The Kelley Foundation was founded in 1954 as a result of two years of conversations between Dr. Julius G. Kelley, the superintendent of the then Barnstable County Hospital in Pocasset, and a successful retired businessman born on the Cape, Edward Bangs Kelley. The latter began his career starting a small grocery business in Dennis and went on to become owner of the E.B. Kelley Construction and Equipment Company in New York. He traveled widely throughout the world, marrying a countess from Budapest, Elza DeHorvath. The Kelleys made Manhattan their home but always kept a house in Dennisport.
Dr. Kelley and E.B. Kelley, as he was known, were distant relatives. Sometime after E.B. and Elza Kelley retired back to the Cape, the hospital superintendent proposed the idea of a foundation to promote the health and welfare of the inhabitants of Barnstable County.
On December 10, 1954, E.B. and Elza Kelley founded the Edward Bangs Kelley and Elza Kelley Foundation, Inc. Upon E.B.'s death at the age of 89 in 1955, the Foundation came to life with the receipt of $25,000 and a few securities from his estate. Over time additional funds were received and income became available for grants. The first were awarded in 1955, generally comprising medical scholarships, funds for hospital equipment and support for health and welfare organizations. When Elza Kelley died, the balance of the bequest was received and the Foundation's assets were significantly increased.
Over the years the Foundation has regularly received additional bequests and donations. Today the Foundation has assets of over $6 million. In the last 20 years, the organization has paid out approximately $3.5 million in scholarships and in grants in the categories of health, social services, cultural, educational, and the environment. These are all areas with urgent needs on the Cape.