishments of Special Olympics Hancock County, the ARC of Hancock County, and Mental Health Partners (then Association) of Hancock County.
The breadth of her devotion is defined by the large number of organizations that will perpetually receive grants from the endowed fund created at her passing in February 2014, but her faith was the cornerstone and root of her philanthropy. Where she spent her time and how she did so is now called community service. In 1996, HCCF announced the creation of an award to be given to a high school junior who has exhibited strong volunteerism, talents, and service. She was very moved and shared, “I feel both very humbled and very honored that the Foundation has chosen to name this award the Martha Beckenholdt Youth Philanthropy Award. It is my hope and prayer that the recipients of this award will continue in their service to mankind as long as they live.” Since then, 19 young men and women have been honored and given the opportunity to name a nonprofit organization to benefit from a $500 HCCF grant as a result.
The legacy of Martha Beckenholdt will be felt for generations to come. May we never forget the lovely woman who never wished for the attention and appreciation she so well deserves.