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River Counties Community Foundation celebrated and honored the work of local nonprofits at its annual grant reception on Monday, July 9. Over $550,000 in competitive grants were awarded within a framework of cultural vibrancy, health and wellness, educational success, and economic prosperity. The focused areas collectively work toward a better quality of life for all residents in Lancaster, Northumberland and Middlesex counties.
“RCCF takes a wholistic approach to what makes a strong community and supports services that reach nearly every resident,” said Debbie Newman, RCCF Grants Chair. “Applications are reviewed for impact and strength, and matched with funding available to meet specific interests. RCCF provides stewardship for donors by ensuring donor intent and nonprofit programs are aligned.”
In a rural area, it is important that residents, young and old, have access and are exposed to high-quality arts and cultural opportunities. Grants to Northern Neck Orchestra and Rappahannock Foundation for the Arts will bring those performances to life on local stages. Rappahannock Concert Association and The Court House Players work directly with youth to provide string instruction and summer theatre camp.
RCCF supports organizations providing access to the wealth of historical assets in our community. Expanding hands-on exhibits and engaging visitors, Historic Christ Church, Steamboat Era Museum, and Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern all are focused on making history come alive for its visitors young and old.
The foundation invests in services which ensure community members are safe and healthy. Grants to Northern Neck-Middlesex Free Health Clinic and the Ledwith-Lewis Free Clinic provide primary care and wellness visits for un- or under-insured adults. And understanding the importance of healthy foods for all, Healthy Harvest Food Bank is building a new warehouse to store and distribute foods more efficiently and provide added educational programs.
Awards to Upper Lancaster Volunteer Rescue Squad, Fairfields Volunteer Fire Department, and Smith Point Sea Rescue will support equipment upgrades to ensure the best response to emergencies to keep the community safe.
To best support the health of at-risk populations, Three Rivers Health District will use grants funds to work to train residents as part of the Medical Reserve Corp, and provide outreach and education on responding to the opioid crisis. Assisting victims of domestic violence, Avalon Center on the Middle Peninsula and The Haven on the Northern Neck, provides counseling, advocacy and shelter for women and children. When children are involved in abuse and neglect cases, Northern Neck CASA is their advocate. Grant funding to send volunteers to attend the National CASA conference increases their ability to serve our youngest.
RCCF is committed to the health and wellness of all children, and supports the need for upgraded and redesigned facilities at Dream Fields in Kilmarnock. Further promoting physical activity and healthy living, Middlesex Family YMCA’s 7th grade initiative program will include transportation home through a grant focused on providing access to all children.
From children to seniors, health and wellness touches every resident. Working with individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s, Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Association provide respite care hours and scholarships for eligible families through their grants, allowing a small break for the caregiver from what is coined the 36-hour day.
And knowing the community health benefit from fewer stray animals, the Animal Welfare League provides spaying/neutering services for the feral cat population through funds that support the four-legged residents.
The Foundation’s goals around educational success aim to ensure that all children achieve in school, engage in their community, and are prepared for the workforce.
Grant funding to the Kiwanis Club of Middlesex will expand its partnership with the Middlesex County Public Schools to provide service based projects and opportunities for students. And knowing all children must be ready with the supplies and clothing they need, RCCF assists the Northumberland Family YMCA Bright Beginnings program, held each summer.
Focused on each student’s K-12 pathway, Lancaster County Virginia Educational Foundation was awarded a grant to create two new FIRST LEGO Robotics teams at LMS to help feed into the high school team. Further expanding STEM enrichment, RCCF supports the Northern Neck YMCA as it morphs its traditional after-school programming to incorporate drones, coding, leadership and construction. And Friends of the Rappahannock will expand its work at St. Clare Walker Middle School to provide both students and teachers a deeper dive into conservation through the Foundation’s grant.
Engaging teens and understanding this crucial window of time for development, RCCF is making investments in the Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Neck’s facility expansion for dedicated teen space and revamped programming, and the Lancaster Community Library’s upgraded teen space and programming. Grants to GRASP will allow for one on one guidance for students and families at Lancaster and Northumberland High Schools in the FASFA process, especially our first-generation college students.
Middlesex County Public Schools moved from concept to reality, through a multi-year grant from the foundation, to create the Compass Academy. Opening in the fall, the academy will create a progressive alternative setting for students who are unable to be success in the typical school setting, providing the opportunity for all student to reach their full potential, regardless of barriers.
The Foundation awarded grants for summer programming, decreasing the risk of students sliding backward between school years. Jacob’s Ladder engages youth in grades 4-8 identified as intellectually gifted, but at-risk through a summer residential camp, and MACorp’s Girls Empowerment Camp and Camp SWAG (for boys) guides youth ages 12-18. Middlesex County Public Library will bolster its summer reading and programming for all youth through RCCF support.
A critical part of building a strong, vibrant community is safe, stable and affordable housing for all residents. Major investments have been made to organizations who are working to build new or repair old homes in our community. The Middlesex Foundation was granted a multi-year award in 2017 to plan and develop the concept of an affordable apartment community in the Cooks Corner, modeled after Mercer Place in Lancaster. Grant funds are now leveraging state funds to move toward construction. Habitat for Humanity of Middlesex and Hands Across Middlesex work closely together on housing. Habitat has purchased its first large tract of land and an award from RCCF will provide development and infrastructure for the future build of 6-7 Habitat homes. Working with a housing stock that is aging, support for Hands’ home repair program provides materials needed for volunteers make living conditions safer and healthier. In similar partnership Lancaster/Northumberland Habitat for Humanity and Lancaster/Northumberland Interfaith Service Council provide housing support in the lower Northern Neck. Grant awards to Habitat will support its first custom modular build with Chesapeake Homes in Northumberland, and Interfaith will continue to provide home repair and ramp construction for those physically or financially unable to make these improvements on their own.
Understanding the need to prevent homelessness, RCCF has invested in the start-up and continuation of Middlesex Department of Social Services’ Rapid Re-Housing Program. Wrap around services, coupled with rental assistance, provide short and long-term solutions and follow up for those in crisis. Ultimately, self-sufficiency of residents is the goal of all service organizations. Grants to Legal Aid Works provides an outreach paralegal to look at the long term financial needs of eligible clients in the Northern Neck who should be receiving Social Security Disability, and works to advocate on their behalf, and VersAbility Resources provides employment as a means of financial support for adults with disabilities at the Puller Center.
Investments in infrastructure are part of ensuring a strong community that provides all residents the opportunity to move up the economic ladder. Transportation remains a challenge. Funding from RCCF, coupled with local governement dollars, allows Bay Transit to operate a second bus in Middlesex to get residents to work or other appointments. To provide better access to internet, the Foundation helped put Northumberland Public Library’s Mobile Library on the road, which provides outreach to underserved areas of the county and broadcasts a strong (and free to the public) wifi signal.
“The nonprofit sector plays a crucial role in all four focus areas that make a strong and vibrant community. River Counties Community Foundation remains committed to support local organizations as they take the lead in implementing new and expanded services to meet the needs of all residents,” said Bill Vose, RCCF Board Chair.
The power of endowment has resulted in a growth of RCCF to nearly $17.5 million in assets over the past 20 years, while resulting in the investment of over $8 million in community nonprofits. “It has been powerful to have worked 10 or more years ago with donors in establishing funds and now being able to see the impact their funds are making. Their names and their philanthropy are living on long after they are gone” said Margaret Nost, Regional Director.
Established in 1996, River Counties Community Foundation stewards charitable endowments for donors, partners with nonprofits through grantmaking, and provides leadership on community issues. For further information on the work of RCCF, visit www.RiverCountiesCF.org or call Margaret Nost, Regional Director, at (804) 436-1600.
RCCF is now celebrating its 20th year of service. Just 20 years ago, RCCF invested $1,500 in its first year of grantmaking. The entire community should take great pride in the philanthropy this growth reflects. Despite the very significant growth in the funds supporting local nonprofits, our needs continue to exceed our ability to fully support requests.
The primary purpose of the annual fundraising drive is to highlight the importance of philanthropy in the community and to provide a way to gain broad participation. Many residents have strong philanthropic instincts but may not know for sure just how to follow them. The results in the first two years has been amazing and gratifying, Pittman added.
Prior to the Together.Stronger. initiative, funding for competitive grants had come primarily from endowment funds often with specific geographical and charitable purposes.
Donations to Together.Stronger. can be made online at www.RiverCountiesCF.com or by mail at RCCF, PO Box 222, Kilmarnock, VA 22482.
Download the RCCF Report to the Community
River Counties Community Foundation supports skill-building program
“I love it, there is so much collaboration here,” enthused Cora Rowe, a rising 8th grader and aspiring pianist who was a first-time participant in the Court House Players Community Theater summer program for children. The program is in collaboration with the Missoula Children’s Theater, a touring company that arrives with costumes, scenery, and props. With the help of volunteers, the week-long camp is a run by professional actors, accommodating up to 62 children from rising first graders to high-school seniors.
Children learn a play in one week; all lines, songs, and dances. In addition to rehearsals, there are workshops to teach voice projection, parts of the stage, set design and directing. “Supporting organizations that provide enrichment and educational opportunities through arts and cultural activities is the guiding principle in River Counties Community Foundation’s Cultural Vibrancy focus area,” said Leslie Franklin, Regional Grants Management Officer. Court House Players was a successful recipient in the Foundation’s 2018 Competitive Grant Process, receiving a grant that enabled Court House Players to give 10 children scholarships. “There aren’t many venues for the arts in Middlesex. Many of these children have never had experience with musical arts. Once involved, 80% return to participate another year and several have been involved for as long as 13 years,” said Aryah Hudgins, Children’s Theater coordinator.
Landon Hudgins has participated in Court House Players Children’s Theater since the age of 5. Landon praised his experience, “I’ve become more out-going, which makes social situations easier. Standing in front of an audience doing anything builds character. It has taught me public speaking, team building, and leadership. It has matured me,” said Landon. Pianist, Cora says she is becoming more comfortable in her ability to accompany a performer. She wants to do children’s theater again and dreams of pursuing a career in music.
“In a rural area, the Foundation’s focus is on ensuring residents, young and old, have access to high-quality arts and cultural opportunities. This year River Counties Community Foundation disbursed approximately $37,000 in the Cultural Vibrancy category, a small portion of more than $550,000 in total grants awarded to nonprofit organizations in Middlesex, Lancaster and Northumberland counties,” said Franklin. According to Regional Director, Margaret Nost, “Wise management of donor funds has grown Foundation assets to more than $17 million. We invite anyone interested in supporting programs such as Court House Players to create a lasting gift. We will take your gift and grow it. Together we do more good for our community.”
Mailing AddressP.O. Box 222
Kilmarnock, VA 22482
46 S. Main Street
Kilmarnock, VA 22482
P: (804) 436-1600
F: (804) 330-5992
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