Coalition, schools funded

May 26, 2004

Bulletin Staff Writer

Economic development efforts and education were the big winners in the latest round of grants from The Harvest Foundation, with the Coalition for Economic Progress and local schools getting $2.4 million each.

The coalition and the school systems were among 12 groups and projects awarded a total of $5.8 million by The Harvest Foundation late Tuesday and released to the public on Wednesday. The grants ranged in size from $38,000 to $2.4 million, according to a foundation release.

The coalition's grant, which will be funneled through partner-organization the Chamber's Partner for Economic Growth (C-PEG) over three years, will go toward getting the public/private economic development organization off the ground, the release states.

The coalition, which will serve the city and county jointly, already has financial commitments of $500,000 from the county, $400,000 from the city and $200,000 from C-PEG. The $800,000 annually for three years from the foundation will bring the coalition's budget to $1.9 million a year, in addition to a $100,000 gift from the Martinsville Speedway.

Harvest Foundation officials wrote in the release that the coalition is "dedicated to creating a climate where existing and new businesses and local entrepreneurs can create community wealth and quality jobs."

Like the coalition grant, the multi-million dollar educational grant also will be dispersed over three years to the county and city school divisions and Carlisle School, the release states. Henry County Schools will receive $1.62 million, Martinsville Schools will get $630,000 and Carlisle School will be awarded $150,000.

According to the release, the grants will support reading and math programs.

"This is part of a long-term education initiative and builds on planning grants approved by the foundation in December," the release states. "These grants will enable the schools to carry out ... the plans they have developed during the past several months." The educational grants "are a major step in the systematic improvement of the area's schools over time," the release added.

This was the foundation's fourth round of grants since it was created out of the sale of Memorial Hospital of Martinsville and Henry County. The total money awarded also was the largest. The group's first round of grants last August totaled $2.52 million, less than half the amount given this round.

Three grants were awarded to professional groups outside the area to support their efforts in working with local grassroots organizations to conserve the community's historical and natural resources, according to the release.

The Southern Environmental Law Center of Charlottesville was awarded $50,000 to help launch a regional organization to develop the community's environmental resources and unique natural areas "to create additional community wealth and jobs," the release states.

Senior attorney Kay Slaughter, one of the organization's staff members who is heading the project, said Wednesday that she anticipates that her work with local residents will include coming up with ideas and plans for development along the Smith River and Philpott Lake.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation of Washington, D.C., was awarded $450,000 over three years "to launch several historic preservation and heritage efforts with Martinsville-area partners that will improve the quality of life and promote economic growth," the release added.

Foundation Executive Director Harry Cerino said the organization might work with local residents on the preservation of the old Henry County courthouse uptown and the city block surrounding it.

The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy was awarded $212,220 over two years "to further develop the Fayette Street area historical initiative and promote a Martinsville regional African-American heritage project that will support cultural and economic renewal," according to the release.

Although tackling different conservation issues, Cerino said the three organizations will work with one another, in addition to the community, to complement one another's efforts. According to the release, "these three community development grants have the potential of beginning a transformation of the region. The grants will build and further support the economic development work growing out of the Market Street recommendations."

Market Street Services consulting firm recently completed a study of the area and its economy and issued several recommendations for renewal.

Click Here for grant award details.


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