Vigo County Organizations Benefit from $1.5 Million Bequest

Vigo County Organizations Benefit from $1.5 Million Bequest

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (06/30/2021) – The legacy of two former Terre Haute residents will live on for generations to come thanks to an endowment fund established through a charitable bequest.

When June K. Swango passed away in April of 2019, she made provisions in her estate plans to create the J. Morton & June K. Swango Fund at the Wabash Valley Community Foundation. A charitable bequest, made through a provision in a will, is a simple, flexible way for individuals to further the bold work of an agency or organization. As with all gift types to the Community Foundation, a bequest allows individuals to choose which organizations will benefit in perpetuity. Individuals electing to create charitable bequests often do so to include the community organizations they supported throughout their lifetimes or for causes close to their heart.

June and her late husband, J. Morton Swango, were frequent travelers – having traveled extensively to the East Coast for deep sea fishing and to the Western Plains and mountains. Mrs. Swango was fascinated with the American West and collected publications and Native American items from the Plains, Plateau and Southwest regions. As she was an ardent supporter of natural history and a champion for the preservation of natural lands, the J. Morton & June K. Swango Fund will continue her charitable legacy and provide annual support to four specific organizations: Terre Haute Parks and Recreation Department, TREES Inc., Vigo County Historical Society and Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department. The Community Foundation recently awarded the first distributions from the Fund – granting a total of $48,758 split evenly between Mrs. Swango’s four chosen organizations.

Adam Grossman, Superintendent of the Vigo County Parks & Recreation Department, said the first distribution could not have come at a better time. “Coming off the backside of the COVID-19 pandemic, with how many things we have had to scale back and couldn’t do, we are so appreciative. We’ve talked for a long time about having endowment funds for each park and have a list a mile long of things that need done. This type of investment doesn’t come along every day, and to know we have this in perpetuity as a resource for improvements for the benefit of the community is just awesome.”

Grossman added that he is in the process of working with the Village Folk of Fowler Park in terms of maximizing the grant.

“We’ve already done a lot of work in the last few years in terms of roofing projects and repairs,” said Grossman. “Our first thought is that we really need to prioritize and plan by looking at the needs of the Pioneer Village. We are coming up with a maintenance plan to ensure sustainability of this gift and the Village. We are so appreciative of this investment for the community, and it will go a long way towards the resources we have.”

“This generous gift [does] come at a perfect time,” agreed Kimberly Kimbler, President of TREES Inc. “We have 37 city parks in the City of Terre Haute, and we have been losing so many trees [in our parks]. We, as volunteers, are stewards of not only our community, but of the environment around us. June K. Swango realized the importance of our ‘Mission’ and the tree canopy project of Terre Haute and wanted to see our habitat thrive.”

Kimbler said the grant will ensure the success of the TREES Inc. 5-year Task Force plan to improve the tree canopies in the city parks in conjunction with the Terre Haute Parks & Recreation Department.

On a city level, Eddie Bird, Superintendent of the Terre Haute Parks & Recreation Department, has focused on ensuring the first distribution honors June’s legacy through a series of updates to the Native American Museum in Dobbs Park.

“The funds [we received] were used to make some improvements to the overall outside of the building,” he explained. “Painting, new front doors, storage building and trim work. We are looking forward to next year and will do some work to the inside of the building, along with, hopefully, some improvements to the display cabinets. Many years from now, my hope is for the Native American Museum in Dobbs Park to be one of the best
park museums in Indiana thanks to J. Morton and June K. Swango.”

Bird said the distribution allowed the building to not only receive much needed repairs, but the potential for technological upgrades, “I see the Museum’s programming moving forward into the next generation. [This will allow us to bring] more high-tech classes and programs that will draw more citizens to Dobbs Park and the Museum.”

“It is amazing that people [leave legacies] to support local nonprofit organizations that are so critical to the community fabric,” echoed Kerri Wilhelm, Executive Director of the Vigo County Historical Society. “It is who Mrs. Swango was as a person and we voice our gratitude for the Fund. This [distribution] is a huge relief [especially during the months it is designated to come to us]. It is critical to our needs and a lifesaver [for our organization].”

“Truly, in speaking with these four organizations, the foresight of community-minded individuals like June Swango allows us to continue to enrich lives in Clay, Sullivan and Vigo counties,” said Beth Tevlin, Executive Director of the Wabash Valley Community Foundation. “As charitable stewards for our community’s philanthropic endowments, we are grateful for her generosity and look forward to honoring her intent in perpetuity.”

Tevlin explained a bequest is perhaps the easiest and most tangible way to create a lasting impact. “To many individuals, the most familiar type of bequests are gifts made through a provision in a will or trust. One can make a bequest of a dollar amount, a specific asset, or percentage of or from the residue of an estate. Bequests are gifts made through an estate plan and are revocable during the creator’s lifetime, meaning they still have the opportunity to make changes in the future.”

The Wabash Valley Community Foundation is a tax-exempt public charity created by and for the people in the Wabash Valley. The Community Foundation enables people with philanthropic interests to easily and effectively support the organizations and issues they care about – immediately or through their estate plans. Donors may give to existing funds or establish a charitable fund at the Community Foundation by contributing a variety of assets. For more information on the Community Foundation, or to receive more information on charitable bequests, please contact 812.232.2234 or visit