Youth Fund Visits Food Bank, a member’s view by Sam Speck

January 11, 2010 - Leave a Response
Members of the Youth Fund

Today, January 10, 2010, the Youth Fund visited Second Harvest Food Bank. The food bank collects large quantities of donated food to redistribute to local communities who in turn distribute the food to families in need.

Our group, The Youth Fund, volunteered to sort through the donated food to be sent out to local communities. This is very important because some of the food may be damaged, expired, or for any other reason, inedible. We also sorted through donations of toiletries. As a whole, our group helped to sort through 1,702 pounds of food and toiletry donations which will be eventually given out to families around Lorain County.

As a team, we split up into several different sections. First, we had a group of four putting together packages for the food to be shipped in. Second, we had some members checking the donations to sort out cans, packages and bottles that were still in good condition and to separate those that could not be distributed. Third, another group sanitized the goods by wiping them with a bleach and water solution. Fourth, we had several members sorting the food and toiletries into the appropriate sections such as breakfast foods, dry goods, condiments, health and hygiene, and snack food. Last, and definitely not least, one member weighed the individual packages to make sure they could be distributed in even and proper amounts (so places don’t get twenty-five pounds of mayonnaise only).

Overall, it was a very satisfying experience to know that we could successfully put together such a large amount of food as a team in the span of a couple hours, and to know we could do our part to help the community.

Sam Speck

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 19, 2009 - Leave a Response

Let’s face it; 2009 has been a challenging year.  There seems to be more need than funds available and not much room for the creative new organizations The Community Foundation so looks forward to discovering and funding.  But, as I was going through the stories and the people that we’ve covered in our publications throughout 2009, I am reminded of our good fortune and of  the capabilities of organized philanthropy to make a difference.

In addition to our grantmaking and work with donors, the Foundation makes initiatives and projects to benefit the community a priority.  While not costly in dollars and cents, they do take staff time and talents to manage.  I’ve had the unique opportunity this year to work with ten agency directors in a capacity-building project this year, beginning with training, including peer mentoring, and concluding with a mini-grant of $5,000 to address needs identified throughout the process.  At the least, it has been a humbling experience to see such passion for a diversity of causes, from counseling to afterschool programs, re-creating neighborhoods to bringing business back downtown.  These directors work so hard with so few resources; many are one-person organizations and all have small budgets.  It is the Foundation’s hope that these ten dedicated people are both better equipped to manage their agencies and that they now have a network of nine other people to rely upon.

Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on our many blessings.  It is the time of year we cherish most here at The Community Foundation where we choose to send Thanksgiving greeting cards to our donors and friends rather than at Christmas.  It is only because of the support of the over 4,000 annual donors that we are able to make grants, take on special projects and truly make a difference in so many lives here in Lorain County.  This work continues regardless of the changes in the investment portfolio and forces us to be creative in utilizing our resources.

Working with Foundation Scholarships by Ramona Grigsby

July 28, 2009 - Leave a Response

Most people connect scholarships with June graduations. I wonder how many realize that a scholarship program is really year-round. It begins as soon as the previous year’s awards are made.

First, our application form is updated (hopefully adding new scholarships) and posted to various locations – such as the Community Foundation’s website, the Women’s Link Scholarship booklet at LCCC, high school guidance offices, FastWeb.com and other online search engines.

Next, in September dates for high school and college Financial Aid Nights are added to the calendar. Collaboration with the schools provides an opportunity for me to meet face to face with prospective applicants and their parents. Students’ questions are asked and answered quickly, and scholarships intended for certain high schools, colleges and fields of study are emphasized. A total of more than 700 CFLC applications are distributed directly to the students each year.

As our February 10th deadline approaches, an avalanche of calls and e-mails come in with last minute questions and concerns. At last, D-day arrives and we face the monumental task of entering data for each student. Ours is a common application form, with 32 scholarships to choose from. Most of our applicants request multiple scholarships. In 2009, this translated into more than 1,700 applications entered into our database.

Once data is entered, packets are prepared for our ten Selection Committees, who will likely review multiple scholarships. Conflicts of interest are examined to assure impartial selection of recipients. Our committee members are diligent and thorough, even when asked to review over 100 applications. Their participation is critical to our review process. Consensus is reached and committee recommendations are presented to our Board of Directors for final approval.

Students are notified of the results of their requests. They provide us with the name of their college of choice and we disburse their scholarship payment.

What I’ve not yet mentioned are the things that grab the heart. There are essays that tell a story of continued determination to overcome obstacles like learning disabilities, family trauma, or death of a parent. There are calls from Guidance Counselors describing home situations threatening to derail a student’s chance of finishing high school or going to college. There are thank-you notes from students – and parents – expressing deep and heartfelt gratitude for making college achievable. It’s all made possible because of generous donors, selfless committee volunteers, and supportive Foundation staff. I love my job!

Closing Reflections on the Youth Fund Experience by Rebecca Temerario

June 30, 2009 - Leave a Response

The four years I’ve spent as a member of the Youth Fund Advisory Committee have been nothing short of life-changing. The Youth Fund, which is an affiliate fund of the Community Foundation of Lorain County, has allowed me to grow into myself as an individual, leader, community member, and philanthropist. Serving on the Youth Fund has given me a voice.

I came to the Youth Fund as a Freshman at Clearview High School. Although I was one of the youngest members of the group, I quickly discovered that the single Sunday per month I would spend surrounded by twenty peers from other Lorain County high schools would become one of the most refreshing and engaging ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. At our meetings, the Youth Fund addressed issues affecting local youth, world poverty and starvation, and service learning in the classroom. Additionally, the Youth Fund visited many area landmarks and locales such as Second Harvest Food Bank, The Lorain County Disaster Management Headquarters, The Lorain Lighthouse, Common Ground, and Wesleyan Village. At these site visits, Youth Fund members gained a knowledge of the history of Lorain County, learned team-building skills, and assisted those in need.

Grantmaking is central to the Youth Fund’s existence; I have been honored to discover so many area teachers who promote not only learning in the classroom, but community service as well. Through our grants, I have been able to see wonderful projects grow in Lorain County, whether it be a school garden, blankets for the needy, or Wesleyan Village’s Second Wind Dreams project (where residents dreams have been fulfilled, dreams such as flying a helicopter or seeing a Cleveland Indians baseball game).

Additionally, the Youth Fund has granted me some personal, intangible gifts, that I have seen flourish within myself. As a Freshman and first-year member of the Fund, I was sent to the Michigan Community Foundations’ Youth Project, where I met other Youth Fund Advisory Committees, participated in community service projects, and learned how to start solving pressing national issues, such as challenging literacy tests, water treatment, and proper media advertising. Most importantly, however, I discovered several friends who also shared my passion for influencing the world; I am still friends with the three other girls I met that year, and have plans to visit all of them this fall!

As I gained my footing in the Youth Fund, I was given a voice by being elected as Secretary in my Junior year and as President in my Senior year. I was honored to receive these positions and loved being able to encourage new members to develop to their full potential. As President, I was able to represent the Youth Fund at the Ohio Grantmakers Forum through a recorded interview and become a first-time youth seat on the Community Foundation Board, both opportunities which allowed me to be heard in an even broader community.

My four-year experience as a Youth Fund member has changed my life – and my community.

Rebecca Temerario

Volunteers Are Multiplying Our Grant Investments by Linda Weaver

June 12, 2009 - Leave a Response

Requests for grants are pouring in. Our due diligence includes reviewing the program design, goals, performance of past projects (outcomes), strength of the organization (financial statements, staff qualifications, board expertise), and diversification of sources of revenue including investment from community volunteers.   

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reports that more than 61 million people or 26.4 percent of our population volunteered for an organization last year.  While volunteerism is highest among those age 65 years and older, the largest change in hours volunteered was in the 20 to 24 year old group (one percent increase). The Independent Sector estimates the dollar value of volunteer time for 2008 was $20.25. (The Independent Sector is a forum of approximately 600 charitable and philanthropic leaders.)

Volunteer are important because foundations are becoming more selective about our grants. We want to support programs that are performance-based and organizations that people value. People will pay for the things they want, need and value. So we ask organizations, how much do they receive in monetary donations. Even if an organization serves the poor, it may still garner a great deal of community support beyond the population it serves, e.g., Second Harvest Food Bank and Harrison Cultural Community Centre.

Harrison Cultural Community Centre sits in an economically challenged neighborhood in Lorain. Some of you may remember it as Harrison Elementary School (1904 to 1972). Against all odds, a social worker and teacher purchased the abandoned building in 1992 without any funding from the foundations. They raised all the money from the community!  A few years ago, we gave Harrison Cultural Community Centre a 1 to 1 challenge grant (up to $10,000). Biweekly, they held bake sales, car washes, fish fry and chicken dinners, and brought me their receipts in boxes. Everyone was pitching in. The only paid staff are the childcare staff (based on licensing requirements by Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services). The executive director is not paid; but she always conducts herself professionally. The children are always polite and happy to be there. Recently, I asked the director if she would cancel summer camp because government funding for the summer programs had been eliminated. She said volunteers will make sure the children have summer camp! Children will still have a safe place to learn and have fun this summer. The volunteers will make sure it happens.

Making Dreams Come True by Linda Weaver

April 30, 2009 - Leave a Response

Making dreams come true

 

In December 2007, the Community Foundation made a modest grant to Wesleyan Village for “Second Wind Dreams.”  The dream fulfillment project served the elderly with limited resources. Today, I received their grant report and I wanted to share some of the dreams you made come true in 2008. (Names have been changed.)

 

Mary’s dream was returning to her home-based church in Lorain. Due to ill health and lack of family members, Mary had not returned to her church in almost 10 years. At church, the deacon recognized Mary for being a longtime member and Mary was able to visit with old friends that she hadn’t seen for years. As a treat, the aides took Mary out to lunch after Sunday services.

 

Two couples renewed their vows and celebrated their wedding anniversaries. One couple renewed their vows after 57 years and another couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Family and other residents were treated to music and refreshments.

 

25 residents wanted to see a Cleveland Indians game at Progressive Field. Life Care Ambulance provided the transportation, and the residents enjoyed the fresh air, hot dogs and the sounds of the stadium (even though the Indians lost).

 

Several residents wanted to see their adult children again, so transportation was arranged for family visits.

 

Leslie remembered watching the boats on Lake Erie with her late husband; and Irene just wanted to go out to a park again. Volunteers took Leslie and Irene to Lakeview Park and then out for ice cream.

 

It was mostly simple ordinary enjoyment of the daily freedom and acts of independence we overlook in our busy lives that the elderly longed to do. (3 persons always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon ride so they did; and landed many miles away!) No one asked for big sums of money, an outrageous toy or even for good health again. Each person dreamed of time with someone they loved, old friends, another walk in the park or ballgame, fresh air and sounds of life. In this current economic crisis, they reminded us again of what matters in life and what joys we still have every day. So we bought some gas, ice cream, refreshments and a few baseball tickets. I think those little things did more for these seniors’ health and wellbeing than a bagful of medications. In total, 39 dreams were granted last year; thanks to your generosity and compassion.

 

A little known fact: many years ago, teenage members of our Youth Fund volunteered with the Second Winds Dreams project. The teenagers said it was the most meaningful volunteer experience they ever had. The Youth Fund shared this experience with hundreds of other teenagers in an annual youth conference in Michigan, and their project was voted The Best Youth Fund Project. Kids of all ages surprise me every day.

 

Please go out and play today; or go wash your car in the rain!

Day 4 at Cuyahoga Valley National Park by Keri Sugerik

March 13, 2009 - Leave a Response

cuyahogavalleypark-0251

Day 4                 

 

We woke up a bit earlier this morning and got everything packed up for the buses.  They were to arrive and load the luggage while we were at class.  After breakfast we had our last class of the week.  Everyone got to talk about their favorite part of their time at the Park, and the students wrote letters to themselves to be mailed to them in about a month.  We took a brief hike (which I found to be really wonderful, by the way) and then the kids had a little bit of time to play in the snow.   We assembled as a full group at the campfire circle and had closing time.  The staff thanked everyone who came, recognition was given to staff and chaperones, and then it was, of course, time to break out into song once again.  Lunch was pizza, and then we all climbed into our cars or buses and headed for home. 

 

I would have to say that I had camp experiences as a kid, and this took me back.  I am very aware that many of the students who went would not have learned corny camp songs, tracked their food waste, hiked (and hiked and hiked) in the woods, and learned about the ecology of the area where they live without this opportunity.  I watched their faces, how their eyes glowed with excitement, with awe, with pride, and knew that this experience would stay with them forever.  

         

 

 

 

 

Day 3 at Cuyahoga Valley National Park by Keri Sugerik

March 6, 2009 - Leave a Response
Students enjoying the winter experience

Students enjoying the winter experience

Day 3

 

In the morning after breakfast, we went to the class “Journey to the River.”  Keith was once again our instructor and he started the class by asking the kids to take a piece of paper that had part of a river on it and part land.  The students were told to pick something from another pile of papers they’d like to put on that land, with examples being a mall, a canoe livery, wetlands, a national park, and a movie theater.  The students then put all the pieces together to form the Cuyahoga River.   As they added a piece, they talked about the impact their choice would have on the rest of the river as it flowed downstream.  Many of them exclaimed that they’d like to change their choices!  After that exercise, we climbed aboard a bus and went into downtown Peninsula to test the water at the Cuyahoga by the canals and towpath.  We talked about different pollutants and were told that we were to test for three things: dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and sulfites in the water.  After our test results, we were to give each a grade.  Unfortunately the water failed or received a D for each test.  The oxygen levels were low, the turbidity, or how much you could see through the water (was it clear?) was low, and the sulfites were not the correct levels.  We talked about the reasons this could be, and had a lively discussion on how things could improve.  We also learned a bit about the canal’s history and got to walk into a lock area that was no longer in use.  After our water testing we headed back to the Center for lunch.

 

The afternoon’s class was held in the November Lodge, and eco-friendly building on site.  The first order of business was a scavenger hunt throughout the building to help the students learn about eco-friendly buildings and also the characteristics of this particular building.  They learned about wind turbines, solar panels, carpeting made of recycled plastic bottles, and manufactured wetlands, to name a few.  After the scavenger hunt, the instructor (Erin again) gave the kids lots of paper, cardboard boxes, straws, etc. and they were given the challenge of creating their own eco-friendly building.  They could choose form a home, a mall, a theme park, and restaurant.  Our group of kids chose a home, with a rain barrel, recycling, antique furniture, solar panels and a wind turbine.  Apparently they were planning on using LOTS of energy! 

 

After dinner, the each of the different groups, who had all gone through the “Ecoplace” class at some point during the week, were charged with presenting their project to the other groups.  It was really amazing to see what they came up with for an eco-friendly building.  There were all of the types of buildings represented: restaurant, water park, home, and mall.  I was truly impressed. After the presentations, there was a slideshow of the pictures the kids had taken throughout the week with camp digital cameras.  Adam, one of the staff people, told a story and then the students got to choose a couple of their favorite sill songs from the week.  Afterwards, we all went back to our dorms to prepare for talent night.  Talent night was something I was not aware of when I signed up for this gig.  The girls had obviously given much thought to their talents, and it was a great time.  We got to see gymnastics, dancing, and many girls chose to put their own spin on the camp songs we had learned.  THEN the girls wanted the adults to do something.  Most used the distraction technique, but I figured, what the heck?  I did a marvelous lip synch rendition of Weird Al Yankovich’s “White and Nerdy,” complete with my own very white, very nerdy, dance moves.  I am happy to say that no cameras were present.  At least I hope not. 

Day 2 at Cuyahoga Valley National Park by Keri Sugerik

February 26, 2009 - Leave a Response

I cannot believe how sore my muscles were in the morning!  My only saving grace was that the showers had nice hot water I could soak in, and by the end of 10 minutes, I was feeling pretty good.  The breakfast was warm and hearty and everyone seemed pretty awake by the end of it.  Our first class was adapted to the indoors, as the temperatures were dangerously cold. Although the entire 2-3 hours was usually outside, Heather, a park ranger for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, decided that a few short jaunts of about a half hour would be more appropriate.  The class was called “Watershed Stories” and concentrated on the history of the earth on this spot.  Time periods were divided by “chapters,” beginning with the earth being covered by volcanic activity and the forming of igneous rock.  Students saw examples of igneous rock, and talked about how it was formed.  The next chapter dealt with sedimentary rock and the earth looking like a shallow ocean.  Next was metamorphic rock and the earth containing lots of plant life.  The next four chapters introduced man into the picture, first with crude tools, then forming settlements and finally industrialization.  It was a terrific lesson, covering geology, earth science, and ecology.   

 

After lunch the staff went over the schedule for the rest of the day.  This was true of each meal.  The kids always knew where they were going and when.  Communication was outstanding.  After announcements, they always had a camp song of some kind to “aid in digestion.”  They were all catchy and the kids were singing them as we walked from one class to another the whole week.       

 

The class after lunch was called “Roles and Residences.”  Our staff instructor, Stephanie, talked about the “chain of energy:” the sun sends energy to the earth, which is consumed by the plants (producer).  Herbivores (primary consumers) eat the plants, and carnivores (secondary consumers) eat the herbivores.  Decomposers live off of the dead materials, and a bit of energy is left over and given off as heat energy.    The kids used playacting and specific examples to learn about this chain.   In one of the examples, the kids traced their favorite food back through the consumers and producers.  They really seemed to get it once they had a reference they knew.

 

I was given some time off for the evening after dinner, and went and read a book for a bit.  I must confess that I also took out the TV and watched the evening news.  I can’t believe how disconnected I felt after just one day!  Maybe it’s time for more hikes at home…nah.

The students did a program called Arts in the Park, and were able to sign up for drama, music and movement, writing, musical instruments, and I think poetry.  They all worked on a skit or musical performance or wrote something about the watershed.  After time to practice, they performed what they had worked on.  I was seriously disappointed that I had taken my time off when I did after hearing about it.  Why didn’t I think to ask when the next hike was and take that time instead????  After sharing the various things they did, the girls set about getting ready for bed, and it got quiet pretty quickly.  I think we were all more than a little tired.

 

Devin and Classmate share what they've learned

Devin and Classmate share what they've learned

 

 

 

 

 

Trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park by Keri Sugerik

February 20, 2009 - Leave a Response

Day 1:

I was at the school early and helped kids struggling with their big suitcases to take them to the gym for storage until the buses got here.  There were three schools involved, and we were second on the pick-up list.  In an extraordinarily calm and orderly fashion, the kids got their belongings and boarded the bus once it arrived.  I had decided to drive on my own in case I had to leave early, so I followed the caravan to our last stop, Longfellow School.  Once we picked up the last of our group, we were on our way to Peninsula.  The drive was pleasant, about an hour, and it was the last quiet, reflective time I would have by myself for the next four days.

 

Upon our arrival, we unloaded the buses to our respective dormitories; girls in one and boys in another.  We had about an hour where the kids were given an orientation with staff, and the adults were also given their own orientation.  We were given a list of all the things we would need for the week and a schedule of events.  There were 5 groups that the kids were divided into and one to two adults were assigned to those groups.  I was assigned with another mom to a group of 10 kids, and after orientation we set out to the dining hall to meet them.  Lunch was already underway when we got there and we were soon into full swing of the camp experience.  At each meal, the kids scrape any food waste into a bucket, and also pour any liquid waste into another, and the amounts are weighed.  They really seemed amazed that there was a tangible amount of waste that they made every meal.  I doubt many of them had ever thought about what happened to the food they left on their plates after eating before. 

 

After lunch, we met with our first instructor, Erin, who taught us about the watershed, and how all water, including rain and snow, runs downhill and eventually ends up in Lake Erie.  She brought out a topographical map of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the kids got to see the different terrain of the area as well as a better understanding of the whole watershed concept.  It was very obvious how the water would go from the higher parts to the small creeks and then to the Cuyahoga River within the park. She then decided that the best way to see this topography was to experience it first–hand, leading to the first of many hikes we went on throughout our stay.  I would like to say that she took it easy on us, but sadly, I cannot.  As a city-dweller, I can count the number of hikes I have taken in the woods in the past 20 years on one hand.  Add a hike in 12-18 inches of snow in the woods, and, well, this was the first one in a very, very long time.   The paths were clearly marked and had obviously been walked recently judging by the packed-down snow, but they seemed to go on and on.  They also, strangely, seemed to only go uphill.  I knew that what goes up must come down, so as I huffed and puffed through a 40 minute hike, I kept telling myself that whatever I was doing was nothing in comparison to those poor souls on “The Biggest Loser” on TV.  Small consolation.  We all made it and had a chance to see some terrific views of nature.  When the class ended at 4pm, we had some free time until supper, and one of the teachers brought out a small TV to watch the inauguration of President Obama, noting that TV was usually never an option while at camp, but the inauguration was a part of history, and it would be OK just this once.  I was grateful to sit and allow my quivering muscles to take a rest, sure that the last part of the day would be less taxing.  Ha.

 

After 5pm dinner, the staff announced that we would be taking a night hike through the woods to see if we could hear the sounds of the animals and birds indigenous to this area.   We had a chance to hear some recordings to help us learn what to listen for, and then we were off.  Our staff person for the evening was Keith, and he had all kinds of great things planned.  All of them involved hiking and snow.  Sigh.  We began with a great adaptation of “Tag” called “Firefly,” where one kid would get a small flashlight while standing in a circle with all eyes closed.  Then everyone would fan out in the snow and when he gave the signal, the person with the flashlight was to blink it on and off quickly.  The others were to try to see the flicker and catch the “firefly.”   They enjoyed running around with that for well over a half an hour.  We were then asked to participate in a Seton hike, named after a man who believed that the best way to experience nature was to be by one’s self and completely silent.  Keith started out on the trail, and each child followed in about 30 second staggered increments.  We had a few kids who were bit creeped out by this, so the chaperones each had someone to walk with.  The pace was much more leisurely so my muscles weren’t quite so miffed at me by the end.   We got to hear some coyote calling each other and a few birds.  After the walk was a campfire with stories, songs, and an apple for snack.  Quiet hours began at 8:30 and lights out was by 10.  We had a few homesick girls to comfort who had never been away from home.  I was told that this happens every year and was quite normal for this age.   The adults were mostly in bed by 11, having dealt with the usual flashlight tag, giggling, and note passing.

 

Keri and Devin enjoying the snow

Keri and Devin enjoying the snow