January 29, 2008

SBTC Receives $148,000 grant from the Harvest Foundation

The Harvest Foundation board approved more than $1.5 million in grants on Thursday.

The nine, one-year grants continue the foundation’s support for entertainment programs in uptown, financial literacy, rivers and trails development and K-12 education, among other things.

The only new group receiving funding was LEAD VIRGINIA, according to Rich Killingsworth, executive director of Harvest. The board approved a $50,000 grant to allow two people to participate in the statewide leadership initiative.

The program educates participants about regional differences and statewide needs, according to Harvest. Previously, Martinsville Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr., Lisa Fultz of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., and Kathy Rogers, executive director of the United Way of Martinsville and Henry County, participated in the program.

Killingsworth said the program creates a leadership network that “allows us to ... bring the best practices” in the commonwealth to Southside. “It’s critical to building capacity (and) sustaining leadership” in the area, he said, calling the grant a critical investment in the area’s future.

Other grants approved are:

• $504,560 to Patrick Henry Community College for the Martinsville-Henry County After Three program.

This is the largest grant approved Thursday. The program addressees the need for after-school programs for middle-school students by providing experiences in academics, art and athletics.

It serves about 700 students in programs with the Bassett and Fieldale community centers, two YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, Spencer-Penn Centre, Blue Ridge Library, New College Institute, Coalition for Health and Wellness and DeHart School of Dance.

• $234,125 to Martinsville Uptown.

This will go to enhance entertainment programs and marketing uptown as an entertainment destination, Harvest stated. It also will increase programming for young adults and establish a cooperative event promotion program for the surrounding region.

Killingsworth said concerts uptown, such as those held last summer, will be expanded into the spring and fall when the weather is better. He said he was surprised by the number of people who turned out for those concerts, despite the heat, and it showed their “passion about uptown. They want to come” there for events.

Efforts will be made to find desirable entertainment for young adults, aged 18-25, and things that will make visitors become enthusiastic about what goes on here.

He noted that bluegrass concerts being held in the Rives Theater in uptown have drawn “wall-to-wall people,” 300 or more, and said the fact that such events are heavily subsidized is OK. That is because they help people become more familiar with the arts in their everyday lives and create a culture of art in the area, he said.

• $216,075 to the Dan River Basin Association.

This grant will continue to fund the group’s Community Connections — Rivers and Trails program, according to Harvest. The project will continue building on existing partnerships to create a connected system of rivers, trails and greenways in this area, and expand efforts to restore healthy rivers through outreach and education, Harvest stated.

“This is one of the most successful, most visible,” projects Harvest has funded, Killingsworth said.

The goal is to eventually connect the uptown walking trail to Fieldale, a 7-mile stretch, he said. That would be a huge recreation attraction and a huge tool for recruiting businesses, which often want that type of amenity in a locality, he added.

Ultimately, Killingsworth said local trails might connect with the East Coast Greenway, which will be the largest in the country when completed.

• $150,000 for the K-12 initiative administrative support for one year.

For now, Harvest will provide this support, which will include professional technical assistance, leadership development, monitoring project implementation, evaluation of strategic plans, subject area development, planning and reports, and outside professional evaluation of the K-12 initiative Harvest has funded for the 21 schools in Henry County and Martinsville.

“We don’t want the schools doing their own evaluation” of how well programs are working, Killingsworth said. He added that in the future some other group may take on that role, other than Harvest.

Rather than fund new initiatives, this grant “is the administrative side of the K-12” initiative in place, he said.

• $148,000 to the Southside Business and Technology program.

This grant will support the Southside Entrepreneurial Capacity Building project locally by providing professional quality business consulting to a projected 45 employers.

“Eva Doss is doing a phenomenal job,” Killingsworth said of the director of the program. “We hope to get the word out more” about the services, such as planning and analysis with a focus on technology, provided by the program.

• $131,822 for Gateway Streetscape Foundation.

This grant will support the uptown beautification enhancement program, which works to beautify and maintain key streetscapes and gateways in the uptown commercial district, uptown rail trail and high traffic sites throughout Henry County, according to Harvest.

Killingsworth said beautification efforts are critical to increasing people’s pride and sense of ownership in the area which, in turn, is critical to recruiting business.

• $68,970 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Martinsville/Henry County.

This grant will fund a board and staff development program focusing on creating a strategic plan that will lead to the investment in training and professional development.

The club is a “strong organization. What they’ve done is phenomenal” and the board deserves support as it develops future directions, Killingsworth said.

• $60,000 for the HOPE Initiative of the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville.

This grant aids the project that is focusing on improving the financial literacy of individuals, families and high school students through tax assistance services, education and outreach services.

“In my mind, this is a critical initiative” that is attempting to teach financial literacy — how to balance a checkbook, get a loan, manage a mortgage and so on — to people of all ages, Killingsworth said.

Killingsworth said the grants, totaling $1,563,552, show the board’s strong commitment to nurturing and building on programs in the community.

The Harvest Foundation was created from the sale of Memorial Health Systems in 2002. It provides grants to non-profit endeavors in Henry County and Martinsville in the areas of health, education and welfare.