Edyth Bush Foundation Marks 50 Years of Service

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A champion of Central Florida’s nonprofit sector is celebrating a milestone as Thursday, June 22, marks the 50th anniversary of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation. The organization has enriched the Winter Park community, and offered guidance and support to the nonprofit sector in the spirit of its namesake, Edyth Bassler Bush.

Born in 1887, she grew up in Chicago and achieved notoriety as an actress, playwright, and ballet dancer. She put her career aside in 1919 to marry Archibald Granville Bush, a salesman for the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. After they married, the Bushes moved to St. Paul. Archibald would later become president and chairman of the company, which is now known as 3M.

A photo of Edyth and Archibald Bush during a visit to Winter Park. Photo courtesy of: Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation

The Bushes first visited Winter Park in 1949, purchasing a winter residence and immersing themselves in the community. Among the early beneficiaries of their local philanthropic efforts were Winter Park Hospital (now Winter Park Health Foundation), Rollins College, First Baptist Church of Winter Park, and The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Home.

After Archibald’s death in 1966, Edyth made Winter Park her year-round home. With the help of trusted advisors who came with her, she granted funds to local education and human service organizations, and strengthened the statewide nonprofit community with management assistance and connections to a network of philanthropists. She established the Foundation with the intent of alleviating human suffering, and to help people help themselves. In its 50 years, the Foundation has awarded 4,273 grants totaling more than $114 million to 891 nonprofit organizations.

Since stepping into the role of Foundation President and CEO in 1990, David Odahowski has helped grow the Foundation in terms of assets, community impact, and physical presence. The 2022 opening of the 17,000-square-foot headquarters – known as “The Edyth” – not only provided administrative space, but also gave the community a home for meetings, events, exhibits and classes.

The Edyth was completed in June, 2022, and offers space for meetings, classes and collaboration. Photos by: Jim Carchidi
“The Balcony” is one of the building’s many work spaces.
“Sacred Promise” by sculptor Katherine Mathisen is one of 10 pieces currently in the Foundation’s “Art of Philanthropy” collection, exhibited throughout the building.

The headquarters is also a nod to Edyth Bush’s passion for the performing arts with architectural designs that resemble a stage, theater wings, and a second-floor space called “The Balcony.”

Mayor Phil Anderson, during the June 14 City Commission meeting, proclaimed June 22 to be Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation Day in the city of Winter Park. During an acceptance address, Odahowski stated that the Bushes “wanted to learn, they wanted to serve, and they wanted to give.” He added that the Foundation anniversary would be observed by continuing their work in that spirit.

Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation President and CEO David Odahowski. Photo courtesy of: Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation

Here, Odahowski reflects on the growth he has witnessed during his tenure, and what he envisions for the future of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation.

How has the scope and size of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation changed since you began your role? Together with an experienced Board of Directors and an energetic staff, the size of the Foundation has doubled its assets to $95 million. This includes a big investment in downtown Winter Park with our new headquarters – “The Edyth” – and grants of $70 million, made during the 33 years I have been president. In terms of scope, we have gone from building great nonprofits on a local level, to building a great nonprofit sector for the people of Florida. In 2015, we were recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a 30,000-member organization, as the best foundation in the United States

How has the new headquarters helped to achieve the goals of the foundation, and approximately how many events has it hosted? It is a lasting tribute to Mr. and Mrs. Bush, who loved Winter Park, and is an inspiring place for people and their big ideas. The three-story “wall of glass” facade allows people to see philanthropy at work, and shows how philanthropy can see the needs of the community. Since we opened, we have hosted more than 60 events with more than 1,600 attendees making effective use of the facilities. These events range from luncheons, board dinners, meetings and retreats to training events and pop-up shops with displays. We have also hosted fundraising cocktail hours and donor appreciation receptions for nonprofit organizations. The building also houses our growing art collection, known as the “Art of Philanthropy”. Every year we add to the collection with a purchase prize at the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. To date, we have 10 pieces of art of various mediums, and we will be creating a public gallery space, complete with didactics for each piece and an explanation of the collection. Kaori Kuahara – our Director of Community Outreach and Impact – has an art history degree from Rollins College and will develop the print and electronic catalog for the collection.

How do you see the foundation growing between now and the next major anniversary? Looking to our 75th anniversary, I predict that future Boards of Directors and staff will build upon the accountability, innovation, and leadership of the last 50 years. The Edyth will be recognized for its placemaking effect on an even more dynamic Winter Park. The Foundation will undertake programs and initiatives that will help secure the future of our community and the state of Florida.

For information on services, grant elegibility and space availability, go to www.EdythBush.org.

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