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Hill philanthropists donate $25K to 9 area non-profits

POTTSTOWN — Nine nonprofits recently received funding for specific projects from the Student Philanthropy Council at The Hill School, a student-led organization.

The SPC was created to encourage students to learn about the value and processes of philanthropy; develop lifelong habits of volunteerism and “giving back;” and provide funds to nonprofits working to enhance the lives of Pottstown area residents.

The council was created in in 2008 through a generous gift to The Hill by the late Charles Frank III, Class of ’59, a former chairman of Hill’s board of trustees, and his wife, Elizabeth “Betty” Frank, of Florida, who was present for the presentation ceremony at the school May 10.

The 12 SPC members are selected through an application process that looks for students’ genuine interest in altruistic endeavors and in serving the community where The Hill School makes its home.

The annual SPC application and award process begins when a request for proposal is shared with area nonprofits. The Council meets several times to discuss submitted proposals and determine follow-up questions before visiting the nonprofit organizations or conducting interviews via Zoom with the administrators. Finally, council members meet with their two faculty advisors for what has become known as “The Great Debate,” where they discuss how best to distribute the years’ allocation of funds.

This year the group had a record number of applications – 19 – and were able to distribute a total of $25,000, with the gifts designated for a variety of causes ranging from food insecurity and literacy advocacy to historic preservation, education, and mental and physical wellness.

The following organizations received SPC grants from this year’s fund:

Berks Connections Pretrial Services and its Mothers’ and Fathers’ Voices Program: This program allows incarcerated parents to create videos showing them reading children’s books. Recordings then are shared with their children. In this way parents and children can maintain and enhance their connections and ease their transitions upon the inmates’ returns to their families.

• The Foundation for Pottstown Education and its new Student Grant Program: Students in each of the Pottstown School District’s six buildings — from the elementary schools through the high school — will work together with their teachers to create grant proposals for projects that will benefit their school. Eligible projects can be anything that enhance their school environment, touch as many children as possible; and fund items typically not funded by the school district.

Montgomery Child Advocacy Project: MCAP’s mission is to prevent and end child abuse. The SPC grant will support the organization’s recent purchase of a therapy dog named Nutmeg, who helps witnesses — especially traumatized children — remain composed and calm during often overwhelming court experiences. The funding will help provide food and veterinary services for Nutmeg so she can do her best work.

Mother Goose Read to Me: This relatively new program is dedicated to promoting early literacy among parents and their babies among  socioeconomically disadvantaged families in the Pottstown area. Mother Goose partners with other agencies to give free age-appropriate books to parents and encourage them to read to their infants and toddlers. As the Mother Goose representative noted, the families who benefit from this program simply do not have extra money to spare for books as they are worried about being able to pay rent, buy food, and meet other day-to-day needs.

Pottstown Farm & Artisan Regional Market: Pottstown FARM, our local seasonal farmer’s market, will use this grant to encourage good nutrition and help underserved families stretch their food budgets. SPC funds will allow FARM to fill bags with fresh, sustainable foods such as tomato sauces, jams, and honey, as well as some fresh vegetables and healthy recipes. Approximately 20 of these bags will be distributed to underserved families every other Saturday from May through October when the FARM market is held in downtown Pottstown.

Pottstown Historical Society: The SPC grant will allow Historical Society volunteers to rebind directories that date back more than 100 years. In addition, the Society will purchase archival-quality materials to protect other irreplaceable documents. As more people dive into family genealogy and new investment occurs in Pottstown, the value of well-preserved local history has never been greater.

Project Purpose: Project Purpose strives to provide low-income students with quality extra-curricular activities, with an emphasis on serving the students and families of Rolling Hills. Specifically, the SPC grant will help a STEAM curriculum club called Ignite, inspiring K through eighth grade students throughout the year with hands-on, scientific inquiry enrichment projects and field trips. Fifteen children will benefit through participation in Ignite with assistance from this SPC- funded grant.

• Schuylkill River Greenways: Receiving a partial grant, the SPC is helping to fund the Youth Watershed Education Program — a free program for youths ages 10-14. Participants from the Pottstown area will learn about environmental issues, conduct water quality-related testing, and enjoy guided paddling experiences on the Schuylkill River.

• Steel River Playhouse: Steel River depends on donations to help it create professional-grade entertainment that contributes to our region’s cultural life. Additionally, Steel River is committed to making arts education affordable to as many students as possible, regardless of their ability to pay. The Playhouse will use this SPC grant to provide youth scholarships to Summer Camp and Summer Intensive Production programs.

Betty Frank is the retired senior vice president of Lazard Freres Asset Management in New York City. She has served numerous community service organizations such as the Philadelphia regional YMCA, Visiting Nurse Association, Girls Scouts; the HOPE Program of Brooklyn, New York; and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey. She is a graduate of Vassar College.

During the award presentation assembly, SPC president Anna Carroll of Chester Springs, noted, “we will leave you with a final thought, a quote about philanthropy and giving, from Mother Theresa: ‘We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.’ We hope these grants will positively influence the ‘ocean’ of our greater community, and we hope the recipients will share their success stories with us.”

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