COLUMBIA CITY — After 27 years of benefiting important community needs in Columbia City and Whitley County, the John and Hester Adams Trust is terminating. The Trust’s final two grants, distributed Dec. 21, were $20,000 to the City of Columbia City’s Park Board and $4,500 to the Whitley County Historical Society. All of the money in the trust has been disbursed. There are no more funds.
In the 27 years of its existence, the Trust awarded more than $2 million in grants to diverse nonprofit organizations.
The $20,000 grant to the City is for the purchase of a sign at Little Turtle Woods, 11.5 acres adjacent to Morsches Park. The property has frontage on state Route 205, across from the Peabody Public Library. Road improvements on state Route 205 and additional funds are needed before the sign can be erected. The property was purchased for $284,136 by the Trust in Nov. 2004 and deeded to the City as a gift.
“The City is grateful to the John and Hester Adams Trust for their most generous donation toward the purchase of the Little Turtle Woods park sign, as well as their many donations to the City throughout the years,” Mayor Jim Fleck said. The total amount distributed to the City since the Adams Trust began is $387,609.
The Whitley County Historical Society received $4,500 from the Adams Trust on Tuesday. This is an unrestricted distribution, to be used at the discretion of the organization. The total amount distributed to the Historical Society during the Trust’s existence is $138,575.
“Over the years, the Adams Trust has given us a good amount of money that has allowed us to preserve the Thomas R. Marshall home (museum) and Whitley County history,” Dennis Warnick, president, said. “Without contributions from the Trust, I doubt that we would have as viable a museum as we have today.”
The Adams Trust, a private, charitable foundation based in Columbia City, was established through the generosity of Hester Little Adams. She and her husband were the owners/publishers of the Columbia City Post and the Commercial-Mail newspapers from 1951 until her death in 1981. More than 100 years of newspaper ownership by the Adams family ended when she died.
The trust began in 1983 with funds realized from the sale of The Post & Mail Publishing Company and from Hester Adams’ personal holdings. Recommending committee members studied applications and made decisions regarding distributions. Adams’ will stated
that the committee be composed of the mayor of Columbia City, the president of Whitley County Commissioners, the Superintendent of Columbia City Schools, a representative of the Post & Mail Publishing Company, a member of the Little family and a member of the Adams family.
Original members were Jo Ellen Adams McConnell, Ralph Bailey (school), Paul Anders (commissioner), George Hogg (newspaper), Robert Walker (mayor) and Richard Little.
McConnell served as chairman and Bailey as vice-chairman during the 27 years, and they are the only two of the original six living. Vacancies, created by the death of a member, were filled by individuals occupying the same position as the previous member. Ray Porter filled Hogg’s spot, and Mick Long followed Porter. Joseph Zickgraf joined after Walker’s death. Glen Miller replaced Little. Paul Anders died in 2008, and no one took his place. John W. Whiteleather Jr. was legal counsel.
“Hester and John Adams wanted to give something back to Columbia City and Whitley County where they had lived and prospered,” McConnell said.
“If Hester were here today, she would be pleased to see the large projects many organizations were able to accomplish because of the funds from the Trust. But she would also be just as interested in the smaller projects. Her interests were varied, and her enthusiasm to help others improve their lives never ceased.”
Bailey said, “A lot of good was done for a lot of people over the years, and we always had good board members.” College scholarships of $6,000, four years at $1,500 each year, were awarded to high school seniors from 1983 to 2002.
These were two to Columbia City, one to Churubusco and one to Whitko. The total amount expended for that purpose was $318,750.
“Small in stature, but larger than life, Hester Adams was a legendary and much beloved community journalist,” said Jennifer Zartman Romano, a scholarship recipient. “As a Columbia City High School senior, I was selected as a John and Hester Adams Memorial Scholarship recipient to pursue higher education and a career in journalism.”
Camp Whitley built indoor toilets and showers, a major improvement, that was made possible as a result of a $150,000 grant in 2003. The total granted to the camp was $198,039.
“Camp Whitley, as a beneficiary of the great generosity of the John and Hester Adams Trust, owes a tremendous amount of gratitude to those involved in determining recipients of trust funds,” said Marcia McNagny, president of the Board of Directors. “As a nonprofit which has continued to meet its goals of providing a summer camp for children, no matter what their economic status or outlook, we most certainly have appreciated the support and nod of approval from the Adams Trust.”
“The Humane Society of Whitley County owes a great debt of gratitude to the John and Hester Adams Trust and Jo Ellen McConnell,” said Emily Deutsch, past president. “From our first fund-raising campaign in 1999, and in the years since, the Adams Trust has been very generous toward the construction of the shelter and for operating assistance,” she continued. “The Adams Trust put the Humane Society Building Fund goal over the top. It meant a lot to those involved in the efforts to see the shelter for neglected animals become a reality in our community.”
The Humane Society received funds to assist with start up costs and other needs totaling $121,000. Adams had been a 4-H leader after she came to Columbia City to teach Home Economics in the late 1930s.
The total amount granted to Whitley County 4-H was $62,750.
Ron Myer, Ag Museum member, said, “The generous donation of $50,000 from the Adams Trust in 2006 was the help needed to get the Whitley County Agricultural Museum and 4-H Learning Center off to a fast start. This grant made it possible to preserve
Whitley County agricultural history for future generations.”
Dean Ramsey was Commander of Columbia City America Legion Post 98 in 2006 when the Adams Trust granted $33,522 to purchase an elevator. “It (the elevator) was greatly appreciated as many veterans and others were having difficulty visiting the Legion because they had to either go up or down steps to get to any of the rooms” he said. “Many are now able to use the elevator and more people are using the Legion.”
Charlotte Blair, Chapter Regent of the Colonel Augustine de la Balme Daughters of the American Revolution, said, “Hester Adams was a very active member of our DAR chapter. Many of our DAR projects and programs were supported through her trust fund. An example of this support has been the restoration of the Colonel Augustin de la Balme Memorial Site in Union Township.”
The Trust was held by STAR Wealth Management, with Dick Buchanan as STAR Bank’s local financial representative.
“Over the years, John and Hester Adams Trust and its recommending committee have worked quietly and without seeking publicity,” Buchanan said. “The intention of the recommending committee has always been to grant seed money to those individuals and organizations whose projects would best benefit the citizens of Whitley County. I feel confident that both John and Hester Adams are smiling with a nod of ‘job well done.’”