The AIFD Southern Chapter Board of Directors met in Dallas, Texas on January 4, 1979 and established the AIFD Memorial Scholarship Foundation in memory of Allen Shackelford AIFD. Mr. Shackelford was an energetic crusader in AIFD and the first President of AIFD Southern Chapter. The next day the AIFD Board of Directors approved the formation of the Allen Shackelford AIFD Memorial Scholarship Foundation.

The AIFD Southern Chapter Board approved $500 and the AIFD Board approved $1,000 to initiate the funding to establish the Allen Shackelford AIFD Memorial Scholarship Foundation. The purpose was to provide scholarships to deserving college or university students pursuing a career in floriculture, with a primary emphasis on floral design. One of the purposes of AIFD was to provide educational assistance to those dedicated to a career in retail floriculture. The Allen Shackelford AIFD Memorial Scholarship Foundation provided the basis for an ongoing education assistance program and another step forward in the development of AIFD.

The initial Board of Trustees included the President of AIFD Southern Chapter Carol Mitchell AIFD, AIFD President Herb Mitchell AIFD, Michael Polychrones AIFD, Sandy White AIFD and Don Stothart AIFD. Don Stothart AIFD was named Chairman.

The fundraising goal was set at $30,000. It was determined that no other scholarships would be established until this goal was achieved. At that time certificates of deposits totaling $30,000 would produce about $3,000 a year in interest. Only the interest would be awarded leaving the corpus to remain into perpetuity. The first scholarships were awarded for the 1981–1982 academic year.

The Allen Shackelford AIFD Memorial Scholarship Foundation continued to grow. In 1985 the AIFD National Board of Directors authorized the formation of a separate entity to be incorporated and named The American Institute of Floral Designers Foundation, Inc. A single group of AIFD Foundation Trustees would govern all activities and have the sole responsibility for its management, planning and supervision. Non-profit corporation papers were filed with the state of Louisiana on October 23, 1985 and The American Institute of Floral Designers Foundation, Inc. was incorporated as a non- profit corporation. The charter was received from the state of Louisiana establishing the AIFD Foundation as the umbrella for all future established funds and projects.

The initial AIFD Foundation Trustees and Officers were Chairman Don Stothart AIFD, Vice Chairman Operations Tom Powell AIFD, Secretary Frankie Shelton AIFD, Treasurer Michael Polychrones AIFD, Allen Beck AIFD, Wilton Hardy AIFD, Jennie Lee Irey AIFD, Eulalah Overmeyer AIFD, Teresa Riddle AIFD, Jack Smith AIFD, Sandy White AIFD and the current AIFD National President.

The purpose of the AIFD Foundation was three fold.

  1. To operate exclusively for charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes.
  2. To provide financial support to educational institutions in the furtherance of educational purposes; to provide scholarship awards to students; to undertake educational programs and in general, to undertake and to provide support for projects and programs which facilitate the advancement and dissemination of knowledge in the field of floral design.
  3. To engage in any and all lawful activities incidental to the foregoing purposes, except as restricted in the Articles of Incorporation.

At a meeting during Southern Symposium at Texas A&M financial assistance for students to attend AIFD National Symposium was discussed. The awards began on a limited basis and after a couple of years the AIFD Student Committee undertook the project until 1987 when the AIFD Foundation was asked to return to coordinating the effort. It grew to a point where in 1989 all eligible students attending the AIFD National Symposium were awarded Symposium registration.

Requests were made to establish additional funds within the AIFD Foundation. As a result the AIFD Foundation established a policy that funds may be established under the umbrella of the corporation to honor or in memory of an individual. These would be called named funds and would require an initial minimum donation of $5,000. Sponsored by the AIFD South Central Regional Chapter the Eulalah Overmeyer AIFD Fund was established in late October 1985 in honor of Eulalah Overmeyer AIFD. Funding, in the amount of $10,000, was contributed by American Floral Services. The purpose of the Eulalah Overmeyer AIFD Fund was to financially assist any college and university student pursuing courses directly related to retail floriculture with specific emphasis in floral design as a profession. The first scholarship was awarded from the interest earned from this fund in the academic year of 1986–1987.

The AIFD Foundation Board of Trustees evolved during those early years to include a number of AIFD members:
Allen Beck AIFD, John Cason AIFD, Joe Gordy AIFD, Wilton Hardy AIFD, Jennie Lee Irey AIFD, Carol Mitchell AIFD, Herb Mitchell AIFD, Jim Morley AIFD, Ralph Null AIFD, Eulalah Overmeyer AIFD, Rocky Pollitz AIFD, Michael Polychrones AIFD, Tom Powell AIFD, Teresa Riddle AIFD, Frankie Shelton AIFD, Jack Smith AIFD, Don Stothart AIFD, Bill Taylor AIFD, Susan Tomlinson AIFD and Sandy White AIFD.

In April 1988 the Rocky Pollitz AIFD Fund was established. Teleflora initiated the funding and by July of 1990 Teleflora donated a total of $10,000 to establish this fund. Lifelong friends of Rocky Pollitz AIFD donated to increase the corpus. The first scholarship was awarded for the academic year 1988-1989. The purpose was to assist college and university students pursuing courses directly related to retail floriculture with specific emphasis in floral design as a profession.

Donations to the Allen Shackelford AIFD Fund, the Eulalah Overmeyer AIFD Fund and the Rocky Pollitz AIFD Fund were placed in secured investments with only the interest awarded. Donations to the AIFD Foundation Fund, for other than student sponsorships to symposium and specified monies to cover expenses, were invested with the interest earned awarded in additional scholarships. The first award from the AIFD Foundation Fund was made in the 1989–1990 academic year.

In the early years the “Deacons” were the primary source of raising funds. This started when an AIFD member attended a Southern Symposium program showing a silver plate that had just been received. In doing so he “passed the plate” to someone to see and in the process, it was continually passed with money eventually being placed on the plate. To add to the fun of this caper it just so happened to be during Michael Polychrones’ program on flowers for church and other religious services. When the plate reached the front and final “pew” over $30 in small bills and change had been collected. The money was donated to the Allen Shackelford Fund and the “Deacons” were born as a result of this event! For a couple of years the deacons “passed the plate” to collect funds during the AIFD Foundation Luncheon at AIFD National Symposium and sometimes at Regional Chapter meetings. The sale of Raffle tickets replaced this fun at AIFD National Symposium for two years. In 1988, the deacons returned with their usual pleas for cash, checks and credit card numbers and became even more active as many well-known characters became members of this most prestigious group. In 1989, during the Chicago Symposium, the collection reached over $11,000! Quite an increase from the first $30 collected!

The total funds on hand as of December 31, 1989 had grown to $169,728.35 which included unawarded interest. The funds had grown at a good rate and in 1985 the three funds in operation that year showed an increase of $40,316.85. The four years since witnessed growth above $20,000 per year. The Board of Trustees determined during this time to continue to invest in certificates of deposit while also moving a percentage into mutual funds due to decreasing rate changes in certificates of deposit. Additionally the direct donations for the purpose of student sponsorships were awarded.

In the early 1990’s the Board of Trustees was expanded and David Hope AIFD and Lynn Lary McLean AIFD were elected to serve as Trustees. In 1992 the Jim Treadaway AIFD Fund was established in memory of award winning designer Jim Treadaway AIFD to award floral designers an opportunity to attend their first AIFD National Symposium. Trustee David Hope AIFD developed the concept, led the fundraising effort with the assistance of Jim Cole AIFD and Sandy Schultz AIFD and later wrote the criteria to establish this as the first fund to expand the possibilities of what the AIFD Foundation might offer in the way of education. Prior to this fund being realized the entire emphasis was placed on Student Scholarships to assist with tuition for university and college students. This fund represented an opportunity outside of Student Scholarships.

In 1992 the AIFD Foundation hired the first AIFD Foundation Executive Director. Susan Tomlinson AIFD was selected to fill this role sharing her expertise most successfully to what had previously been a totally volunteer run organization for thirteen years. Susan retired as the Executive Director in 2004.

Don Stothart AIFD who served as Chairman of the AIFD Foundation, since inception, retired in 1996 when Ralph Null AIFD was elected CEO. The first undertaking was the most successful “$500,000 by 2000” campaign. The restructuring of the AIFD Foundation soon followed in 2002 during a two day Trustee meeting in San Diego, California. During this meeting the number of Trustees was increased from twelve to twenty, and term limits were set for Officers and Trustees. Dr. Frank Smith of Atlanta, Georgia facilitated this strategic session. The Silent Auction, established to raise funds for the operations of the AIFD Foundation, provided a way for Symposium attendees to support the needs of the AIFD Foundation. This was often conducted during the time of the popular AIFD Foundation luncheon. This event would later extend into the times best suited during AIFD National Symposium with a Live Auction added to increase revenue and interest.

In 2004 Allen Beck AIFD became the third person to lead the AIFD Foundation. With Susan Tomlinson’s retirement the trustees were in need of an Executive Director. A search committee was appointed to include Chris Norwood AIFD, Lynn Lary McLean AIFD, Rich Salvaggio AIFD and Connie Bell-Gustafson AIFD. An exhaustive search began and on May 1, 2005 Diversified Management Service of Des Moines, Iowa was contracted to manage the AIFD Foundation. Lona Christoffers CAE of the Mesa, Arizona office was named
Executive Director.

The Don Stothart AIFD Fund was established in 2005 to honor Don Stothart AIFD for his role in establishing and chairing the Foundation from the time of its inception in 1979 until 1996. The purpose of the fund was set to promote student AIFD activities and scholarships to students of floriculture.

Due to increased registration, the AIFD Foundation project to fund Student Symposium registration declined and was eventually discontinued. The purpose of the Eulalah Overmeyer AIFD Fund and the Rocky Pollitz AIFD Fund was expanded to include Symposium Scholarships.

A new campaign titled ‘March to a Million’ began in 2005 with Trustee Marie Ackerman AIFD initiating the idea. The goal of one million dollars was reached in 2008 largely due to a windfall of Named Funds and additional donations. The James Moretz AIFD Fund was established in the fall of 2007 with a gift from Jim Moretz AIFD. Late in 2007 and early in 2008 five of the Regional Chapters established a Regional Chapter Named Fund within the AIFD Foundation. The North Central Chapter invested in the AIFD Foundation establishing what would be the beginning of the North Central Regional Chapter Fund in November 2007. The Southern Chapter established the Southern Regional Chapter Fund in December 2007. Throughout 2008 these chapters established Regional Chapter Funds: North East Regional Chapter Fund in April 2008, Northwest Regional Chapter Fund and South Central Regional Chapter Fund in November 2008.

The decision to establish the Florida Florist Fund within the AIFD Foundation was made in 2007 and in the spring of 2008 the final transfer of funds was made from the Florida Florist Fund to the AIFD Foundation. This named fund became the largest single gift to date given to the AIFD Foundation. The Florida Florist Fund, under the AIFD Foundation umbrella, would continue to promote education and catastrophic assistance throughout the state of Florida. The AIFD Foundation Board of Trustees expanded the purpose of the overall AIFD Foundation to include catastrophic assistance to those in need.

In 2008 the family and friends of floral designer Kirk Pamper AIFD established in memory the Kirk Pamper AIFD Fund. In 2010 the family and friends of AIFD Past President and long time former Trustee Tom Powell AIFD established the Tom Powell AIFD Fund in his memory.

Chris Norwood AIFD served the Foundation as CEO from 2008 until 2011 and continued with the popular hosted cocktail party, an AIFD Foundation Auction favorite. Five of the six regional chapters completed funding of their respective chapter funds during this time gaining for each a seat on the Board of Trustees. Increased communication between the AIFD National Board of Directors and the AIFD Foundation Board of Trustees made quite the difference. Funds newly available for AIFD National Symposium grants provided the opportunity to work together, through this expanded purpose, to offer support of educational programming on a National level. The efforts to expand the reach of the AIFD Foundation, so purposely set out under the leadership of Allen Beck AIFD, continued throughout these years completing each and every goal.

Derrick Vasquez AIFD served as AIFD Foundation CEO from 2011 until 2015. Derrick led the way to organize the beginnings of updating the Bylaws and the Policies and Procedures. With the assistance of Executive Director Lona Christoffers CAE, a Volunteer Manual was developed to assist Trustees and Committee Members outlining AIFD Foundation guidelines. These specific accomplishments were only part of what came forth as a result of the strategic planning meetings held during this time. The AIFD Foundation had experienced growth and with that growth a review of what was needed was set in place to ensure success in the future. The leadership during these years set all in motion in order for the AIFD Foundation to move forward. The Southwest Chapter established the Southwest Regional Chapter Fund in 2011.

The Protected Priority Savings Account was established in 2014 to enable more flexibility in the timing of funding. This account is funded with unawarded interest, dividends and unspent awards. The total of all the funds as of December 31, 2014 was approximately $1.3 million. In total, scholarships and grants exceeded well over $400,000 awarded during the past thirty-three years.

AIFD celebrated 50 years in 2015 and in honor of the 50th Anniversary of AIFD, the AIFD Foundation set a new campaign in motion titled “The 50th Club”. AIFD members and AIFD Partners were asked to gift $50 or $500 to honor or remember a mentor who helped to form the donor’s floral career. The fund’s purpose was stated to support education within the Regional Chapter thus returning the interest and dividends awarded to the very grassroots of membership. In addition an approach to more open communication between AIFD and the AIFD Foundation was encouraged. With this began a working relationship with the AIFD National Board on projects to benefit the Institute.

In 2015 a record number of scholarship applications were received, primarily because of an increased marketing effort, spearheaded by long time Grant and Scholarship Chair Lynn Lary McLean AIFD. Grant requests received numbered three; Symposium Scholarship Applications numbered twenty-four and came from as far away as Viet Nam; and Student Scholarship Applications numbered twelve. This marketing effort through expanded outreach with state associations and social media was now set in motion providing a template for years to come.

The 50th Club Fund was endowed during the 2015 Symposium in celebration of AIFD’s 50th year! The AIFD Foundation awarded $19,000 in Grants and over $9,000 in Student and Symposium Scholarships investing in education and the future of floral design as a profession. In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of AIFD the Board of Trustees established the PFDE Scholarship in the amount of $3,000 to be awarded each year to the Overall Student Competition Winner. The announcement was received with enthusiasm.

Eddie Payne AIFD was elected CEO during the 2015 AIFD Symposium and served two years accomplishing a great deal contributing to the continued success of the AIFD Foundation. During this time the extended review of the Bylaws and Policies was completed and sent to professional sources for opinion. Open communication between AIFD National and AIFD Foundation Boards continued as projects developed through the AIFD Foundation in support of floral design education and emphasizing the main purpose of AIFD.

In 2016 over $57,500 was awarded in Grants and Scholarships. Professional guidance and opinions were received. The revised Bylaws and Policies and Procedures were then approved providing much needed updates for the present day AIFD Foundation. Continued efforts to refine the several processes proved successful. The established funds, having reached their noted thresholds, were now noted as endowed. The AIFD Memorial Fund was established as a place to remember and honor all AIFD members. Joining this were two new Endowed Funds. The Tom Powell AIFD Endowed Fund and the Michi Burrell AIFD Endowed Fund would provide additional funding through interest and dividends setting two new programs for the AIFD Foundation to offer.

In 2017 the Stringfellow Management Group replaced DMS in management of the AIFD Foundation with Samantha Devine serving as Executive Director. With Ms. Devine’s assistance the Grant and Scholarship application and evaluation processes were brought on-line. With the continued financial and creative support from Charlie Groppetti AIFD and with the direction of Marketing Chair Lynn Lary McLean AIFD the marketing of the AIFD Foundation expanded.

The Grant and Scholarship process moved forward on-line under the direction of Chair John Kittinger AIFD. Over $49,000 was awarded in Grants and Scholarships during the 2017 Symposium to include $22,000 to AIFD and $4,000 in the first grant to Florida State Florists’ Association for FSFA Convention educational programming. Five Symposium Scholarships and four Student Scholarships, as well as the continuation of the PFDE Scholarship, were announced during Awards Night which had become a tradition in recent years. The Symposium Scholarship awarded to first time attendees often leads a path to membership in AIFD. The Student Scholarships reflect the founding purpose of the AIFD Foundation. The Northwest Regional Chapter continued the Northwest Student Symposium Scholarship with a general registration awarded to a student residing in the Northwest Region to attend AIFD National Symposium with the balance added to the corpus of the Northwest Regional Chapter Fund.

The Dee Yeager AIFD Fund was established in memory of Dee Yeager. North Central Regional Chapter, industry companies, loving family and friends endowed the Bobbi Ecker Blatchford AIFD Endowed Fund in loving memory of one who contributed so very much to this industry.

The first response to catastrophic need was extended to a Florida florist when her home and all belongings were lost to Hurricane Matthew. The AIFD Foundation recognized the florists of Florida in establishing this purpose so many years ago.

Lynn Lary McLean AIFD was elected CEO during the Annual Board of Trustees meeting held during the 2017 Symposium. Former CEO Eddie Payne AIFD had worked so closely with her over the past two years in review of all that was important to the AIFD Foundation. Together, they would continue to move the Foundation forward in all areas of concern and importance. UBS Representative Joe DePaula attended the AIFD Foundation Board of Trustees Annual Meeting and the newly established Investment Advisory Committee Meeting. These meetings provided the opportunity to meet the Trustees that had awarded UBS the contract to invest the funds of the AIFD Foundation. For the first time the Investment Advisory Committee gathered with industry representatives joining AIFD members to best form the needs of this committee. Under the direction of Chair Tina Coker AIFD the committee led the way through review of the AIFD Foundation Corpus and outlining the Investment Policies and Procedures.

In November 2017 Texas State Florists’ Association was invited to manage the AIFD Foundation with Dianna Nordman AAF named Executive Director. Ms. Nordman’s financial expertise was in place to develop financial statements that reflected the needed information for Trustees to best guide the AIFD Foundation.

During the 2017 symposium the first response to catastrophic need was extended. This catastrophic component, within the AIFD Foundation, answered an even larger need in the fall of 2017 when the United States experienced hurricanes of untold proportion. Over $72,000, in catastrophic relief, was awarded in 2017-2018 by the AIFD Foundation in cooperation with Texas State Florists’ Association regarding Hurricane Harvey and Florida State Florists’ Association regarding Hurricane Irma. The generosity of industry
companies and individuals reflected the willingness to assist those in need. It is important to note that when our mission was expanded to accommodate the Florida Florist Fund’s catastrophic provision, the AIFD Foundation was the only industry entity capable to collect and distribute money for these catastrophic events.

The open communication between the AIFD National Board and the AIFD Foundation Board of Trustees continued throughout the year resulting in an AIFD Board decision to financially contribute to the operations of the AIFD Foundation.

The 2018 AIFD Awards Ceremony provided the AIFD Foundation Board of Trustees an opportunity to recognize another who paid it forward providing opportunities for future generations of designers. Chong Ullom AIFD most generously established and endowed the Chong Ullom AIFD Endowed Fund.

Another reached out and planned most thoughtful for future generations with the establishment of a fund to Engage, Enlighten and Educate. The first year resulted in sixteen high school students and four advisors involved in Future Farmers of America experiencing AIFD Symposium. Their attendance was evidence of the dedication of AIFD President Kim Oldis AIFD. $10,000 was awarded for this purpose to total over $53,000 awarded in Grants and Scholarships in 2018. Included was the newly endowed Tom Powell AIFD Endowed Fund awarding the first CFD Scholarship to link AIFD Education Partners to the AIFD Foundation providing an opportunity for a CFD designer to attend a preparatory class to best study for the PFDE process. Student and Symposium Scholarships were awarded, the PFDE Scholarship continued as well as a grant to Florida State Florists’ Association for Convention programming.

The success of Ron Mulray’s 2018 Art for a Cause Event established the SAIFD Fund and provided immediate funding to provide up to forty AIFD Hands-on Workshops during the 2019 AIFD National Symposium.

2019 launched the year long celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the AIFD Foundation with great accomplishment. The AIFD Foundation assets totaled 1.6 million dollars. The Board of Trustees continued diligent efforts to fine-tune the established processes.

The AIFD Foundation announced a rare opportunity to learn from the absolute best in the floral industry and glean expertise in a specific field of study to S.H.I.N.E. Scholarships Helping Nurture Inspiring Education will provide continued education through a mentorship in a specialized field of industry concentration. The application is online in 2019 to award in 2020. Two of the floral industry’s brightest stars will forever shine as each is remembered not only for her boundless talents, but for the gift of inspired mentoring to others. The Michi Burrell AIFD Endowed Fund and the Bobbi Ecker Blatchford AIFD Endowed Fund provide the funding for this new opportunity.

Lifelong friends established the Matt Wood AIFD Fund upon his untimely death. With a collaborative effort this fund will be endowed through contributions in memory of Matt Wood AIFD from family, industry companies, and AIFD friends. Chris Yeager endowed the Dee Yeager AIFD Endowed Fund in loving memory of his wife. This fund will provide education to the floral industry through the AIFD experience. Ken Senter AIFD led the Jim Johnson AIFD Fund to endowment with his efforts in regards to the Jim Johnson Cup Competition completed with donations from industry companies and lifelong friends. The AIFD Foundation continues to receive donations to endow funds to honor Phil Rulloda AIFD, Richard Seaboldt AIFD, Frankie Shelton AIFD and Joe Smith AIFD.

Because the United States will continue to experience catastrophic events, with the support of industry and individuals, the AIFD Foundation Board of Trustees established the AIFD Foundation Catastrophic Fund.

Over $69,500 was awarded in Grants and Scholarships in 2019 with funding generated from the endowed funds of the AIFD Foundation and designated funding from industry and individuals. The AIFD Foundation Grant to AIFD, in support of the 2019 AIFD Symposium educational programming, provided recognition Main Stage during Lana Chernyavsky’s Winter Fantasia. World Class Hands-on Design Instruction, Awaken the Visionary within You, provided the opportunity to study with FTD World Cup 2019
First Runner-up Natalia Zhizhko. Four Student Scholarships and Seven Symposium Scholarships were awarded in 2019 as well as the continuation of the Northwest Student Symposium Scholarship. Sixteen FFA students and four instructors attended the 2019 AIFD Symposium funded by the FFA Fund. Certified Floral Designers showcased their style during the fundraising event The Empty Vase to benefit SAIFD students and the SAIFD Fund. The expanded purpose of the Allen Shackelford AIFD Endowed Fund, increased the opportunity provided by the newly established SAIFD Fund to provide up to an additional twenty AIFD Hands-on Workshops during the 2019 AIFD National Symposium for the SAIFD students in attendance. World Class Hands-on Design Experience, Awaken the Possibilities within You, provided an opportunity to study with Legendary Instructor Gregor Lersch. The CFD Scholarship and PFDE Scholarship were awarded continuing the Foundation’s support to increase membership in AIFD.

On the final day of Symposium AIFD members and friends joined together to launch the AIFD Foundation’s 40th Anniversary. Just as a kaleidoscope spins colorful elements to create a vision of artistry the AIFD Foundation has come full circle in its 40 years to expand an artful vision providing a lifetime of learning through the generosity of many. A Lifetime of Learning Fund was established to launch a campaign to extend far past a year long 40th Anniversary Celebration. The hashtag #alifetimeoflearning will be noted
on all promotions throughout the year-long celebration.

The mission of the AIFD Foundation has long been to provide financial support for educational purposes, scholarships, projects and programs that facilitate the advancement and dissemination of knowledge in the field of floral design and related fields. Just as a few gathered in 1979 we continue to gather to collectively move all forward in the advancement of continued education as we continue to develop educational opportunities for A Lifetime of Learning and look to the future with great anticipation.