Grant totals $1.78 million

August 9, 2005

Bulletin Staff Writer

The Harvest Foundation on Monday awarded a total of $1.78 million to fund seven grant requests for projects ranging from exhibits for the new Virginia Museum of Natural History to an effort to develop leadership in the area.

"Each grant request grew out of interests and ideas from local citizens. All awards are in line with our organization's goals to have a positive and widespread impact on this area," said Douglas I. Payne, president of The Harvest Foundation board.

Grant recipients, the size of their grants and their purposes are:

** Martinsville Uptown Initiative, $326,880.

Of that, $177,680 will go to the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association (MURA), $42,000 to the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society and $107,200 to the Gateway Streetscape Foundation Inc.

MURA will use the funds for activities related to retail and facade improvements, according to Harry Cerino, executive director of The Harvest Foundation. The historical society will use the funds for a "crash analysis, including a lot of community participation, around what the courthouse should be used for," he added.

Gateway will use the funds to replace trees and do other "greening" work in the uptown area, according to Gateway Director Lois Christensen.

"The fact that they are all working together makes this really powerful. It's the kind of thing that will make a difference," Cerino said, adding that the idea grew out of the Strategic Advisory Committee (SAC) work.

** Mayo and Smith River Initiative, $157,500.

This grant will support the launch of the Mayo and Smith River Initiative to improve outdoor recreational opportunities. It also will continue to advance the $400,000 federal grant announced recently.

Of the total amount awarded, $62,500 will go to the Southern Environmental Law Center Inc. and $95,000 to the Dan River Basin Association, which are working on the project.

Cerino said some of the funds will be used to locate a full-time employee in Henry County-Martinsville to work on this project. The initiative's work also grew out of the SAC work, he said.

** Martinsville Sheriff's Office's Project Lifesaver, $14,305.

The program, started in 2001, helps people suffering from Alzheimer's disease and related mental dysfunctional disorders. Disease victims receive tracking devices, which can help locate them if they become lost and confused. The grant will go for additional receivers, transmitters, straps and equipment.

** Stepping Stones Inc., $7,560.

Founded in 1991, this organization assists profoundly mentally handicapped adults while their primary caregivers are at work. This grant will be used to pay for a part-time travel aide who will oversee and help handicapped adults on field trips and traveling to and from the Stepping Stones facility in Martinsville.

** University of Virginia, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, $166,316.

The Weldon Cooper Center is a public policy resource for public officials, private sector leaders and state residents. This grant will support development programs for residents of and government officials in Henry County and Martinsville. In the long term, it should provide lasting partnerships in the community on key issues, a Harvest release states.

Cerino said this initiative involves identifying new and emerging leaders in different parts of the community. Those people then would identify issues important to different areas in the community, such as day care, addiction or community development. Virginia Tech would assist with this.

It also involves training people to be good leaders and working with elected and appointed leaders on issues important to both localities, Cerino said.

"This is exciting because it came out of the Strategic Advisory Committee," he said. "They had many focus groups and meetings and this is something our community said they had an interest in."

** Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation, $1.089 million.

The grant will help pay for exhibits in the museum's new building, set to open in January 2007, and for costs associated with launching the facility. This grant also will be used as matching funds to raise an additional $1 million from private contributors and an additional $2 million from the state.

"Like the community college and Piedmont Arts Association, this is an incredible asset," Cerino said. "It will be a world-class institution right here in Martinsville. It also will be an important educational resource and we also hope it will bring in people regionally who will stay overnight and buy gas ... (and will) be an economic engine."

** West Piedmont Business Development Center, $21,000.

This two-year grant will support a virtual incubation program at the Martinsville incubator. It will offer a variety of services, including seminars, networking events and various technical services, to encourage entrepreneurship.

The Harvest Foundation was created from the proceeds of the sale of Memorial Health Systems to Province Healthcare in 2002.

Since then and including these most recent grants, it has provided a total of more than $22 million to more than 75 organizations dealing with health, welfare and educational efforts, it stated in a release.


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