Our Towns

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Community Foundation Brings Worthy Causes, Philanthropy Together

November 12, 2018

SHARON, Pa. – For 37 years, the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio has acted as that necessary conduit between a giving community and the causes it supports.

Yet the work has just begun, says its executive director.

“We started with a single fund – the O’Brien Children Memorial Fund – which was just under $54,000,” says Kyle English. “Fast forward to today, there are 700 funds with just under $100 million in the organization.”

On average, the Community Foundation provides between $5 million and $6 million each year to various organizations, programs and charitable causes in Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania, and Trumbull County in Ohio. Over the course of the last 37 years, it has awarded more than $75 million toward these initiatives.

“We consider ourselves a leader in doing things behind the scenes in order to mobilize donors to different causes they care about,” English says.

Last year, the Community Foundation issued 1,781 grants totaling $5.4 million. The funds were fairly evenly spread over five separate areas of the nonprofit economy, according to its annual report.

In 2017, for example, nonprofits in the health and family services sector were awarded grants that totaled $1.4 million, or 26% of the money awarded last year.

Organizations in community development received $1.2 million, or 22%; children and school programs were awarded $1.1 million, or 21%; grants devoted to scholarships and colleges totaled $851,955, or 16%; and those organizations involved in the arts and humanities were awarded $805,847, or 15%.

Among the top recipients of grants in 2017 were Thiel College, the Freedom Warrior Program, the Buhl Park Corp., Greenville Symphony, HopeCAT, the Animal Welfare League and the United Way of Mercer County.

“The great thing about our organization is that there is no minimum to giving and the donors choose where the money goes,” English says.

Afterschool programs for children, for example, or organizations such as Inspiring Minds, the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County and the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County have all benefitted from the foundation’s work, he notes.

“They’ve been proponents of ours for a long time,” says Mimi Prada, public relations manager at the Community Food Warehouse in Sharon, Pa., which this year commemorates its 35th year of operations.

The organization recently received a $5,000 grant to support its military share program, an initiative that helps veterans and military personnel with food supplies. And, the foundation provided a $6,700 grant last year to support the organization’s Fill a Glass With Hope program, which provides needy children and families with access to fresh milk. In 2016, the Foundation awarded more than $7,000 to help launch the program.

“We’ve since been able to bring in six agencies to help,” Prada says.

English says all of this wouldn’t be possible without the support of a generous philanthropic community. “We do have some corporations that have set up funds, but the vast majority comes from from families and individuals who want to make a difference,” he says.

Each year, the fund awards about $750,000 in college scholarships across the region, English says. “Most of them are in the $1,000 range,” he says.

One of the foundation’s most important roles is to alert potential donors to the initiatives under way in their respective communities, English says.

“We’re blessed with very giving communities,” he says. “We look to be a leader – along with others – in order to help give back. We’re just getting started.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.