Saluting Our Founders

berkshire taconic at 30: saluting our founders

“It has long been clear that the residents of the three counties have a common bond – their interest in protecting the unique natural beauty in the area, its cultural and educational assets, and the well-being of its people. The foundation provides a way to advance and nurture this common bond in perpetuity.”

With those words, the late businessman and philanthropist Robert E. Blum neatly summed up the vision and values of the Tri-County Foundation, which he helped establish three decades ago with an anonymous gift of $100,000. 

Blum, a Salisbury resident, had been active with two other community foundations, the New York Community Trust and Maine Community Foundation, for years. He and three other local community leaders—Donald Warner and William Olsen of Salisbury, as well as Dana Creel of Sharon—established this new foundation as an affiliate of the Trust to promote charitable giving locally.

Karl Stoecker of Salisbury served as the first chair of the 10-member board, and an advisory council provided additional local knowledge. By the end of that first year, the fledgling foundation—which was housed above a Lakeville real estate office—had awarded $23,000 to grantees such as Sharon Hospital and the Berkshire Museum. By year two, the foundation was serving Columbia County. Our name changed to Berkshire Taconic in 1994.

From the start, local donors began to open a small handful funds whose variety demonstrated the flexibility of the community foundation model. The late Doris Walker of Salisbury established a donor advised fund that first year to make gifts to the causes dearest to her, while the late C. Virgil Martin of Millerton showed his dedication to the North East-Millerton Library by opening a designated fund to support the library in perpetuity. (Read more donor stories). Wisely, the founders established a community fund to allow the foundation to respond to needs as they emerge. 

Today, the bonds Blum described are stronger than ever, as hundreds of donors give back to their communities through BTCF each year and our nonprofits get the support they need to strengthen our region and its people. 

Here’s a look back at our first year from the December 10, 1987 edition of the Lakeville Journal. 


A 1968 portrait of Robert Blum.