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Foundation Keeps Up With Times

February 23, 2011

WHEELING - Reaching out to various segments of the population, the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley is working to get children up and moving and to prepare adults for the jobs of the future.

After accumulating assets for nearly 40 years, the foundation has more than $22 million available to meet the region's needs. Its most recent efforts have focused on education and health through awards to local schools and colleges.

"The (Community Foundation) has always recognized the education of our youth as a vital part of the advancement of our region through numerous scholarship funds," Executive Director Susie Nelson said.

She pointed out the foundation's board of trustees recently approved two significant grants to West Virginia Northern Community College.

The first, in the amount of $44,000, provides funding for a new computer lab that will primarily be used for West Virginia Northern's Middle College program.

Middle College allows 10th- and 11th-graders from Ohio, Marshall and Brooke counties to earn their high school diplomas at West Virginia Northern's Wheeling campus and to begin post-secondary study.

Fact Box

What role does the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley play in the local area?

The Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley pools donations for investment, growing the amount of money available for philanthropic grants. The foundation, which has been operating for nearly 40 years, has more than $22 million available to help meet the region's needs. One example of its work comes through the scholarships awarded to local students each year.

The computer lab will also serve as a math lab for other West Virginia Northern students, Nelson said.

The second grant, in the amount of $40,000, will fund a new welding program at the college's New Martinsville campus. This welding program will prepare students for jobs in the region's growing Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.

Although the foundation has given more than $5 million to groups working to improve the area since it was founded in 1972, these two grants are the largest awards the foundation has made through its discretionary funds in its entire history.

The Community Foundation also has collaborated with two local private foundations to provide funding for schools in Ohio and Marshall counties to develop programs that increase students' physical activity while teaching them about healthy foods.

Part one of this program provides grant funding for schools in Ohio and Marshall counties that plan to implement one of the Action for Healthy Kids programs Game On for elementary schools, Fuel Up to Play 60 for middle schools and Students Taking Charge for high schools.

The second part of the program provides grants of up to $1,000 for cafeteria supplies that will help the schools serve more fruits and vegetables. All elementary schools in the two-county area will also receive an Indoor Recess Kit that includes activities for use in the classroom or in the gym on days when the weather prohibits outdoor play.

As part of the foundation's oral health initiative, a traveling exhibit called Mouth Power is on display at the Children's Museum of the Ohio Valley on Main Street in downtown Wheeling. This exhibit funding came through a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to educate children about the importance of good oral hygiene.

The exhibit will be on display through April.

"Through an additional grant from the Ohio Dental Association Foundation, the CFOV is able to provide funding for all first- through third-graders in Belmont County to visit the exhibit," Nelson noted.

The Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley is one of nearly 700 such organizations in the United States and an estimated 1,400 around the world. These groups pool donations for investment, growing the amount of money available for philanthropic grants. These foundations generally serve a particular community or geographic area.

A group of 18 community leaders serve on the board of trustees for the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley. And with just two people on staff, the foundation spends less than 10 percent of its budget on administrative costs.

It works with local donors to help them manage their charitable giving and administers more than 40 scholarship funds.

"The CFOV continues to find innovative and creative ways in which philanthropy can make an impact in the needs of the region," Nelson said, noting several community members recently started a Women's Giving Circle to make grants for programs that will improve the lives women and girls in the Ohio Valley.

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