GRAND CHAIN FAMILY FOUNDATION
During the 2009 Family Reunion in Tampa, FL our Reunion Chair Anthony B. Curtis, Jr. began pondering over the logistical challenges to hosting the reunion and the financial risks that our Chairs assume by doing so. Our reunions have grown from the humble beginnings in Madison, IL, to what is now a convention like atmosphere where tens of thousands of dollars are spent to put it on. He started talking to other family members during the reunion regarding the idea of establishing a corporate entity to operate our family reunions under. Those individuals included Morris Barefield, Phillip Barefield, Bobby Barefield, Garry Barefield, Deborah Davis (McClelland), Michaella Blake (Henderson) Danette Carter (Woolfolk), and Marilyn Barton (Clay). As it turned out, many of them were already having similar thoughts and conversations. After this informal meeting, more formal meetings would follow as they set forth to start the Grand Chain Family Foundation. As the planning moved forward, everyone wanted to ensure that all the branches of the family were represented in the conversations. That desire is reflected in the Charter Members who worked diligently to bring the Foundation to fruition on January 24, 2012 and their charge is laid out in Article II of the By-Laws the Purpose. On February 9, 2017, the Foundation received its 501(c)3 tax exempt status. This was sought to help the Foundatoin carry out its Purpose which is detailed below.
ARTICLE II - PURPOSE
To promote unity and continuing fellowship of the Barefield, Clay, Claypool, Henderson, McClelland and Woolfolk families and extended family or persons with historical interest in the families. To create a supportive entity that promotes excellence in educational achievements and economic advancements as well as initiatives addressing health issues that disproportionately impact African-American communities. The Foundation shall engage in the discovery, preservation, compilation, publication and dissemination of information pertaining to the history and heritage of the subject families. To fundraise and engage in activities aimed at providing for the support, maintenance and increased historical awareness of the Ranney Hill Cemetery in Grand Chain, Illinois. The above purposes and attendant activities shall be accomplished without pecuniary profit to anyone directly or indirectly associated to the Foundation.
ARTICLE XIV – CHARTER MEMBERS
The Founding members of the Grand Chain Family Foundation are: Phillip Barfield, Debra Davis (McClelland), Patricia Coleman (Clay), Bobby Barefield, Garry Barefield, Anthony B. Curtis, Jr (Barefield), Sarah Edwards (Woolfolk), Theresa Deas (Barefield), Maurice Barfield, Michaella Blake (Henderson), Talyia Claypool, Orissa Durgin (Clay) and Danette Carter (Woolfolk).
RATIONALE FOR STARTING THE FOUNDATOIN
Typically, when we host our reunions, we call the reunion by the name of the host family. If someone from the Barefield Branch is hosting, we call it the Barefield Family Reunion, but if someone from the Woolfolk Branch is hosting, we call it the Woolfolk Family Reunion. When doing business with vendors, particularly hotels, and we need to block 100 plus rooms, they want fulfill our contractual obligations. It’s difficult to provide that proof when we change names every two years.
Operating as the Grand Chain Family Foundation gives us a consistent banner to fly under. Instead of saying the Barefield or Woolfolk Family Reunion, we can say the Grand Chain Family Foundation Reunion Hosted by the Barefield’s or Woolfolk’s.
When signing contracts with hotels, we have to commit to food and beverage minimums and we have to commit to a block of rooms. For example, we typically block approximately 125 rooms at an 80% attrition rate for the 500 – 600 people we typically expect at a reunion in the Midwest. This means we are responsible for booking 80% of our block (100 Rooms). Therefore, if we only reserve 80 rooms, our Chairs are responsible for covering the cost of the lost revenue for 20 rooms. There is also a food and beverage minimum, which is $23,560 including the automatic gratuity and service charges for 2017 Reunion. If we only spend $20,000 at our catered events, we are responsible for paying the remainder of $3,560. The Reunion Chair who has graciously volunteered is the one who signs all the contracts and as a result, assumes all of this risk.
By having a corporate entity to sign contracts under, the Corporation (Grand Chain Family Foundation) assumes the risk and not the individual. We hope that this reduction in risk results in more volunteering stepping up to host future reunions.
Per our Purpose as outlined in the By-Laws, we aim to engage in charitable causes such as awarding scholarships, health awareness initiatives, historical research, and raising funds for the upkeep of Ranney Hill Cemetery where many family members lay, many of which in unmarked graves mostly due to the corrosive effects of the weather on their grave stones. More people would give to these charitable causes if their donations were tax deductible.
We have started the process for applying for 501c3 status for the Foundation. Not only would this make donations tax deductible, but we would no longer be required to pay the 8.75% sales tax on our food and beverage costs at the hotel.
Though we have been having our reunions for 36 years, we are essentially reinventing the wheel each time we host the reunion. We are not doing much in terms of knowledge transfer and we are not retaining essential skills because each year we completely hand over the reins. Though I enjoy the excitement in the room as we ask for volunteers to host our next reunion. People yell out their respective cities and we cheer them on based on the appeal of the city. Though this was always a part of the reunion I looked forward to, I do not believe that this is unsustainable. When our reunions are in the Midwest we generally have 500 – 600 people. To effectively pull this off you have to have a team that is skilled in budgeting, marketing the reunion, management, event planning, and it’s helpful if they have prior experience with our reunions.
We can still select our next reunion Chair and City in the same exciting manner, but having the Foundation in place provides an entity that can support the Chair. Just because we are switching cities and Chairs, shouldn’t mean we should be switching business practices, bank accounts, websites, individuals that are handling the money, or losing critical knowledge from prior successes. The Foundation will help us stop reinventing the wheel so that we can truly start making forward strides and stop having significant sways in the quality of our reunions.
During the 2019 reunion, the family held a meeting to discuss the Grand Chain Family Foundation (GCFF) and as a family we decided via majority vote that we should continue operating the GCFF. We are also be looking for volunteers to serve on the GCFF Board, especially those with areas of expertise.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE FOUNDATION BYLAWS