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April 12, 2013

$1 Million Milestone

Latest grant ‘perfect fit’ for vets’ needs

TERRE HAUTE — A milestone was hit Thursday as the Wabash Valley Community Foundation reached the $1 million mark for its grants with a gift from the Delmar L. and Betty L. Jones Family Fund.

That milestone was part of a $5,000 grant from the Jones family fund awarded to Indiana State University’s Coach-a-Vet program, which trains Wabash Valley veterans who have successfully adjusted to civilian life to be life-coaches for ISU student veterans and other veterans in the community as they re-enter civilian life.

“It’s a perfect fit,” said Sharon Nicoson, oldest child of the Jones. “[Delmar Jones] was an older student, attending on the GI bill, and had lifelong friends with some of his professors.”

In 1991, Delmar and Betty Jones donated $1 million to establish a family fund in the Wabash Valley Community Foundation, which was matched under a Lilly Foundation grant that matched $1 for every $2 donated. That added $500,000 and established the foundation as a viable entity.

“It was really brave of him to hand over a million dollars to people, who he trusted, but this community foundation did not exist before and it was a bit of a gamble,” Nicoson said. “It could have ended badly and never blossomed and grown, but fortunately it was a wise step and the foundation has grown and is helping the community. It is a great thing,” Nicoson said.

Beth Tevlin, executive director of the foundation, said the Joneses remain the third-largest donors to the Wabash Valley Community Foundation.

“They gave the money to us so that we can put it to work in the community,” Tevlin said.

“Had we not had someone with the bravery to step forward in the early stages to give that million dollar gift, I don’t know where we would be, but you did, your family did and we are so pleased that we can help your family’s legacy live on,” Tevlin told Nicoson during the Power of Endowment Luncheon and Spring Grant Awards held at the Holiday Inn.

Before the luncheon, Nicoson said the Wabash Valley “has received $1 million from this fund [since 1991], but look at all the others funds, and look at the impact on the community. It is a great thing,” Nicoson said.

The Community Foundation now has 405 endowments and more than $38 million in assets. The foundation awards about $1.3 million in grants and scholarship support annually to benefit residents of Vigo, Clay and Sullivan counties.

“This is the best demonstration that we have of the power of endowments, the power of philantrophy, the power of what good can be done forever thanks to the kind of work the Community Foundation continues to do,” said Fred Nation, board president of the foundation.

Robert Scott and Don Springman, of Eli Lilly, were instrumental in convincing Jones to help jump start the Wabash Valley Community Foundation, Nicoson said.

Scott served as a financial consultant to Delmar and Betty Jones. “At that time, Eli Lilly came out with a matching grant, so I started on Del about [donating to a community foundation.] He and his family went through a lot of study,” Scott said. “He wanted to do something right for the community. He started as a small machine shop operator and built a big business.”

Sharon Nicoson, 64, is  the oldest of the children of Delmar and Betty Jones. Her brother, Ron Jones, who is two years younger, and sister, Shirley McDonald, who is four years younger, all are of Terre Haute. McDonald lives part-time in South Carolina and Nicoson lives part-time in Florida.

Delmar Jones started a machine shop, doing contract work for companies to build machinery. “It was job shop. They didn’t make a single product and sell it. Companies like Ethyl Visqueen in Chicago, RR Donnelley and Otis Elevator, would come to them and say, we need this built. Here is the blueprints and bid on the job,” Nicoson said.

Quality work and a good personality allowed Jones to establish a business with repeat customers, Nicoson said, building the shop to a large business.

Delmar Jones graduated in 1956 from Indiana State University, attending under the “GI bill,” Nicoson said, studying industrial arts. Prior to that, Jones had enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 17. He served prior to the Korean War, she added. On leave in Christmas in 1946, he married his high school sweetheart, Betty.

After leaving the Army, Jones worked for a brother in a coal mine. “He was in a mine accident, where the mine collapsed on him and broke his back and two legs,” Nicoson said. “He was very fortunate to be able to work again and he walked with a limp, but that never really stopped him.”

After recovering, Jones attended ISU, Nicoson said. A year after graduating, Delmar and his older brother, Robert, started Jones Tool & Machine Co. Delmar bought out his brother’s share of the company about 20 years later, Nicoson said.

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