Harvest report targets communication of goals

December 11, 2014

The Harvest Foundation’s 2012/2013 annual report is designed to easily communicate the foundation’s accomplishments and goals to the community, according to Harvest President Allyson Rothrock. 

That goal is found right in the title of the report — “Open Communication” — and also is made clear in the report’s introduction, penned by Rothrock and Harvest Chairman James McClain II. The introduction addresses the importance of clearly explaining the foundation’s goals to the public while also listening to the public’s input. 

“An annual report should be a communication tool, and it should be easily readable by any audience,” Rothrock said Wednesday. “I think sometimes people don’t understand what the foundation does, and maybe it’s because of the way we have tried to communicate in the past, so we took a different approach this time.” 

The Harvest Foundation was established in 2002 from the proceeds of the sale of the Memorial Hospital of Martinsville & Henry County. It researches and invests in programs and initiatives in the areas of health, education and community vitality.

There are many people in the community who have excellent ideas about what needs to happen in Martinsville and Henry County to move the area forward, Rothrock said. One of Harvest’s main goals is bringing those people together to create plans and hear what each other has to say. 

A great example of that, according to Harvest Foundation Program Officer DeWitt House, is the current area collaborations between K-12 education, higher education facilities Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) and New College Institute (NCI), and area manufacturers.

“We’re starting to look at things in a much bigger picture and connect things together as opposed to operating in isolation, and I think that’s critical to success for the community as a whole,” House said. 

Harvest’s 37-page annual report addresses all of the foundation’s grants and initiatives between 2012 and 2013, including positive youth development, community health, education, small town revitalization and recreation.

To offer a few examples from the report, between 2012 and 2013, Harvest offered the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge $78,450 to support a youth summer camp pilot program with the YMCA; $71,613 to Community Dental Clinic to provide funding for a full-time dentist; $8 million to assist with construction of a new building for NCI; $8,425 to complete renovations on the Fayette Area Historical Initiative museum; and $250,000 to help construct a 40-slip marina on Philpott Lake. 

Underpinning all of the organization’s initiatives, Rothrock said, is connecting educators with manufacturers to prepare the students of today for the jobs of tomorrow.

The key, House said, is teaching students advanced skill sets and challenging them to think critically so that they can adapt to a rapidly evolving work environment. 

“Considering what this community has undergone in the last 15, 20 years, we’ve had to try to peek around the corner to prepare our kids and to attract industry,” House said. “With the (economic downturn) that occurred here early, we were forced into that a lot sooner than some other localities.”

An important component of the open communication between the Harvest Foundation and the community is receiving criticism, Rothrock said. 

“Questions are a good thing,” she said. “If everyone agreed with everything we did, something would really be wrong here. I learn the most from the community when we’re challenged by questions. ... It makes us a stronger community, not just a strong organization. Everyone will never agree with everything, and we understand that. We respect that.”

Harvest tends to focus on long-term projects, Rothrock said, and sometimes the importance of those projects isn’t immediately apparent to the community. 

That was one of the main reasons that Harvest introduced Pick Up the Pace! (PUP) grants, she said, which award smaller amounts of money to area organizations but have a much faster turn-around time between conception and implementation than do the foundation’s larger grants.

Often, Rothrock said, the impact of a PUP grant can be just as great as a much larger grant. 

The majority of Harvest’s goals are long-term, however, Rothrock said, which is one of the reasons the foundation is scrupulous in awarding grants.

“When you look at the overall needs in this community and all of the resources that are available, I would say resources are becoming scarcer,” Rothrock said. “Over the years, we’ve done a really good job with our investments and our earnings, but this foundation is here for perpetuity. In order to be here into perpetuity, we’re very careful about our spending.” 

According to the report, when Harvest was formed in 2002, it had $163 million in net assets. At the end of 2013, it had approximately $201 million in net assets.

Between 2012 and 2013, the report states, Harvest announced and awarded 33 grants totaling more than $30 million while growing its coffers through wise investments. 

To maintain that track record well into the future, Rothrock said, Harvest must continue to be prudent in its investments and grant awards.

“Though we believe that the needs of today are great, we have no idea what the needs 20 years from now are going to be, and we feel that the younger generations — and generations that aren’t even here yet — should have the ability to access the funding,” Rothrock said. 

A digital version of Harvest’s full annual report will be made available Friday morning on Harvest’s website at www.theharvestfoundation.org.


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