Time capsules have fascinated me since I was a little girl, when my brother and I buried a shoebox full of stuff important to little kids in the 1960s.

I don’t remember all of the contents, but I vaguely recall an empty foil packet of Fizzies drink tablets, a troll doll with a profusion of very tangled fuchsia hair, strips of spent toy gun caps and tiny squares of Bazooka Joe comics.

And we wonder why some historians diminish the value of time capsules! One chronicler disdainfully described the items usually found in these vessels as “junk,” advising that those charged with assembling historic collections should concentrate on “everyday” artifacts so that future generations could get a “true feel for real life.” (What? As if Fizzies and troll dolls were not artifacts of every kid’s life in the 60’s?!)

That got me to thinking, however, as we are celebrating our 25th anniversary at NCCF this year. If we were to assemble a time capsule reflective of the Foundation, what should go inside? I polled some of my colleagues, both those who have been associated with NCCF for a long time and also some relative newcomers. Here is a sampling of their responses:

Bagels were on the list submitted by Jennifer Tolle Whiteside, NCCF’s president and CEO. “NCCF has hosted a lot of early morning meetings over the last quarter-century, and keeping with our tradition of building relationships and breaking bread with folks, many of these gatherings have begun with bagels,” she said. Also in her recommended capsule collection was a pine cone, NCCF’s symbol since our branding was developed by designer Jeff Dale in the early 90s. This logo has withstood the test of time, with only a nod to more contemporary lines and color combos updating the mark decades after its creation.

Many submitted the same items for the time capsule:

Several had fund agreements on their lists. This is at the heart of what we do. Some of the earliest agreement forms would include the first family funds established: the Earle A. & Jean B. Connelly Endowment and the J.F. and Jean Allen Endowment, both set up in Montgomery County in 1992. Suggested also were the first scholarships established when the Bryan Foundation created 11 endowments with NCCF in 1990.

Affiliate charters were also recommended by many for the capsule. Craven, Johnston, Montgomery, Randolph and Wake counties established the first affiliate foundations in 1991, so they are good examples.

The “yellow legal pad” (perhaps the very first office supply item) was oft-cited, probably due to the preciousness of its contents. Elizabeth Fentress, NCCF’s first president and executive director, said the legal pad included “budget notes I drew up to present to LRH  …and the amounts will seem pretty funny, as will the office equipment and line items outlined.” An IBM Selectric typewriter? What’s that? (We actually still have this and use it!)

LRH of course is the late Lewis R. Holding, our founder and the first chairman of the NCCF board. Perhaps he would have said to include the paper money and loose change he jingled in his pocket to help explain endowments in those early days of educating rural North Carolinians about the value of a community foundation. He called this exercise the “money money.” Fentress called it a great economic lesson about getting your money to work for you through compound interest. “He’d pull out the paper money and describe that as your ‘walking around money’ that you’d use to pay bills and live on and put in your savings account,” she said. “And then he’d show the loose change, and call that the  interest that your invested money would earn and allow you to give away – or the money money.” 

Fentress also recommended putting two maps of North Carolina into the time capsule: one from 1988 and one from today. “I also think we should include stats from the NC Association of Municipalities as to census figures from our founding ... These will be truly important and interesting to show the shift in demographics for our state over a long time.” And of course she said to include the “stuff of road warriers.” Many miles were covered as early leaders set out to crusade for NCCF. She thought Nabs, soda cans, coffee cups from Starbucks and McDonalds would be representative of this period. “And extra panty hose,” she said. “Check with Beth [Jenkins]!”

One of Cherry Ballard’s favorite documents to put into the time capsule included a “Five-Year Plan” for NCCF, as presented by the late statewide board member Dallas Mackey at the annual meeting in November 1993. His presentation of the plan began with several inspirational quotes, and one of his own that especially bears remembering for generations to come:

“The program of the North Carolina Community Foundation is ambitious and provides North Carolinians with opportunities to do great things…to challenge and inspire; to create enterprises that will make life better for our generation and for future generations. If we succeed in this we will have rekindled the spirit of philanthropy in some areas, and all across North Carolina new waves of philanthropy will begin to appear.”

So true and so prophetic, Mr. Mackey! And I believe all will agree -- even historians -- that none of the precious cargo slated for inclusion in NCCF’s virtual time capsule is “junk,” but a true indication of our “real life.”



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