Harvest grants awarded

April 2, 2006

Martinsville Bulletin Staff Writer

The Harvest Foundation has awarded more than $1 million worth of grants approved by its board of directors.

The grants, totaling $1,128,475, were awarded to six agencies working in the areas of health, education and welfare by the Harvest board on Thursday. They were announced on Friday.

The largest grant awarded was $506,895 to the Martinsville-Henry County After Three Initiative for after-school programs for middle and high school students.

Other grants included $252,900 to the Rectors/Visitors of the University of Virginia Guide Program; $142,436 to support the Patrick Henry Community College Educational Foundation Inc.; $137,000 to the Spencer-Penn School Preservation Organization Inc.; $79,244 to Piedmont Access to Health Service Inc.; and $10,000 to Piedmont Regional Community Services Board, Youth and Prevention Unit Ñ Communities Helping Improve Local Lives (CHILL).

The After Three Initiative is a cooperative program between agencies including the Martinsville-Henry County Boys & Girls Club, Bassett Community Center, Fieldale Community Center and the Martinsville and Henry County YMCA and the local school systems to improve local after-school programs.

Patrick Henry Community College Educational Foundation Inc. will coordinate the initiative and handle its grant funds, according to Allyson Rothrock, interim executive director of The Harvest Foundation.

The money, Rothrock said, will be used to enhance after-school programs these agencies already are working on and identify common programs on which the agencies can collaborate.

After-school programming has become increasingly important, she said.

"Many more responsibilities have been placed on our schools with no additional hours, no additional days," she said.

Jo Ellen Hylton, assistant director of the YMCA, described the initiative as "a group of community youth-serving organizations partnering with the school systems."

She said the initiative's efforts mostly would focus on creating a community-based after-school program system for middle and high school students. The initiative's studies show those students are less well served than elementary pupils by after-school programs here.

"Other than sports activities, there weren't a lot of activities for the middle and high school students," Hylton said.

The initiative, which started working on the problem last summer, has sent members to study how other communities provide after-school programs and plans more trips, she said.

The goal of the grants to the U.Va. Guide Program and the Patrick Henry Community College Educational Foundation Inc., according to Rothrock, is to help prepare students for post-secondary education.

The guide program will select graduating seniors from U.Va. and place three, one in each local public high school, during the 2006 school year. They will help guidance staff prepare students for their time after high school. This can include one-on-one meetings and discussion of college preparation, financial aid forms and waivers for SAT testing costs, school selection and preparing rŽsumŽs.

The U.Va. seniors also can help younger students pick high school classes that will help prepare them for college, Rothrock said.

Keith Roots, director of corporate and foundation relations for the College of Arts and Sciences at U.Va., said the program is useful in a state where the average guidance counselor to student ratio is 353 to 1. The graduating seniors receive three months of training on counseling and other issues, he said.

He said students who are going into post-secondary schools have a number of forms and application to complete and important.

"All of that can be quite overwhelming for a 17-18 year old," he said.

Roots said the program was started last fall and early results show it has been successful.

He said he wanted to make clear that it is not a U.Va. recruiting program. That is why the U.Va. students taking part in it traveled to other colleges so they would be better able to inform students about them.

The educational talent search is a federally funded program that counsels low income, prospective first-generation college students through middle and high school. Rothrock said the grant is to help enhance the program by providing more counselors.

"It's an effort to kind of build the value of education in this community," she said.

Rothrock said the Spencer-Penn School Preservation Organization has "worked very hard with a large number of very active volunteers and done a tremendous amount of work up there." The group has created a library in the former school and worked with programs such as Success By Six, which readies young children for school.

Mary Jordan, organization president, was elated at news of the grant. "That's 137,000 hot dogs we don't have to sell," she said.

Jordan said the money would be used to put a heating and air conditioning system in the building's multi-purpose room and adjoining kitchen and also to make the bathrooms handicapped accessible. Some of it also will be used to help the organization board develop a strategic plan, a business plan and do other planning, she said.

The Piedmont Access to Health Service Inc. will use its grant funds to provide a nurse-practitioner for one year to Martinsville's Health Center of the Piedmont site on Fairy Street, to help that center see more patients.

Rothrock said this grant is intended to help meet The Harvest Foundation's goal of helping the medically underserved find a "permanent medical home" or care.

Finally, Piedmont Regional Community Services Board, Youth and Prevention Unit Ñ Communities Helping Improve Local Lives (CHILL) will use its grant to implement a program called "Rachel's Challenge" in city and county high schools and Carlisle School.

Rothrock said the program is meant to deter violence by promoting positive changes in attitudes. It was inspired by the Columbine School massacre in Colorado April 1999. The program will open with an assembly that uses actual footage from the incident.

The Harvest Foundation was created from the proceeds of the sale of Memorial Health Systems. It invested those proceeds and uses the revenue the investments generate to fund health, education and welfare initiatives in the Henry County-Martinsville area.


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