On May 24, 1978, the General Membership of the McLean Citizens Association voted to sell a 5.147-acre tract of land between Dolley Madison Boulevard and Balls Hill Road, with the proceeds to be used to establish a charitable foundation to benefit the residents of McLean. The first nine Trustees were nominated in January of 1980 and elected that May. The Foundation was incorporated on June 4, 1980. The first Foundation challenge grant was authorized by the Board on April 16, 1981. Exemption from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code was granted in a letter dated October 22, 1981.
The McLean Citizens Association had originally been organized on November 2, 1914, as the School and Civic League of McLean and was incorporated under that name on June 25, 1921. The League owned real estate at least as early as March 29, 1922, when it acquired land between Chain Bridge Road and Franklin Sherman School, which was used to celebrate McLean Day before World War II. This was the first in a series of land purchases by the League in efforts to bring recreational facilities, a library and a community center to McLean.
The Good Knights Templar
Since 1882, a temperance group, the Good Hope Lodge of the Good Knights Templar had been meeting at the Nelson Methodist Chapel, erected in 1822 and located near the present day Potomac School off Dolley Madison Boulevard. The property was to be used for lodge purposes and also as a hall for the community. Its deed provided that if the lodge ceased to exist, "the citizens of the community shall hold the property". Around 1884, the lodge closed its doors.
The Good Knights Templar deed lay undetected until 1952 when a developer wanted to build houses on the land. In 1952, the president of the School and Civic League, Rev. James Lundquist, received a letter from the Langley Methodist Church about the Good Knights Templar site. The Church had believed that it was the owner of the property. However, when it considered selling the property to a developer for $3,500, it was informed by attorney Lewis Leigh that the Church had sold the land in 1882 to the Templar. The letter from Langley's Rev. Woodrow Hayzlett to the League stated:
"Knowing the desire of the League and the Lions Club to secure the means to purchase land for a site for a recreation center for the community, I wonder if we might not sell this land, the school lot and the lot near Reed's bend and buy acreage for the center."
The MCA Gets the Templar Land and Sells It for Community Purposes
Sam Neel was asked to act as attorney for the League to see if the League could get title to the property. As a result of his study and recommendations, the corporate status of the League was reinstated, and the name changed to "The McLean Citizens Association". On June 18, 1953, the Association filed a friendly suit against all the other community groups that Sam had found that might have a possible claim to the property asking that the MCA be declared the owner (including the Lions Club, the PTA, the American Legion, the Volunteer Fire Department, the Library Association, the Horse Show Association, the Masons and Eastern Star, and all the area churches).
The MCA argued in the suit:
"That prior to receiving its charter in 1921, [the MCA] had existed as an unincorporated organization since the year 1914 and from that time down to this date it has had as its purpose the advancement of the civic, educational, and social interests of the community, not only in and around McLean, but also in Fairfax County as a whole; that it has been prominently identified with the growth and welfare of the community around McLean since its origination, and the membership of your complainant consists entirely of citizens who are residents of the community in or near McLean."
In the suit, the MCA specifically asked that: "…title to said lot should be vested in Trustees selected by your complainant so that it could use the same for its purposes, which are community purposes, or sell the same and apply the proceeds to the erection of a hall on real estate which it owns in McLean or to some similar purpose within the scope of its charter."
It didn't hurt that the MCA was able to argue in the suit that other organizations which might have been interested in the property were all represented on the MCA Board of Directors. The case was heard on October 23, 1953. The court found that:
"… the purpose for which said trust was created can most nearly be carried out by vesting the title in the land in question in Trustees, to hold the same for the use and benefit of the complainant, McLean Citizens Association, that organization being a representative of all the citizens in the community and best equipped by organization and membership to administer the trust …"
Samuel E. Neel, Fred S. Lawless, and Ray N. Gilpatrick were appointed Trustees. On November 5, 1953, the Board of Directors of the McLean Citizens Association authorized the trustees to sell the 1.072 acre lot to the developer, directing that "the proceeds be used for the benefit of the citizens of the McLean area." The net price to the Association was to be not less than $3,500. A contract for sale was approved by the MCA general membership on March 31, 1954, with the stipulation that the proceeds be turned over to the "Treasurer of the Association to be held by him until such time as it can be used for the purchase of real estate for the construction of a community hall in McLean…" The court then approved the sale.
The MCA Buys the Washington Tract with the Proceeds of the Sale
On July 12, 1955, the MCA bought a 5.147 acre portion of the so-called Washington tract on Balls Hill Road at the end of Merrimac Drive from the heirs of John V. Washington, for $3,088.20. Since the heirs disputed their respective rights in litigation then pending, the price of the land was determined by a Commissioner in Chancery to be worth $600 an acre and he conveyed the land to MCA. The tract was considered at the time to be a prospective site for a recreation center and community hall.
The first Chairman of the Community Center Committee of the MCA, Wade Hansborough, proposed a $125,000 community center, but the proposal was rejected because the MCA did not believe it could raise the additional funds. At the time, an MCA Board member noted as an aside on a letter: "I assume that our Treasurer, whom I have never met, and who apparently never attends meetings (lucky fellow) has got the cash on hand to pay for our future home." This was the same tract of land authorized for sale by the membership twenty-three years later, in 1978, to establish a charitable trust, the McLean Community Foundation.
In 1960, when Bob Alden had replaced Hansborough, the MCA formally voted, with only one dissenting vote, to support a McLean community center complex. To provide seed money for the community complex, the MCA, on June 29, 1960, sold its remaining Chain Bridge Road parcel of 9.685 square feet (next to the larger Sun Oil property, which had been sold by the MCA the year before for $36,668). The last portion (now occupied by McLean Cleaners) had a sales price of $24,000 but produced a net balance of only $2,482.75. During the 23 years that the MCA held the Washington tract, other sites were settled on for the community center and the library. MCA leadership and financial help were vital in both cases. In 1966, the MCA donated $5,000 to the Fairfax County Library Board toward acquisition of the site for Dolley Madison Library with the understanding that the parking lot built to support the library would one day be shared with the community center. On April 22, 1966, the MCA bought the 1.061 acre Anderson parcel at the corner of Ingleside and Oak Ridge across from the library site for the future community center for $23,104. In 1968, the MCC, Inc. (in which the MCA was a major mover) bought the neighboring Lynch-Osgood parcel for $27,000. In 1973, the MCA deeded the Anderson tract to the Board of Supervisors for the community center. On account of concerns by dissenters over the loss of local control, however, the decision in favor of donation passed by only one vote.
The significance of the Washington tract on Balls Hill Road to the building of a community center diminished when a special tax district was created in September 1970 to build the community center and in 1971 the Washington site (which was then estimated to be worth $108,000 per acre) was discarded as too expensive an alternative compared to the chosen Ingleside Avenue site that included the Anderson parcel and additional adjacent parcels later acquired by the Center's Governing Board.
The MCA Creates a 501 (c)(3) Foundation
In the mid-1970s, taxes on MCA real estate were a constant headache because they were a drain on current income from dues needed for operating expenses.
MCA as a lobbying organization was not tax-exempt, although it was certainly non-profit. To pay real estate taxes, the MCA sometimes had to dip into the payments from the Langley School. (Langley had bought the tennis courts next to the American Legion in exchange for a no-interest $10,000 promissory note payable in ten equal annual installments. The courts had been built with the proceeds from the sale of the remaining land on Chain Bridge Road bought by the League in 1921.) By 1977, taxes on the remaining land owned by the MCA were $744, almost three-fourths of the income from the tennis court sale, and the income would soon stop when the note was paid off. The MCA Board felt taxes on the Washington property were an inappropriate use of the tennis court sale funds.
By 1975, moreover, there was a large influx of new MCA members who had become active in planning and zoning issues when they served on the task force re-writing the McLean Master Plan. They felt the Association should not be speculating in real estate.
The time was right for an idea to change the MCA's biggest capital asset into a more liquid form to work for McLean. To consider the idea, an ad hoc committee of the ten most recent presidents was formed, consisting of Lilla Richards, Bill Stell, Happy Bradley, Harry Sipe, John Shacochis, Ed Lightfoot, Minerva Andrew, Colton Hand, Bud Sawmelle and George Lilly. Also, the MCA Legal and Finance Committee was asked to have the land appraised and to seek out potential users.
In an April 1978 letter to the Association, President Lilla Richards indicated that the “final decision on whether or not to sell it, however, is not up to the Board. It is up to you, the general membership." On May 3rd, the Board voted to recommend the sale to the general membership, by 25 to one, just over the 3/5th Board requirement to sell real property under the bylaws. The Ad Hoc Committee of Presidents proposed a resolution to be voted on by the general membership and it was published in the May 1978 MCA newsletter.
"Guidelines for Use of Proceeds From Sale of 14CA Property:
We view these funds as a capital asset, and strongly recommend that neither the asset nor any income derived from it be used for any ongoing administrative expenses of the McLean Citizens Association. These assets are to be expended only for the benefit of the community of McLean whose boundaries are set forth in the McLean Citizens Association by laws; and none of these assets should ever be expended for any purpose not consistent with our bylaws. We recommend the creation of a separate tax-exempt trust or foundation to administer these funds, under guidelines to be approved by the general Membership. Until such guidelines have been approved, no expenditures will be made of this capital or its earnings; however, nothing stated herein should prevent the investment of these in Federally-insured financial institutions for safe-keeping or income. It is further recommended that the draft documents to create the administrative body should be presented at the next meeting of the General Membership. [President's Note: If this Guidelines Resolution is approved at the May 24 General Membership meeting, it is intended that the draft document to create the administrative body be presented at the October General Membership meeting.]
We recognize the value of using these funds as "seed money, the use of which would encourage the generation of funds from other sources. We feel it would not be prudent to expend these entire assets on any one project, however desirable. We therefore recommend that a portion of these funds be maintained as a constant base for creation of income to be used for the purpose of future longer range projects."
In retrospect, it seems hard to believe there would have been a great deal of controversy over what seemed such a good idea. There was opposition, however, from those afraid that the money would be managed irresponsibility, or that the Trustees would spend the money on projects outside of McLean. There was also concern expressed about previous real estate transactions.
In the end, after presentation of both sides, the General Membership agreed, by an overwhelming vote, that the property should be sold and the money entrusted to a foundation to be managed by trustees elected by the General Membership of the MCA. The October date for the promised presentation of the draft document for the administrative body wasn't met though. A nominating committee was elected by the MCA Board in 1979, and nine trustees were nominated in January 1980, but the election was postponed from January to March and then to May.
The original trustees were Delegate Vincent Callahan, Sen. Clive DuVal, Charles Ewing, Ted Gray, the Rev. Thomas Jackson, Colton Hand, George Lilly, Lilla Richards and Philip Zanfagna. The incorporation documents were voted on by the MCA's General Membership in March 1980, and the State Corporation Commission approved them in June 1980. Exemption from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code was granted in a letter dated October 22, 1981, although the Foundation had been offering challenge grants since April of that year.
The Foundation Carries Out the MCA's Dream
Available funds were offered as seed money or challenge grants for specific projects that would benefit large numbers of McLean residents, such as improving McLean's appearance and preserving its history. MCF challenge grants have helped launch efforts to add a balcony to the Community Center's theatre, to equip a kitchen and to build a community hall so that the old one could house the McLean Project for the Arts. The historic church at Pleasant Grove and the farmhouse and environmental living at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm were rebuilt with the help of MCF grants. McLean music groups, local PTAs, Little League and the Teen Center have also been grantees. Small buses or vans have been purchased for the Community Center, a nursing home, a day care center for disadvantaged children and SHARE, Inc. The McLean Volunteer Fire Department has been able to purchase new equipment. The final piece in the long-held MCA vision of a community complex, a bandstand in McLean Central Park was built with a grant from MCF in 1999.
Note: In 2009, the Foundation’s name was officially changed from “McLean Citizens Foundation” to “ McLean Community Foundation.”