The fingerprints of the McConnell Foundation can be found on much of what is good and beautiful in the North State. The Sundial Bridge, the Cascade Theatre, Shasta Community Health Center, the annual Fourth of July fireworks, One SAFE Place, Redding School of the Arts and Turtle Bay Exploration Park are just a tiny sample of integral community institutions touched by the McConnell Foundation.
The benevolence of Carl and Leah McConnell has benefitted not only those projects, but hundreds more since the foundation began making grants in 1988. The McConnells settled in Siskiyou County in the early 20th century, married but never had children. Entrepreneurs, the McConnells were also the largest shareholder of Farmers Insurance Group stock and began the Foundation in 1964 to share the benefits of their good fortune. From those beginnings, the McConnell Foundation has grown in size and scope to where its asset base today is nearly $500 million.
“One of our very first grants was to the Shasta College Art Department for a student competition to design our logo – which we have not changed,” McConnell Chief Operating Officer Shannon Phillips says.
As some things remain, much has changed since the McConnell Foundation began more than 30 years ago, including two signature landmarks on the North State landscape – Lema Ranch and the Sundial Bridge.
Lema Ranch, the permanent home of the McConnell Foundation since 1997, is a 200-acre haven on Redding’s east side that once was a working mule ranch. Today, Lema Ranch boasts a 25,000-square foot headquarters for the Foundation to conduct business as well as offer meeting space for the public, trainings or board retreats. Additionally, the open-to-the-public trail system is a serene and majestic space that offers four miles of trails that meander through native grasses and past manzanita, oak and pine trees.
While the tranquility of Lema Ranch is unparalleled, the Sundial Bridge might be the McConnell Foundation’s signature piece. The Santiago Calatrava-designed structure was funded largely by the McConnell Foundation and, upon its 2004 completion, given to the City of Redding. “The Sundial Bridge is a place, an icon, a piece of art,” says Phillips. “It’s free accessible, a ‘there, there’ and a gathering spot. It connects people to both sides of the (Sacramento) River. Turtle Bay Exploration Park represents 300 acres in the heart of Redding for the public to enjoy.”
Yet, amid the grandeur of those icons, it’s the McConnell Foundation’s day-to-day work and philanthropy that perhaps makes the biggest difference. From grantmaking to the Shasta Regional Community Foundation to the McConnell Fund, the Foundation is integral in helping where there is need and working to enrich the lives it impacts.
“The Community Foundation of the North State administers our McConnell Fund and it a beautiful partnership,” Phillips says.
The McConnell Foundation
800 Shasta View Drive, Redding