The Nagel Foundation story started with a German immigrant who bought a soda-water company for $700 in 1895 that serviced ten saloons in downtown Boise, and turned it into a thriving business. John Henry Nagel then handed the business down to his son John F. Nagel in 1940, the second generation owner of Nagel Beverage Company who passed away in 1969. His son John F. Nagel II, known as Jack, ran the business until he died in 1988. Over the previous 93 years, the people of the Treasure Valley purchased Nagel’s soda waters, then later, Pepsi products which made the Nagels a wealthy family.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them”. Another old saying goes, “Riches serve a wise man, but command a fool.” Those are commendable sayings, but the accountants said, “Start a foundation and the government won’t tax your estate.” So Mildred Nagel, John II’s mother, chose to start a foundation to honor both her husband and her son, and with that decision, the John F. Nagel Foundation was born.
With a modest contribution from family members and the company, the foundation was formed in 1989 and the first grants were made in 1991 totaling $34,000 for four requests: The Salvation Army, Terry Reilly Health Services, Salvation Army’s Dress-A-Child program and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was run by the company’s business managers who met once a year to determine grants to be given and duties to be performed. Funding checks were mailed to recipients and the cycle repeated itself.
As the foundation grew, the board narrowed the foundation’s focus to helping meet great basic needs. By 1997, the foundation gave $250,000 to 17 organizations; it crossed the $500,000 threshold in 2003 and gave over a million dollars in annual grants for the first time in 2007.
Over this time, the surviving family members ceded control of foundation operations to two of the company’s entrusted managers. Company Vice President Vance Miller was a foundation board member since 1995, and on premise department manager Curt Goldgrabe was appointed to the board in 2005. They joined Bill Morris, who had been the family’s tax and estate planning consultant for 30 years and part of the original board.
Meanwhile, the beverage business was seeing a transition to centralized control by the major beverage companies. In 2008, Nagel Beverage received an offer to sell itself to the second-largest Pepsi bottler in the country at that time, Pepsi Bottling Ventures of Raleigh, North Carolina. There was also the question of what would become of the company since the last family member, Anne Nagel Mathews was past retirement age.
The decision was made to sell the company, which ushered in a new era for the foundation. Vance and Curt left the Pepsi business to manage the foundation full-time. There was a renewed focus on the purpose and mission of the foundation, which set up a new office in Eagle. It was decided to apply the same business focus to the organizations funded by the foundation that was given to customers at the company.
As president, Vance organized the foundation into two areas. He led the new investment team with board members Ryan Fornstrom and Bill Morris, while Curt assumed the Executive Director role. The board was determined to give back to a generous community that had been so good to the Nagel family for so many years.
While there are many causes worthy of funding consideration, the board sharpened focus by further defining its mission as supporting programs providing the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. It determined to accomplish this by supporting organizations dedicated to meeting great basic human needs, providing education, and youth programs.
Organizations funded by the foundation are considered the “hands and feet” of the foundation—doing the work that cannot be done by a four-member board. Many of these organizations have a similar trait—they have large numbers of volunteers who give of their time and resources because they believe in the mission of the organization.
It is the intent of the board to operate the foundation in perpetuity, and to ultimately give back more to the Treasure Valley community than the family put into the foundation.