Suzanne Johnson Endowment makes final HCCF donation

Savanna Gregg/Burnet Bulletin
The family of Suzanne Johnson present a check in the amount of $217,588.41 to Hill Country Community Foundation Board members, a donation consisting of the proceeds from the Suzanne Johnson Scholarship Endowment Grand Finale fundraiser, which was held last September. The donation exceeded the endowment's goal of $1 million donated to the HCCF to be perpetually distributed to graduating Burnet students.
Back row, left to right: Philip Thurman, HCCF Treasurer; Kyle Stripling, HCCF Lifetime Director; Danny Floyd, HCCF Director; Keith McBurnett, HCCF President; Dale Hill, HCCF Director. Front row, left to right: Dennis Hoover, HCCF Lifetime Director; Cari Anne Johnson Whitehead; Earline Zimmerman, HCCF Administrative Assistant; Jessica Johnson Lindsey; Sallye Long, HCCF Vice President.










By Savanna Gregg

Staff Writer

Burnet Bulletin

The family and staff of First State Bank of Burnet President Cary Johnson is closing the door on a chapter in their lives which brought much assistance and inspiration to the Burnet community, especially Burnet High School and Quest High School graduates.

On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Johnson and his two daughters, Jessica and Cari Anne, presented a check in the amount of $217,588.41 to Hill Country Community Foundation board members, the donation consisting of proceeds from the final Suzanne Johnson Scholarship Endowment fundraiser, held last September in Lampasas.

The Endowment has hosted memorable fundraisers over the last seven years which raised more than $9 million, $1 million of which to be perpetually endowed to the HCCF and continually disbursed among every graduating student at BHS and QHS. Johnson, his family, and his FSB Burnet staff members accredit the endowment’s success to the members of the community who helped it grow into what it is today.

“We are so grateful for the community and how they embraced the endowment and fundraisers,” said Johnson. “The response was way beyond our greatest expectations.”

“The community is what did it,” added Mortgage Officer Linda Holland. “We had so many people who wanted to give.”

The endowment was established by Johnson and his children after his wife, Suzanne, lost her brave battle with cancer in 2011. Suzanne is remembered for the love she had for her community, and the endowment was created to immortalize that love, demonstrating it to Burnet and its students.

“Losing Suzanne was devastating, but we were able to turn a bad situation into something good,” Johnson said. “The ladies here at the bank have been here for the whole thing, and I can’t say enough about their hard work, ideas, and determination.

“We have been so embraced by the community, and we have had a lot of people disappointed that the fundraisers are ending, but we wanted to end it for two reasons,” Johnson added. “One, we think we have asked enough of our community, and two, we wanted to go out on top – and we did.”

Johnson and his staff say an estimated 425 people attended the grand finale in September, determined to help the group meet their goal of $1 million total raised by the event. Not only did they meet their goal in the middle of the live auction the night of the fundraiser, they surpassed it by raising over $217,000, netting over $1.1 million raised over the last seven years.

“Every fundraiser exceeded our goal, but this year it blew all our goals out of the water,” FSB Compliance Officer Deborah Page said. “And it is not only the community coming and bidding on the auction items that raised all of the money, but without the people who donated the items for the auctions, this would not have been a success.”

“This far surpassed our expectations,” added Executive Vice President Sallye Long. “In the beginning, we thought it would be great to just raise $10,000.”

Earline Zimmerman, administrative assistant for the HCCF, has the opportunity to view the impact of the endowment from the organization’s point of view.

“I am on the side that sees what the money is doing,” Zimmerman said. “I handle all of the scholarships, read the “thank you” notes, and these students are so grateful for even the smallest amount, even if it just helped them buy some textbooks.

“The HCCF gives out about 300 scholarships, and the Suzanne Johnson Endowment has been a huge contributing portion of those funds,” Zimmerman added. “It is very gratifying to see the effect it has made on the students.”

The impact of the relationship between the community and the endowment has played a significant role in the lives of graduating students, especially in a small town such as Burnet.

“I always tell people how fortunate we are to have a foundation that gives scholarships to every single graduating student at Burnet,” said HCCF President and BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett. “It is amazing how the community has made it possible, and it is amazing how much the family has contributed to the HCCF.

“How amazing is it to say little old Burnet has raised almost $9 million for the endowment?”

The success of the fundraisers will mean great opportunities for current and upcoming seniors, has provided a sense of peace and happiness in everyone involved, and has provided the public with more knowledge of the HCCF and its impact on the community.

“The fundraisers have been great for recognition of the HCCF,” Sallye Long said. “People don't know who all is involved in it, but they know more about the foundation now, thanks to the fundraisers.”

“With this publicity, people may want to do something benevolent to honor the memory of someone who has passed away, and they are setting aside money for the foundation in these people's names,” Johnson added.

The relationship between the endowment and the foundation is a special one, and holds great meaning for everyone involved behind the scenes.

“It is really a big deal, not only for the community, but for the family and what it meant for the memory of Suzanne,” said FSB Vice President Jill Riley.

Faced with the passing of their mother, Johnson’s daughters, Jessica and Cari Anne, are comforted by the immense support from the community which has brought something good out of a sad situation.

“It is so unfathomable how much of an impact this has all made,” Jessica said. “These ladies (at FSB) have done so much and put so much time and effort into these events and that really reflects our love for Mom.”

“We are very fortunate that we get to honor Mom from now on,” Cari Anne said. “Even though the fundraisers have ended, our kids and grandkids will be able to honor Mom for generations to come.”

Though the time has come to bid farewell to the Suzanne Johnson Scholarship Endowment fundraisers, the fundraising torch will soon be passed along to the Rotary Club of Burnet, who plan to continue raising funds through community events for the HCCF and Burnet graduates.

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