Foundation History


The Foundation was established on October 14, 1919 by Col. Francis H. Fries, president of Wachovia Bank, following a model developed in Cleveland five years earlier.  It was the first foundation to be established in North Carolina and the 16th community foundation in the country.

The Foundation's original Declaration of Trust called for a Foundation Committee of five to serve staggered terms as a result of individual appointments by the Mayor of Winston-Salem, the Clerk of Superior Court, and the senior federal judge serving Winston-Salem, and two appointments by Wachovia Bank.  They were required to be residents of the city, possessing a sound knowledge of the community and concern for its well-being. None was to hold public office while serving on the Committee and no more than two of the five were to be of the same religious denomination, demonstrating an early commitment to diversity.

In the first 75 years, the Declaration of Trust was amended four times to increase both the number of banks that could serve as trustees (from one to eight), as well as the number of members that could serve on the Committee, from five to nine, and ultimately, to 13.


Widespread interest in the Foundation came in 1923 after the tragic death of high school football player Leo Caldwell. Four days after his death during a football game between R.J. Reynolds and Charlotte High Schools, an anonymous letter writer in the Winston-Salem Sentinel called for public contributions to the Leo Caldwell Memorial Student Loan Fund.  More than $1,000 was received the following day, and subsequent gifts ranged from $1.50 from a fifth grade class to $2,000 from the Civitan Club. Approximately $10,000 was received in total; the Fund marked the beginning of the student aid program at the Foundation.


Under staff direction, the Foundation began giving leadership and financial support to a number of important community causes, thus setting the stage for a more proactive role in the community.  In 1970, the Foundation granted $28,000 to help establish Together House to address the growing problem of drug abuse in the city.  While the organization eventually closed, it later provided the basis for a $100,000 Foundation investment in the Council on Drug Abuse.  The Council still functions today as Step One, which provides valuable programs in our community.

This early community leadership experience set the stage for another leadership role in 1976 when the Foundation partnered with Sara Lee and the Crosby National Celebrity Golf Tournament. The Foundation administered the proceeds from the tournament to support collaborative community programs aimed at drug abuse prevention.  Out of that partnership grew the Crosby Scholars Community Partnership.

In 1990, the Foundation started the Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods program for low-wealth communities on the premise that human resources should be reclaimed and healthy neighborhood leadership developed, and that both physical and human assets contribute to the vitality of the whole community. The program became an independent nonprofit and continues to support local neighborhoods.


In 1999, the Foundation took its knowledge of the value of human assets to the next level and launched its social capital initiative called ECHO (Everyone Can Help Out). After the $2.5 million investment in growing social capital through ECHO grants was completed in 2005, the Foundation began integrating what it had learned about social capital and its impact on community into its regular grantmaking practices. Click here to learn more about ECHO.

The Foundation began its history as a leader, and that legacy of leadership continues today: enabling caring and generous community members to invest in what matters to them, bringing people and organizations together to address local issues, and creating opportunities to grow the community's understanding of the common good.


©2005-2018 The Winston-Salem Foundation • 751 W Fourth St, Suite 200 • Winston-Salem, NC 27101 • 336.725.2382