On a sultry summer evening in 1931, a tiny seed was planted in Deering, New Hampshire when a well known doctor and a number of her friends and neighbors gathered to establish a fund to benefit their rural community.
Known at that time as the Deering Foundation, this seed has since grown into a sturdy tree whose bounty enriches the lives of citizens in Deering and surrounding communities. Since 1967, the Foundation has provided generous support to the community, as well as to college students from the local area in the form of scholarship aid.
The Foundation’s mission empowers it to try to improve many facets of life in Deering, but for most of its history the Foundation’s Board of Directors has chosen to concentrate on education for the community. Though founded in Deering many years ago, the Foundation expanded its purview to include students from Hillsborough and Weare. Graduates from these towns are eligible to apply for scholarships, regardless of the secondary school attended.
Scholarship applicants are reviewed on the basis of several criteria including academic excellence, good citizenship in school and the community, and a financial need. In addition, the Foundation seeks strong recommendations from teachers, guidance counselors and others. Special consideration is given to students who seek careers of service to their community, especially in medicine, social work, and the ministry.
One of the first to receive a Deering Foundation scholarship was Diana Cooper. From Weare, she entered the Deaconess School of Hospitals in Boston as a freshman in 1967, along with 58 other nursing students. She became president of her class, and after graduation, went on to a successful career in her chosen field.
Through the 1960’s and 70’s the scholarships granted were relatively small, ranging from $250 to $500 dollars. Over the years however, both the number and size of the scholarships have grown significantly. Today, the typical grant averages $2,000. Since 1967, the Foundation has awarded nearly 600 scholarships amounting to over $600,000.
The Foundation focuses its support on students in their freshman and sophomore years. In some situations, exceptions have been made, providing support through a student’s four years of college. However, it is felt that later in their college career, a student is better able to obtain other financial aid, and can find summer jobs to help finance their education.
A significant number of the awardees attend college within the state of New Hampshire, with the University of New Hampshire being a frequent first choice. However, scholarships have been awarded to students attending colleges around the country. Recent winners have chosen colleges such as Brown University, Smith College, Middlebury College and the University of Connecticut in the East, Univerity of Alabama, Tulane University and Wake Forest University in the South, the University of Chicago, Marquette University and Oberlin College in the Mid-west and Arizona State University, University of Montana and the University of Southern California in the West.
Over the years, the Foundation has heard back from many students about their progress through college and their subsequent careers. Often they come and address the directors at their annual meeting, to express appreciation and share their experiences in college and beyond. One young woman returned to announce that she had an excellent job in marketing, was married and was expecting her first child. She had attended the University of New Hampshire, and had received Foundation grants totaling $1,200. She told us that without the extra support from the Deering Foundation, she would not have been able to attend the University. Another year, a young man came back to thank the Foundation. It was not the amount of the scholarship that had helped him the most. Rather, it was the lift he got from the fact that an independent organization had found him worthy of support.
A few college graduates have contributed back to the Foundation towards scholarships for other students. In addition to providing scholarships, the Deering Foundation has provided sustained support to the community through gifts to the Deering Community Church. Between 1964 and 1968, gifts totaling $3,000. were made to help finance the construction of the parish house, which now houses Sherwood Hall. This continues to be a place where many community meetings and local cultural events are held. It is here too, that annual Foundation meetings are held.
The notion of social and community outreach has also been a consistent theme throughout its history. The Foundation began in 1976 to make annual contributions as part of its mission to the people of Deering.
The Deering Foundation was organized by Dr. Eleanor A. Campbell. Born in 1878 to a family of means, she became a renowned pediatrician in New York City. Later, she helped to create the Judson Health Center in Greenwich Village.
This center provided high quality medical care for the poor and working families of lower Manhattan. Dr. Campbell directed the center without salary from its founding until she retired. Dr. Campbell’s family purchased property in Deering near the lake for a summer home. She spent several months each summer at ‘The Homestead’, and carried on her social and medical work in the surrounding farm and town communities. She brought a number of friends to the area, some of whom also chose Deering as their summer home. Dr. Campbell provided free medical care to many local children. She formed the Deering Health Center, the first rural health center in the State of New Hampshire.
Dr. Campbell provided all of the initial funding for the work of the Foundation. Much of it came from the donation or sale of various parcels of land that she owned in Deering, including property on Deering Reservoir. After her death in 1959, additional parcels were sold with the proceeds designated to the Foundation for education funding purposes.
Recently, in an attempt to draw interest from others outside the Deering area, the Foundation’s name was changed to the Eleanor Campbell Charitable Fund. The mission and outreach of the organization continues to remain the same.
Today, the Board is made up of members of the community drawn from Deering, Hillsborough and Weare. The organization does not maintain an office or have any paid staff, and the work of the Foundation is all conducted by committees of the Board.
The Campbell Fund continues to receive support from several sources, not the least of which are the annual gifts from the Directors themselves. It has also received several larger gifts from other foundations. Combined, the increased assets have allowed for a modest expansion in the number and size of awards made annually. In 2015, a total of $34,500. was awarded to Weare and Hillsboro-Deering high school students. Today, the Foundation assets are in excess of $780,000. and are professionally managed under the supervision of the Board of Director’s Treasurer and Finance Committee.
In the decades since the death of Dr. Campbell, her legacy has been kept alive by the Eleanor Campbell Charitable Fund. Inspired by her example and dedication, the Board of Directors shares her faith in the importance of education and of recognizing good work. Though the communities that have been so influenced by her work are much changed and ever growing over the past 75 years, the need for local foundations to care for and invest in the community is undiminished.