Amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, The Alleghany Foundation has awarded its latest round of grants to several area organizations adapting to a “new normal.”
Eight Alleghany Highlands organizations are benefiting from over $367,000 in grants that focus on Economic Transformation, Community Capacity, Health and Wellness, and Educational Excellence.
Benefactors from these grants include the Alleghany Highlands YMCA, the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline, the Alleghany Highlands Arts Council, the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center, the Clifton Forge Company, the Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation and Garth Newel Music Center.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much, and it is clear with recent grant applications that how to manage through these times is front and center for everyone,” said Meade Snyder, president of The Alleghany Foundation Board of Directors. “Recent awards represent direct responses to help with the challenges presented by the pandemic as well as to continue work in two very important strategies in the foundation’s efforts: supporting excellent education and economic transformation through the arts.”
The Alleghany Highlands YMCA received two grants — $144,807 for its Early Learning Program and $38,953 to continue its Dolly Parton Imagination Library reading initiative through the next two years – as well as a grant adjustment in the amount of $35,000 for further implementation of the STREAMin3 curriculum.
“The importance of high-quality early childhood education as one component of achieving educational excellence has been a consistent message in Virginia and around the country in recent years,” said Alleghany Highlands YMCA Executive Director Jennifer Unroe. “It is well known that far too many children enter school unprepared.”
These three foundation investments help offset the cost of early learning education and care for children of working families in the Alleghany Highlands and help implement documented approaches to enhancing early childhood development.
“Two ways the foundation supports school readiness goals are by making possible early childhood development experiences for approximately 75 children who otherwise may not gain critical readiness skills and by providing funding for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program that provides families of children birth until five years of age with high-quality, conversation-starting books that are appropriate for each stage of a child’s early development,” Unroe said.
In the past, the Imagination Library program has benefited nearly 600 youngsters each year.
To enroll a child, go to https://imaginationlibrary. com/check-availability/, obtain a form at your local library or use the YMCA website link.
STREAMin3 is an approach to preschool education that is focused on blending academic and social-emotional learning. This model was developed by the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and is a shared approach being implemented by the YMCA, Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools and First Presbyterian Preschool.
The state provided partial funding for introducing the curriculum in the 2019-20 school year, and the additional funds provided by the foundation will be used to create professional development coaching for teachers working to interact with their students and collect educational data in new ways.
Partners from the community and the U.Va. Curry School of Education worked together at the start of the pandemic to create 180 activity packets for parents to use at home with rising kindergartners. Teachers and partners also created curriculum-based “Learn a Lot in a Little” video clips, which are available through the Alleghany Highlands Regional Library.
The Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism received a $25,000 grant for COVID-19 disaster assistance. The Salvation Army took the lead in efforts to assist area residents, but additional funding was needed to help provide food, household and personal care items for those in need during the crisis.
The chamber served as an active participant on the human services subgroup of the Alleghany Highlands COVID-19 Task Force, along with the Salvation Army, the local governments, Local Office on Aging, M3 Minutemen Militia and several community and faith-based organizations.
“With each new day, I continue to hope all of you and our community members remain healthy and COVID free,”?said Teresa Hammond, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. “This pandemic is teaching us a lot, and learning to respond to many circumstances not encountered before creates new challenges daily.”
The Alleghany Highlands Arts Council received a $62,400 grant for “navigating the new normal.”
Executive Director Tammy Scruggs-Duncan said the arts council is taking time to connect with community members, learning more about their interests and recognizing there will be practical limitations that prevent traditional programming in the next few months.
“We appreciate the foundation’s support while we figure out how we safely move forward,” she said. “Getting back to presenting performances is more complex than simply reopening our doors. Returning to the stage will require flexibility and creativity in developing more than one, standard delivery system.”
Scruggs-Duncan said the health of her audiences remains a top priority. Over the course of the next few weeks, arts council representatives will be contacting patrons and the community in general for input on when, where and under what conditions they will feel safe watching a performance.
Then, a plan will be customized.
“These last months have impacted not just our physical health but our emotional health as well,” Scruggs-Duncan said. “The arts are like medicine to soothe the mental ‘heartburn’ we are experiencing every day.
“To be able to escape into music, dance or a theatrical performance, even for a little while, can offer some respite from the distress and angst that surrounds us right now,” she concluded.
Several organizations used down time created by the pandemic to improve their facilities through grants awarded by the foundation.
The Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center managed a major renovation early in the year and adapted during the shutdown by introducing a digital tour of its renovated space and exhibits.
In 2018, the board of directors began discussions to replace the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center’s original worn out and stained carpet with new flooring and to redesign the entry area. Other enhancements include fresh paint, new lighted glass displays and shelving.
“It had been over 30 years since the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center’s last renovations,” said Executive Director Connie Baker. “The improvements provide a more visually pleasing shopping experience compatible with the high quality of art being presented in the building since its founding in 1984.”
Baker added many thanks to the center’s board of directors that raised an additional $36,531 from faithful donors, members, and corporate contributions toward this capital improvement project along with the crew of Sams & Company and many volunteer hours that led to the wonderful improvements to an old building that welcomes over 9,000 visitors annually from near and far.
Meanwhile, the Clifton Forge School of the Arts used a reduction in classes to implement and also plan additional important building improvements.
The School of the Arts targeted major upgrades to the area known as “The Mill.” Earlier in the summer, poured concrete was used to level and resurface the floor – work that was funded through donations from The Nettleton Foundation, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, and individuals.
A significant USDA Rural Development grant of $150,000 is making a larger project possible with support for replacing the current roof over the school and mill and contributing to repairs and improvements to the mill’s back wall facing Smith Creek.
The Alleghany Foundation is supplementing those project funds and also supporting ventilation for the blacksmith area as well as electrical work for the cafe and lighting in the workshop.
“These grants came at a perfect time,” said Helen Kostel, president of the Clifton Forge School of the Arts Board of Directors. “We have been putting buckets on the floor for a couple of years when it rains.
“With changes in programming during the pandemic, it is the perfect window of time to improve the facilities for opportunities ahead,” Kostel added.
“Along with the leveling of the floor that took place over the summer, ‘The Mill’ portion of the facility will be in better shape for Kriskindlmarkt as well as special events and the Fun Fridays that we hope will resume next summer.”
“The nonprofit sector is known as being made up of creative, resilient, caring, volunteer-led organizations that tackle tough problems and inspire others,” said Mary Fant Donnan, the foundation’s executive director. “The pandemic has challenged everyone, and seeing the resilience, collaboration, flexibility and hard work each of these grantees has exhibited during this time lives up to the sector’s wonderful reputation.”
For a complete list of grantees, visit the foundation’s website at www.alleghanyfoundation.org.
About The Alleghany Foundation: The Alleghany Foundation was established in 1995 with $35 million in proceeds from the sale of Alleghany Regional Hospital.
The foundation’s vision is to be a resource for and partner with eligible organizations to make the Alleghany Highlands a civically engaged, prosperous region that builds upon its assets to produce opportunities for its residents.
The total annual awards from The Alleghany Foundation now add up to more than $56 million.
For more information about the foundation, visit www.alleghanyfoundation.org.
The Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts Center in Clifton Forge used down time created by the Coronavirus pandemic and a recent grant from The Alleghany Foundation for renovations and improvements to its facilities. Seated is Connie Baker, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts Center, while standing are Honey Hepler, left, shop manager; and Nancy Newhard, curator. The Alleghany Foundation has announced recent grants totalling over $367,000. (Gavin Dressler Photo)