Lebanon Foundation Founding Information
The idea of the current Lebanon Foundation and it’s duties as the Neighborhood Improvement District Management Association (NIDMA), began in 1999 as a goal of then-mayor Robert Anspach, the Community of Lebanon Association (CLA) and other local leaders (Bob Phillips, Bill Carpenter, Jim Cassel) to enhance and improve the business climate and property values of the Central Business District (CBD) of Downtown Lebanon.
Through the 1950’s and into the 1970’s, the CBD was an active hub of retail, entertainment, dining and local government. Over the years, many things occurred that negatively impacted the economy, activity and property values of the CBD in Lebanon. Those include, but are not limited to:
- Bethlehem & Lebanon Steel Plant closures
- Establishment of two retail malls just outside of the city
- The sale or demolition of two major department stores
- Closure/sale/demolition of three movie theaters
- Demolition of the local courthouse and moving it four block from the CBD
By the mid-1990’s Lebanon’s CBD had a significant amount of vacant buildings, a significant drop in retail and service businesses and property values were in a slow, downward spiral.
Lebanon 2000 was organized in late 1999, by Mayor Robert Anspach, with the help of many local volunteers. Their primary intent was to improve the image and activities of the CBD and increase property values. The initial Articles of Incorporation were approved in September of 1999 and the group established a goal to generate funding through private donations and seek authorization by the Commonwealth as a Main Street Program.
Shortly thereafter, the Lebanon 2000 Foundation was established to provide fiduciary oversight of the funding sources and expenditures to meet all local and regulatory guidelines. The primary use of the funds was to improve the image through streetscapes, but most importantly, façade restoration of buildings in the CBD that met the criteria for eligibility.
Lebanon 2000 functioned as an oversight board for the daily operations of the Main Street Manager and the Lebanon 2000 Foundation operated solely in a fiduciary oversight function.
The group raised approximately $100,000 in private donations and additional funding through PA DCED through the Main Street Program manager, Marsha DiBoniventuro. Those resources were used to provide matching funds to local business owners (i.e. Wertz Candies) to finance façade restoration. An example of the streetscape funding is located at the intersection of 12th & Cumberland Streets.
Over the course of the next 5-10 years, projects were funded, the Main Street Manager left to pursue another position and Brenda Wurges (Phillips) assumed the directorship. As funds began to dwindle, both the operating committee and foundation board considered closing the books. However the CLA appealed to the Lebanon 2000 Foundation to continue its existence to support and oversee funding sources for CLA events.
The Lebanon 2000 Foundation, established as a 501 (c)(3) and recognized by the IRS, could accept charitable gifts for CLA events and promotions. This was consistent with the Foundation’s original mission and allowed event supporters an option to make their gift to a charitable foundation. The foundation continued to function on a limited basis, but only to accept these types of donations and turn over those funds to support CLA-sponsored events in the CBD.
At the time, Mayor Capello intended to pursue a BID application, she approached the Lebanon 2000 Foundation to explore our interest in serving as the Neighborhood Improvement District Management Association (NIDMA) as required by BID regulations. The Foundation Board agreed to accept this new role, in support of the BID and soon thereafter, changed the official foundation name to: The Lebanon Foundation.
Currently, the Lebanon Foundation continues to serve a dual capacity – to accept and oversee charitable gifts made to support CLA events and oversight of the BID as the NIDMA.