Our History

Lester M. Sears—inventor of the Towmotor—his wife, Ruth P. Sears, and their daughter, Mary Ann Swetland, created The Sears Foundation in 1948.

According to the foundation’s founding document, “The purposes for the establishment of this trust are the uplifting and upbuilding of the afflicted and the unfortunate, the extension of knowledge and learning and the encouragement, improvement and betterment of mankind…”

Lester said repeatedly that the money in the foundation was made in Cleveland by Towmotor and should be returned to Cleveland organizations, particularly those serving the youth of the city because they were “the hope for the future.”

Following the deaths of the original founders (Lester -1967; Mary Ann -1969; Ruth -1981), the foundation changed names from The Sears Family Foundation to The Sears-Swetland Foundation.

Since its beginnings, our foundation has had a strong focus on the environment, health and education.  Over the years, our goals have grown from environmental education and the conservation of pristine environments and biodiversity to encompass smart growth, urban revitalization and livable communities, environmental health sciences, and economic and community development through sustainable initiatives.