Because of the Community Foundation’s very humble beginnings, there is a special place in the heart of the WCCF for small but improving charities. The President’s Choice Award, previously the Director’s Choice Award, was created to assist small charities in the manner the WCCF was helped in its earliest years by supporters who were willing to take a chance that a community foundation could be successful in Washington County.
For the first time since this award was initiated in 2008, the WCCF recognized the work of two nonprofits in the same year, the Highland Ridge Community Development Corporation and the Independence Conservancy. Each organization received a $10,000 unrestricted grant from the Acorn Fund.
The Highland Ridge Community Development Corporation seeks to improve the overall quality of life in the Highland Ridge community of Washington, long known as a blighted and high-crime area. Many had given up hope on this community, but the various initiatives of the group, including the Community Garden and Mending Fences program, are helping to return a sense of community to the area. The group has expanded its popular Mending Fences program to other parts of the city of Washington. Using donated labor and materials, augmented by financial contributions from area businesses, the Mending Fences program is improving the quality of life for low income families, senior citizens, veterans and others in the city of Washington. It also operates a Staying Green gardening and clean-up program in its endeavors to improve the educational, academic, social and economic climate of its community.
Besides praising its philanthropic works, WCCF President & CEO Betsie Trew said the Highland Ridge Community Development Corporation drew high marks for its forward thinking in agreeing to undergo an annual audit. “Such an audit is a valuable management tool for its leadership and is a first step in approaching institutional funding sources and securing larger gifts from individuals,” she said.
To be eligible for the Award, charities must have been in existence for at least three years, have an operating budget of no more than $250,000 and operate a program in any one of the areas supported by the Acorn Fund, which include Arts & Humanities, Education, Environment & Animal Welfare, Health & Fitness, Human Needs, and Religion or Faith-Based programs.
Applicants are evaluated on three criteria, improvement in the organization’s financial position over a period of time, quality of programming, and community impact.