Continued from the January 29th blog.
The word began to spread about Learning Tree’s activities. More and more benefactors became involved and pitched in to put up fences, help acquire animals and continue to make the site safer and more attractive. These benefactors recommended that a 20-year lease be written so that Learning Tree Project could go on without interruption or fear of having the land sold prematurely. Although we had no fear that Land Group V would let us down, it seemed to please everyone to know that we had a 20-year lease.
As twenty years began to come close to the horizon, Learning Tree had grown to serving about 4,000 students annually. By this time, it had received tremendous community support and was becoming increasingly well known in the Dayton - Miami Valley area. At this point, Directors of local Foundations met with us to insist that, for continued foundation support, as well as other local support, the property must be transferred to the Learning Tree. It could no longer be held in private ownership if we hoped to continue to get funding
By 1989, Land Group V had paid off the mortgage, but still held a loan, taken out to pay the real estate taxes. The venture had never proved to be a “for profit” experience for any of the owners. Fred Bartenstein, then director of the Dayton Foundation, suggested that perhaps the owners would be willing to consider contributing their shares of ownership to the Learning Tree under the following conditions:
1) If Learning Tree would offer to raise funds to pay off the remaining loan
2) If Learning Tree would find a lawyer to advise and prepare a document stating that
the gift of their shares to this 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) non-profit organization be recognized as tax deductible.
In a meeting at the farmhouse, August, 1989, (punctuated by elderberry pie and coffee,) the members of Land Group V met with Roger Bloomfield. He is the lawyer who discussed with them the possibility of donating their shares of ownership to the Learning Tree Project in return for a tax break and the payment of their loan. All but one of the members of Land Group V agreed to do so. Bill Davidson, who lived in Texas, declined to donate his shares. Learning Tree is grateful, however, for the years that he let us use his money interest free. Learning Tree then, had to assume the responsibility of raising $27,000.00, to pay off the Land Group V loan and to pay back the amount of the shares owned by Bill Davidson.
Local foundations came to the rescue. The Mead Foundation was willing to put up $12,000.00 if other foundations would contribute a match. The Dayton Foundation, the Iddings Foundation and the Frank M Tait Foundation each put up $5,000.00. On October 14, 1989, there was an Enffeofment Ceremony at the farm whereby members of Land Group V transferred ownership of the property to the members of the Board of Trustees of Learning Tree Project. As in the days of old in England, before there were written records, former owners gave to the new owners a clod of the soil and a branch from a tree that grew on the land in question. That, in itself, is a story for another day.