Grants to assist local transformation

July 20, 2004

Three grants awarded Friday by the Washington, D.C.-based Public Welfare Foundation will help transform Henry County and Martinsville and bring the area into the 21st century, according to Harry Cerino with The Harvest Foundation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Virginia Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy each received $50,000 from the philanthropic welfare foundation to put toward local improvement efforts. The funds will supplement grants the three groups received from The Harvest Foundation in May.

"Public Welfare is looking at communities all over the country for areas that are trying to transform. This really brings some great resources into our area," said Cerino, The Harvest Foundation's executive director.

The $50,000 awards will be given in lump sum payments to each of the groups within the next 30 days, according to Public Welfare Foundation Executive Director Larry Kressley. He added that the grants are good through May 31, 2005.

Kressley said his organization chose to get involved in Henry County and Martinsville because they have existing historical and cultural resources ready to be developed.

"These three organizations, over the next year or two, will begin that process (of development)" with the goal of increasing tourism and adding related jobs in Martinsville and Henry County, Kressley said.

"They'll look at the courthouse area and other historic areas -- (such as) Bassett for its furniture making. The National Trust is actively involved in things like that," Kressley said. "Places like Lowell, Mass., have made their whole town into a national historic site for old manufacturing."

The Southern Environmental Law Center, Kressley continued, "has a lot of experience helping communities make appropriate use of natural resources for tourism purposes -- whether it's Philpott Lake or the Smith River."

The Virginia Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy will work to develop "Baldwin's Block" and the rest of the Fayette Street historical initiative.

"That's an area rich in African-American local and regional history" and can educate people about the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Krassley said.

Kressley met with Cerino in Martinsville on April 30, he said, and heard from six organizations interested in Public Welfare grants.

Public Welfare's decision to invest in Henry County and Martinsville verifies that the area is moving in the right direction, Cerino said.

"We're (The Harvest Foundation) investing in the quality-of-life function of the community. We see these things as transformational," Cerino said. "...This adds credibility to what we're doing to see other funders contribute."


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