Foundation Mission & History
To build good citizenship by providing a volunteer organization of clubs dedicated to serving individual and community needs with an emphasis on helping people with developmental disabilities.
The purpose of the Civitan International Foundation is to support the educational, scientific and charitable endeavors of Civitan International.
History of the Foundation
The Civitan International Foundation was formed in 1960 as a way for Civitans to make tax deductible contributions to Civitan International in support of its projects. Civitan International's founder, Courtney Shropshire, died shortly after its creation in 1965. Upon his death, the Foundation's first official program, the Courtney W. Shropshire Memorial Scholarship Fund, was founded. Through the generosity of Civitans, thousands of students have been aided in the advancement of their education.
The Foundation first funded a wide range of projects in the 1960s, including the work of Radio Free Europe, the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, the American Heritage Foundation, the National Association of Retarded Children, the National Safety Council, and the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge.
In the 1970s, Civitan participated in President Gerald Ford's program to resettle Vietnam refugees. They joined with the National Assocation for Retarded Citizens (NARC) to promote awareness of mental retardation through a public information campaign. In 1973, the Foundation helped the NARC respond to thousands of annual inquiries about services for retarded citizens. The Foundation made an $85,000 commitment to fund the Civitan Public Inquiry Program at NARC. By the late 1970s, the program had handled over 600,000 inquiries.
The Foundation's support of the International Special Olympic Games began in 1979. Civitan donated $500,000 and provided 50 volunteers for the 1979 games in Brockport, NY. In 1983, Civitan became a "prime sponsor" of the games in Baton Rouge, LA, donating almost $500,000 and supplying hundreds of volunteers. Civitan continued its support by providing half of the budget and hundreds of volunteers for the 1987 and 1991 games.
In the 1980s, the Foundation began its support of the Osmond Foundation's Children's Miracle Network annual telethon. By 1987 it was the most successful telethon in the nation, due in part to Civitan volunteers and hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to the cause. In 1988, Junior Civitans alone raised over $100,000 for Children's Miracle Network.
In 1988, Civitan's Board decided to focus Civitan International's resources on a flagship institution committed to providing clinical services and doing research in the area of developmental disabilities. After reviewing numerous proposals, the Flagship Study Committee voted unanimously to recommend the University of Alabama at Birmingham as the site of Civitan's flagship institution, and the Civitan membership adopted the proposal at the 1989 international convention. The UAB Civitan International Research Center was created with a 20 million dollar commitment by the Foundation. Since its founding, the Research Center has made many important discoveries, provided clinical services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, and used Civitan's funding to secure tens of millions of dollars in research and program grants.
While the Research Center continues as the Foundation's flagship project, and Shropshire Scholarships are still extended to dozens of students each year, the Foundation's role continues to evolve. New projects and programs are on the horizon as the Foundation remains focused on supporting the educational, scientific, and charitable endeavors of Civitan International.