Foundation Announces Latest Grants

The Alleghany Foundation continues to provide support to area organizations as they recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.

In its latest round of grants totaling $676,800, three grants — one to the Alleghany Highlands YMCA and two to the Historic Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation — are earmarked for COVID relief for operations and relief funding created by COVID-19 restrictions. Other grants support marketing and business initiatives brought to the forefront during the ongoing pandemic.

“The foundation’s recent grants have a strong, COVID-19-related theme across the board,” said Meade Snyder, chairman of The Alleghany Foundation Board of Directors. “Whether the funds provide relief to non-profits during these stressful times or take steps to open again post-pandemic, the grants acknowledge the challenges and resilience of our local leaders and their efforts.”

A grant of $180,000 to the YMCA helps relieve financial stress created by the pandemic. Based on cash flow projections, this impact is likely to magnify itself around March. The recent grant was divided into $100,000 for HVAC repairs, and $80,000 earmarked for cash flow needs.

“Like many other businesses across the nation, the YMCA has felt the effects of COVID-19 with reduced memberships and early learning revenue while many of our operational costs such as insurance and building expenses have remained fixed,” explained Jennifer Unroe, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands YMCA. “Nor has the pandemic spared our building air handling systems that have required costly repairs and replacement during these last few months.”

Unroe thanked YMCA patrons who have maintained their memberships during the pandemic, and she said she was looking forward to the return of other members after the health crisis has subsided.

“As a non-profit, the Y depends on community support to help fill the gap between user fees and the amount of funding needed to keep the doors open,” Unroe said. “Thankfully, The Alleghany Foundation is the leader in celebrating the value of the Y to the Alleghany Highlands community and has stepped up to the plate to assist with the Y’s capital maintenance expenses and COVID relief. This funding helps to ensure that the Y will be open as a resource to individuals and families that realize the significance of exercise to their long-term physical and mental well-being.”

The YMCA also received two other grants, one in the amount of $50,000 for its 2021 annual campaign match and another totaling $85,000 for YMCA Learning Centers transportation. This transportation grant will supplement the replacement of two of the YMCA Early Learning Program’s five vehicles with commercial 14-passenger buses.

The YMCA’s current fleet ranges from 13 to 20 years old, and buses are becoming increasingly costly to repair. It is expected that two more vehicles will need to be replaced in the near future.

During the school year, the YMCA transports about 50 preschool children and 15 school-age children per day.

“Though funding vehicle purchases is a low priority for the foundation,” commented Mary Fant Donnan, executive director of The Alleghany Foundation, “the YMCA was able to secure funding from USDA’s Rural Development Community Facilities Program that required matching funds. Making this grant helped ensure both that children could get to the important Early Learning Program, which the foundation sees as a critical component to school-readiness, and, at the same time, also support the USDA’s investment in this region.”

The Historic Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation was the recipient of two grants. A $75,000 award supported operational and relief funding created by COVID-19 restrictions during 2020, while $95,500 awarded in 2021 supports staffing operations during the ongoing pandemic.

Of this $95,500, approximately $89,500 is earmarked for support of staffing operations in 2021. This grant is made with the recognition that theatres were the first to close and are expected to be the last to reopen in response to COVID-19.

At the same time, the building needs to be maintained, and staff is critical to being able to develop programming looking to the future and in changing conditions.

A second part of this grant — approximately $6,000 — is targeted to explore new ways to use technology to engage community members through offering virtual activities such as storytelling or playwriting classes.

Gayle Hillert, the president of the Historic Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation Board, said the theatre has been forced to close its doors twice in its 116-year history, once in 1918 because of the Spanish flu and again in March 2020 because of COVID. During both instances, the community supported the theatre while closed, and when it reopened in 1918, crowds could not wait to get back inside to gather together.

“It has been almost a year since the theatre began hearing the words ‘COVID’ and ‘closure’,” Hillert said. “It has been almost a year that although the bills for utilities, maintenance, insurance, Internet, cleaning and sanitizing arrive regularly, we’ve had no revenues. We’ve lived month-by-month like other small businesses in this community with the exhaustion of uncertainty.”

Hillert added, “In addition to maintaining, repairing, training, fundraising and communicating, our two staff members and board have also been constantly planning for when we reopen. You can’t expect to recover from the risks and loss that COVID has presented unless you plan for it.”

Resilience is the key, Hillert said, adding that the grant from The Alleghany Foundation will help relieve some of the future uncertainty as theatre officials look forward toward reopening.

“The theatre is a precious and cherished asset to the community, and we plan to be ready to once again positively impact the community economically and educationally,” she said.

“I have heard it said that creativity is the vaccine against COVID,” Hillert concluded. “We strongly believe that creativity, music and gathering together will be the strategy to heal this community after COVID.”

The Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism received a $60,000 grant to support its Live Here/Work Anywhere Campaign.

This marketing initiative focuses on encouraging people to relocate to the Alleghany Highlands from more populated urban centers.

The way people live and work has changed dramatically due to the pandemic, said Teresa Hammond, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. Telework was already becoming more common due to technological advances, and these trends were rapidly accelerated by COVID. It is expected that many jobs which have been moved out of the office and into the home will remain that way even after the pandemic has ended. This new working environment has increased the interest of many in moving to areas with more outdoor recreational opportunities and less urban congestion.

“The pandemic has forced us all to relook at how we do business, how we enjoy our free time and what’s truly important,” Hammond said. “The Alleghany Highlands relocation project will focus on people looking for alternative places to live, work and play and encourage them to consider our region for the great outdoor amenities, low cost of living and safe, friendly, small-town atmosphere.”

Snyder echoed Hammond’s sentiments.

“There is a saying that wherever there is a challenge, there is also an opportunity,” he said. “During this pandemic, people have begun looking to move out of urban, more concentrated locations and have shown increased interest in rural areas.

“Economic development professionals talk about how important it is to see this field as recruiting people, and that is important to help reverse the declining population trends that put negative pressures on our tax base, available retail, etc,” Snyder concluded.

A $46,300 grant to The Advancement Foundation supports the Alleghany Highlands Gauntlet program for 2021.

New and existing businesses that participate in the Gauntlet program enjoy the opportunity to network with entrepreneurs across the region while gaining valuable insight from assigned mentors and exchanging business strategies through customer discovery sessions.

“The Gauntlet program is grateful for the opportunity to advance innovation and entrepreneurship across the Alleghany Highlands,” said Annette Patterson, president of The Advancement Foundation. “Through the support of The Alleghany Foundation, the program will work with a network of mentors and entrepreneurs to explore business development strategies and encourage innovation.”

Patterson said COVID has illustrated how critical local businesses are to the quality of life, tax revenues and jobs in areas like the Alleghany Highlands.

“The Alleghany Foundation’s commitment to ignite innovation and entrepreneurship through the Gauntlet program is stirring renewed hope for economic prosperity through business development,” she said. “The Alleghany Foundation is a catalyst that is inspiring business development from Main Street to early high growth ventures.”

Other grants awarded during this latest cycle include $40,000 to the Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts Center as annual fundraising match and $45,000 to the Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia for a college advisor at Covington High School and at Alleghany High School.

All of the latest grants fall under The Alleghany Foundation’s five focus areas — Economic Transformation, Community Capacity, Health and Wellness, Educational Attainment and Leadership and Civic Vitality.

For a complete list of grantees, visit the foundation’s website at

About the Alleghany Foundation: The Alleghany Foundation was established in 1995 in Covington 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 $57 million.

Grants Awarded September 2020 – February 2021

Alleghany Highlands Arts & Crafts Center
  • Annual Fundraising Match, Awarded $40,000
    (Economic Transformation)
Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism
  • Live Here/Work Anywhere Campaign, Awarded $60,000
    (Economic Transformation)
Alleghany Highlands YMCA
  • Emergency COVID Relief for Operations and Infrastructure, Awarded $180,000
    (Health & Wellness)
  • 2021 Annual Campaign Match, Awarded $50,000
    (Health & Wellness)
  • YMCA Learning Centers Transportation, Awarded $85,000
    (Educational Excellence)
Rectors & Visitors of the University of Virginia
  • High School College Advisers, Awarded 45,000
    (Educational Excellence)
The Advancement Foundation
  • Alleghany Highlands Gauntlet 2021, Awarded $46,300
    (Economic Transformation)
The Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation
  • Operational – Relief Funding Under COVID-19 Restrictions and Marketing Funds for Donations, Awarded $75,000
    (Economic Transformation)
  • Staffing Operations for 2021 Support During COVID-19, Awarded $95,500
    (Economic Transformation)

TOTAL GRANTS AWARDED                 $676,800