Giving can be defined as the act of letting go or doing
something that a person does not have to do. In Martin County, we are
blessed to have many donors who practice giving on a regular basis. Their
donations benefit our community in a way that is unforgettable. They give to
their families, friends, and their community not just once, but repeatedly.
The Martin County Community Foundation searched for someone who practiced
giving effortlessly, to try and understand the motivations and desires that
make giving a natural part of who they are. We remember Wanda Harding to be
precisely just this person.
Wanda Harding was quite the person with an undeniably kind
soul. She made giving a big part of her life. While humble and concerned
that talking about her history of giving would create misconceptions, Wanda
shared enough with our Community Foundation before her passing that created
a story worth sharing for all to read.
First and foremost, Wanda did not donate for recognition; her
giving came from her heart and was an expression of appreciation for what
she had received. This resulted in a strong desire to give back to our
community. When her husband, Leo, was still living, they both practiced
giving back to their community through involvement in many ways. Leo was
very instrumental in nurturing the Shoals Community. His active leadership
on numerous boards and volunteer spirit is legendary and remembered dear to
our hearts. Only days after his death, in 1994, the Shoals Adult Booster
Club recommended to rename the baseball field “Harding Diamond” in
recognition of Leo’s 32 years as a volunteer baseball coach. The Shoals
School Board approved without hesitation. Other organizations, such as East
Fork Water, came into being with Leo’s guidance. The value of having clean
water in homes and on farms throughout Martin County cannot be undervalued.
Leo was a big reason that East Fork Water exists today. Needless to say,
Leo’s gracious giving motivated his kind wife, Wanda, to follow in his
They say that “behind every good man is a good woman.” The
reality is that they were usually walking side-by-side, encouraging each
other along the ride. Wanda continued to be involved in the many community
endeavors. Her list of community organizations included, the Shoals Library
Board, Psi Iota Xi Sorority, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Shoals Adult
Booster Club, Loogootee Women’s Club, Martin County Council on Aging,
Daughters of the American Revolution, and the East Fork Water board. After
Leo passed away, Wanda continued to support the multiple organizations Leo
had helped form, in addition to the new organizations Wanda had dreams of
starting. Wanda was one of the first people to be approached about the
Martin County Community Foundation in 1999 by the then President, Carla
Harner. The idea that Martin County could have a community foundation that
supported a community her and her husband loved so much was music to Wanda’s
ears. This encouraged Wanda’s first endowment fund in 1999, The Leo Harding
Memorial Fund. Its purpose is to support the baseball field Leo so loved.
How appropriate it was that the first fund be named for Leo Harding. One can
imagine that he would be proud that Wanda was willing to continue their
spirit of giving through the establishment of this fund. Wanda is also the
founding donor of the Leo Harding Family Fund and the Shoals Library Fund.
These funds are unrestricted grant making endowments. Each of these
endowment funds will distribute regular payments to the entities they
supported. As we always say, “For Good. Forever. For Martin County”. Wanda
truly put the emphasis on all three of these actions.
“Wanda Harding had set a very good example for all of us in
her work in giving of time and resources to further the mission of the
Martin County Community Foundation”, said the Board President at that time,
Her service to the Martin County Community Foundation is unforgettable.
In 2014, Wanda was recognized as one of Martin County’s
Philanthropists of the Year. In addition to Wanda and Leo’s generous doings,
they also raised a family to be very proud of. There are five children, five
grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Wanda and Leo had at least one
child in school for 40 consecutive years, proving they recognized the value
of a good education. It is true that Wanda and Leo had good fortune, but by
working together, they achieved success on many levels. Family, business,
and community are areas of their lives that will be recipients of their
mutual success forever. The word “giving” defines Wanda Harding very well.
Martin County Community Foundation is forever grateful for all her good
works and philanthropic donations. A true cycle of care grows because of the
Harding Family’s contributions.
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