Changes in how their charitable giving program is supported would make the Chagrin Valley Jaycees fundraising efforts impervious to bad weather and immune to another worldwide pandemic like COVID-19, which canceled the last two Blossom Time festivals, the organization’s major fundraiser.

Jaycee spokesman and past-president Joe Constant said organizing a new charitable giving plan would include earnings from an investment-fueled foundation and added to the annual profits from all of the Jaycee’s fundraising efforts.

The new foundation’s contributions to the Jaycees’ charitable giving will put an end to the service organization’s “hand-to-mouth existence,” members said, and eventually increase what the nonprofit is able to give to the 36 organizations it helps to support.

“Our commitment to our charitable organizations will be largely unchanged in the short term as the establishment of the endowment is a long game in planting a seed for the community’s future,” Mr. Constant said.

 The back story on the Chagrin Valley Jaycees merger and formation of the Investment Committee began before COVID-19 when the organization’s board of directors realized the Blossom Time Festival had “maxed out,” Mr. Constant said.

Meaning the organization could not add anything else to the annual events. Without growth, he said, the festival could not add to the profit margin.

In addition to that, the membership understood that a rainy four-day Memorial Day weekend could be a financial disaster given the funds it takes to stage a festival the size of Blossom Time.

While the Jaycees were managing Blossom Time risks, they also were aware of the ever-increasing requests from the community for financial support.

“Given both hitting the ceiling with Blossom Time and the strong desire to expand our reach to help do more in our neighborhoods, we started discussing the merger of the Chagrin Valley Jaycees and the separate entity which was the Chagrin Valley Jaycees Charitable Foundation,” Mr. Constant said.

“As we were finishing up the merger, COVID-19 struck and reinforced the direction that we were taking was the right thing to do,” Mr. Constant said. If the endowment grows as expected and the Jaycees’ other efforts return to normal and donors continue to make generous contributions, he said, members are confident the scope of charitable giving will expand significantly.

“Our current spending policy allows up to 5 percent of the funds to be utilized in a given year,” he said. “So as an example, if the endowment had a net value of $500,000, we would have the ability to support charitable causes up to $25,000, in addition to our traditional annual giving.“

That means greater funding for the charities, support of additional worthy causes as well as bricks-and-mortar projects for the community, he said.

“These are the types of impacts the Jaycees are planning to make with the endowment in the future,” he said.

Aside from the charities, Mr. Constant points to projects like improvements to the basketball facilities at the Chagrin Falls Park Community Center, the stairway to the falls in downtown Chagrin Falls and the new South Russell Park pavilion.

Because the endowment will be held in perpetuity, he said, “the Chagrin Valley Jaycees can support the Chagrin Valley in perpetuity as well.” 

Guiding the fortunes of the foundation is the Chagrin Valley Jaycees Investment Committee, which is chaired by Mr. Constant with Marc Levey as treasurer as well as Kevin C. Grant, Ken Kvacek, Craig Lyndall, Jeff Miller and Robert Sherman.

Newly elected board Investment Committee members are Kyle Dillon, Ashley Haines, Kurt Hartup and Tommy Snavely.

For some, a woman on the board of the Jaycees may seem unusual but Mr. Constant points out Ms. Haines was urged to run by several members of the board and approved by the membership.

“Ashley has been a dues-paying member for a few years and was encouraged to run by various board members because of her hard work, experience and dedication to the Jaycee mission,” he said. “The Jaycees have had an increasing number of female members over the past few years, and we expect that number to continue to grow,” he said. “As we were nominating members to the Investment Committee, we realized the depth and breadth of talent existing within the membership and now they are managing the endowment side of the Jaycees.”

Before the endowment kicks in and begins to show profits, the Jaycees will work toward restoring its line-up of pre-COVID-19 events.

“We have been unable to hold our Chili Brew-Off, the Easter Egg Hunt as well as Blossom Time,” he said, but the organization did continue to decorate the village for the holidays during the pandemic as it has done for decades.

The Don Lawrence Memorial Golf Outing was held last month and was a bright spot during a year of little activity. And the organization will continue to gather funds through membership dues.

“Blossom Time is a big recruitment time for us,” Mr. Constant explained, adding that he had no doubt membership will grow.

The Jaycees is planning two new events – the day-long Food Truck Festival on Sept. 25 in Triangle Park in Chagrin Falls and the Oktoberfest run on Oct. 9.

Aside from the Investment Committee, the Chagrin Valley Jaycees Board of Directors for 2021-2022 were also recently elected.

They are Sean McMillion, president; Jeff Poprik, vice president; Ryan Caruso, treasurer; Zachary Sipos, secretary; Mike Tomaro, sergeant at arms; John Liber, legal counsel and Matt Michalek, past president.

Returning board members are Chris Dean, Gabe Franklin, Clayton Papenfus, Jeff Wenham and Jason Zuber.

For information on the Chagrin Valley Jaycees’ charitable mission, visit

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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