Harvest Approves Health, Education, Welfare Grants

December 22, 2005

Martinsville Bulletin Staff Writer

Dental care program to receive $250,000

The Harvest Foundation on Wednesday awarded $250,000 to help improve dental care for the area's needy.

The grant to the Piedmont Dental Health Foundation, which hopes to begin providing free dental services to low-income residents in August or September of next year, was in part a result of a series of surveys and other research conducted by The Harvest Foundation during the past several months, said Executive Director Harry Cerino.

"We determined that there were extensive dental health issues, especially among lower income families who needed access to care," Cerino said. "Our grant to the (Piedmont Dental Health Foundation) really reflects the need in the community."

Dr. Mark A. Crabtree, president of the dental health foundation, said he primarily plans to put the grant money toward renovations to the second floor of the building the organization has leased on Fayette Street, which will house the four final-year dental students and one dental hygiene student who will work at the clinic.

But since the grant is unrestricted, Cerino said the foundation can use the money as it sees fit.

"(The money) is just a general support contribution and Harvest is interested in seeing them use it in a way they believe is most effective in providing services to needy people in our community," he said.

The Piedmont Dental Health Foundation is currently awaiting bids for renovations to the downstairs of the Fayette Street building, which will house the dental clinic. The majority of that work will be paid for by $441,000 in construction and equipment money granted by Congress a year ago.

"We're looking forward to getting these bids back and getting the clinic under construction," said Crabtree.

Besides the money to the dental health foundation, which will be given over a five-year period, the Virginia Legal Aid Society, Inc., was granted $15,000 over two years, and Henry County Schools on behalf of the Piedmont Governor's School for Mathematics, Science and Technology, will receive $15,000 over two years.

The money granted to the Virginia Legal Aid Society, which provides free legal advice and representation to low-income families on civil matters, will be put toward the organization's Strengthening Families With Children initiative in Henry County and Martinsville, said Executive Director David B. Neumeyer.

The initiative will include outreach projects, such as community presentations, to make area residents and agencies aware not only of the services the organization provides but also the reasons those services are necessary.

"Many people, including families with children, do not realize the impact that law has on problems that they face," Neumeyer said. "Almost every transaction or problem that you have in your daily life is governed by law in our society and getting the outcome you want is very much influenced by whether you have advice or representation from a lawyer."

Through representation, the Virginia Legal Aid Society can help families deal with such issues as access to health care, food stamps and other social services; education; and housing, said Cerino.

"What they're going to be doing is the kind of work that will strengthen families in our communities," he said.

Finally, the $15,000, three-year grant to the Piedmont Governor's School will go toward the institution's robotics team, helping to pay for the entry and housing costs associated with the two competitions the team enters each year, said school director Brian R. Pace.

In January, the 24-member team will receive a kit that students will use to design a robot they program to carry out the tasks that comprise the competitions, which take place in Richmond in March and Atlanta in April, said Pace.

"(The program) takes what we try to teach them in textbooks off the page and into real-world applications," he said.

That type of instruction fits in well with The Harvest Foundation's history of support for educational programs, said Cerino.

"We saw the governor's school program as an enhancement of our overall interest in education, especially in the area of math and science for young people," he said. "It provides a really interesting, interactive hands-on experience for kids, so we think it's a great program."

The Harvest Foundation was created in 2002 from the proceeds of the sale of Memorial Health systems to Province Healthcare. Since then, it has contributed upwards of $22 million to more than 75 local organizations dealing with health, welfare and educational efforts.


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