In May of 1995, the congregation adopted a resolution amending the Congregational Bylaws in order to establish the BELC Endowment Fund. The resolution stated that the Fund's purpose "is to enhance the mission of Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church apart from the general operation of the congregation" and provided "that no portion of the income generated by the Fund shall be used for the annual operating budget of the congregation".
The Bylaw created a Plan of Operation that sets forth the administration and management of the Fund, with management responsibilities vested in the BELC Endowment Fund Committee, consisting of five elected members. The Plan of Operation indicates that Fund income can be expended only for proposed uses that fall into any one of four distinct categories. Some examples of the various purposes for Fund uses are: scholarships and grants for church-related education, camping and leadership conferences, world mission and ecumenism, capital improvements, debt reduction and building programs, and special neighborhood outreach programs.
The Plan of Operation also provides that the Committee may only distribute 90% of earnings. The BELC Endowment Fund is now generating over $4,000 in yearly income. From those earnings, the Committee has already dispersed over $11,000 from the Fund for authorized purposes (i.e., to provide seed money for the Seminarian Fund, to help pay for the new outside electronic sign and the new sound system for the sanctuary, as well as monthly payments to help lower BELC's mortgage debt).
Over the years, the Committee utilized various investment strategies to grow the Fund assets. From early 1998 until the beginning of Fall 2009, there were many market fluctuations. In order to have greater control over the BELC Endowment Fund assets, the Committee opened an account with a financial firm, Edward Jones, and has been depositing all Fund monies into this account since the fall of 2009. Paul Lentz, a member of BELC who is a financial advisor with Edward Jones, is helping to manage our account and provide ongoing investment recommendations.
During late 2009, the Committee initially invested $50,000.00 of Fund assets in five separate municipal bonds, i.e., $10,000.00 for each bond. The interest rates for these bonds range from 5.00% to 6.25%, with each bond generating reliable earnings on a bi-annual basis. The Committee also invested $20,000.00 in various large cap stocks, each of which have consistently produced dividends regardless of the current economic climate. In addition, our account has a net cash and money market component, which provides an easily accessible cash reserve. As of the Fall of 2012, the value of our Edward Jones account totaled over $114,000.00. This bounty is due to the charitable donations from many congregation members, who often give as a memorial to a friend or a loved one, and who recognize that what they sow now will surely be reaped in the future.
Anyone having a question or comment about the Endowment Fund may contact any member of the Committee or Pastor Lichtenberger. The 2011/2012 Committee members are: Ken Teter, Tim Nelson, Carol Wank, Liisa Whitman and Don Romain.