Harry E. Cerino Named Director

March 30, 2003

Martinsville Bulletin Staff Writer

After a seven-month search, a Philadelphia man with 30 years of experience with foundations has been named executive director of The Harvest Foundation in Martinsville.

Harry E. Cerino was chosen from more than 150 applications for the position and will start the job on May 1, according to Don Hodges, president of The Harvest Foundation's board.

The foundation was formed from the $150 million proceeds of the sale of Memorial Health System to Province HealthCare last May. Since then, it has been developing its mission and now is assessing community needs to determine where and how to award grants.

The foundation is charged with investing the $150 million proceeds from the sale. It expects the money will generate about $7 million in earnings each year, which the foundation will award to programs that focus on education, health and welfare programs benefiting Henry County and Martinsville residents.

The process for awarding grants could be in place in four months and funding would follow, said interim executive director Allyson Rothrock.

"With Harry coming on board, he will be in a position to do that," added Hodges.

Experience and education were the key criteria in choosing an executive director, and Cerino fit the bill on both, Hodges said.

"Harry had the experience and education we didn't see on any of the others. We wondered how we could get him in Martinsville and they decided this would be their home," Hodges said of Cerino and his wife, Jan Albaum.

Since 1999, Cerino has been director of philanthropic and nonprofit services for the $240 million GivingCapital in Jenkintown, Pa. It is a private, for-profit firm which helps provide charitable outlets for companies in the financial industry, he said.

Cerino said he is leaving because the company is being sold and he wants to "get back into the field I think I do best, private foundations.". His experience with private foundations stems from his 25 years with The William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia. He began there in 1973 as a program officer, was vice president for programs from 1983 to 1994, president from 1994 to 1998 and senior fellow from 1998 to 1999.

He said he left William Penn -- which is named for the Quaker who founded the state of Pennsylvania but has no connection to the William Penn family -- because "it was time to move on." Also, a member of the Haas family that formed the foundation wanted to become more involved in it, he said.

The William Penn Foundation was created in 1945 and has assets of $1 billion, Cerino said. While Cerino was president, it launched $60 million in initiatives in the arts, environment and community development fields. He also oversaw an additional $35 million in new grants annually and $2 million administrative budget, his resume states.

In the newly created position of senior fellow, he established a $3.5 million, three-year coalition of public and private interests leading to a project to limit sprawl and promote responsible growth, rebuild older communities and institute environmental protection efforts, according to his resume.

With The Harvest Foundation, "my role is to orchestrate the development of a successful program," Cerino said.

Or, as Hodges put it, "The board will set the mission and vision of the foundation. Harry's job will be to deliver on that. ... His experience is in bringing a lot of folks to the table when looking at a specific topic to try and find a common ground to accomplish the goals we all want to accomplish."

Cerino said he will do that by assessing community needs, including identifying problems, gaps or issues; recognizing opportunities; making choices on projects or fields or spending; implementing strategies or funding programs; and monitoring and evaluating the impact of the funded programs.

To start, "I am learning very rapidly the goals and interests of The Harvest Foundation. Clearly the foundation wants to have measurable impact on improving the quality of life in the city and county. There are many ways to do that. They will have to be discussed and argued out over time. That is what everybody is anxious to do," he said.

One of his first steps, Cerino said, will be a crash course in the community, what is available here and what the needs are.

Already, he has learned that there are not many non-profit organizations -- the types of groups which The Harvest Foundation might help fund -- in a 25-mile radius of Henry County.

Cerino said he would like to see that change, possibly by getting civic and business groups involved in non-profits; having higher education institutions provide training and resources for non-profit groups' directors and staffs; mentoring programs; and professional organizations which can work with non-profit groups.

Rothrock explained that non-profit organizations would include the United Way and possibly the Adult Day Care Center.

She said the foundation also has found that this area has fewer such agencies compared to some other areas, and fewer than the foundation had expected.

Also, it has found no convening organization, such as a central source for information on senior citizens, she said.

For example, she is from Tidewater and said there probably are 25 to 30 organizations there that focus solely on teenagers and 45 or 50 which focus on senior citizens.

"We have them but I think Harry thought there would be more," Rothrock added.

Cerino has a bachelor's degree from Villanova University and master's degrees from LaSalle University, Temple University and the University of Rhode Island.

Neither he nor Hodges would disclose his pay.

The Harvest Foundation was assisted by Boardwalk Consulting of Atlanta in its seven-month search for an executive director.

Hodges said Boardwalk received more than 150 applications, which it narrowed to 15 or 20, and the foundation board narrowed the list to five before deciding on Cerino.

Rothroth has said she did not apply for the position. She and Cerino will determine if she will continue with the foundation as Cerino builds a four- or five-person staff, Hodges said.

Rothrock would only say that nothing has been decided.

The foundation is in the midst of assessing community needs on education and health. It hopes to have interim reports on both by mid-May, Rothrock said.

She added that there is public misperception that the foundation is involved in the school consolidation issue and study currently underway.

"We're interested in instruction and teacher excellence," regardless of whether the county and city schools merge or remain separate. "Ours has nothing to do with any of that," she added.

As part of the education assessment being done now, researchers "are in the schools asking teachers 'what type of programs are you invited to that increase your knowledge and help you to be a better teacher.' What's available to them to increase excellence?" she said.

When the foundation is ready to start making grants, Rothrock said they will done in two ways: responsive, which is when an organization applies for funding, or by initiative, in which the foundation could initiate a program to meet a need it sees in the community. Individual people will not be given grants, she added.

How grant money will be divided between those types of programs will depend on the education and health assessments and Cerino's leadership, Rothrock said.

"We hope he will bring in wonderful, great ideas on what we can do in the community," she said.


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