WYSOX TOWNSHIP - Ten years ago, the Community Foundation for the Twin Tiers received its first donation: an $89 gift that someone had won in a 50-50 raffle in Towanda.

Since then, the Community Foundation for the Twin Tiers (CFTT) has grown to the point where it has almost $2 million in assets, which are used to benefit the five counties it serves in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York, said Marilyn Bok, founder of the CFTT.

"We started small and we're growing because of donations" and because of those who have worked to make the organization successful, Bok said at the CFTT's 10th Anniversary Banquet, which was held on Thursday at the Towanda Country Club in Wysox Township.

A community foundation is a collection of endowment funds that benefit the community in various ways, according to a brochure from the CFFT.

For example, one of the CFTT's 46 funds provides college scholarships to people who have a goal of starting a small business, said Angela Klopf, chief executive officer of the CFTT.

Another endowment fund at the CFTT was set up to generate revenue for the local Area Agency on Aging.

Bok recalled how she started working toward establishing the CFTT as a way to memorialize her younger sister, who had died of breast cancer.

She recalled how there had been a community meeting to organize the CFTT, which was attended by 104 people, including community leaders.

Of the people who attended that initial meeting, 44 signed up to serve on committees that worked to get the CFTT off the ground, while another 46 asked to be put on mailing lists and said they would be willing to serve on committees if they were needed.

"Ninety people stepped forward to make this organization possible," she said. "I didn't do it alone."

Bok talked about how other community foundations have benefited from large, unexpected donations.

For example, the Elmira-Corning Community Foundation's assets suddenly doubled in size to $30 million when a retired school teacher died, leaving the foundation $15 million in her will, she said.

The CFTT's assets are raised locally, invested, and spent locally, Bok said.

The more assets a community foundation has, the "more value it is to the community it serves," she said.

One of the goals of the CFTT is to identify the needs in the community and "connect donors with those needs." said Klopf.

By building endowment funds, the CFTT promotes the long-term stability of the communities in the five counties it serves, she said.

People can start an endowment fund with the CFTT on their own, or as part of a group, she said.

There are many different ways that an endowment fund can be started, such as a through a bequest, or through a life insurance policy, she said.

At the banquet, a raffle took place in which 10 winning tickets were drawn. Each person who held a winning ticket donated his or her prize - which ranged from $500 to $1,000 - to the charitable organization of his or her choice.

Among the charitable organizations which received the raffle prize money were the new hospital in Troy, the Nurse-Family Partnership program at Memorial Hospital, and the Wyalusing Public Library.

The money for the raffle prizes were donated by area businesses and individuals.

The CFTT is run to a large extent by committees of volunteers, including a board of directors and advisory committees in each of the five counties it serves, which are Bradford, Sullivan, Tioga and Potter counties in Pennsylvania and Tioga County, N.Y.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.