The Alleghany Foundation Awards $1.4 Million in Grants

The Alleghany Foundation continues to place great emphasis on educational initiatives, because foundation officials believe that a great education and great schools are important to our area’s children and to the community’s future economic vitality.

In its latest round of grants totaling $1,433,559, several projects are funded in the focus area of Educational Excellence. The Alleghany Foundation’s five focus areas include Economic Transformation, Community Capacity, Health and Wellness, Leadership and Civic Vitality, along with Educational Attainment.

“The Alleghany Foundation is pleased to work with our grant partners to improve the quality of life in the Alleghany Highlands,” said Dr. Sue Rollinson, president of The Alleghany Foundation Board of Directors. “The consolidation of the Covington and Alleghany County school divisions presents an opportunity to bring the best of our schools together.”

“We continue to support the STREAMin3 preschool curriculum for all local preschool programs at the YMCA, public schools and private preschools, and we appreciate the work our teachers have demonstrated with these high-quality approaches to early learning – especially with so much to juggle this past year during the pandemic.  ” Dr. Rollinson added. “Another grant helps complete the renovations of the Discovery Center in downtown Covington that will exhibit our deep industrial heritage. Grants to assist economic development and health/wellness round out our recent grant-making activity.”

One of these educational initiatives is a $100,000 grant to Alleghany County Public Schools for joint school consolidation planning. In the second phase of the process to build a joint school system for Alleghany County and the city of Covington, Alleghany County Public Schools – on behalf of the Joint School Services Committee – asked the foundation to help with funding two projects – funds for an experienced consolidation consultant at a cost of about $25,000 along with $75,000 earmarked for legal bills and expenses to finalize the merger.

The Joint School Services Committee has nearly exhausted a $400,000 allocation from the Virginia General Assembly. This appropriation was used to fund a fiscal analysis for both systems, a facilities study of all buildings, a transportation study and all the other legal costs associated with creating a plan that not only passed all four boards at the local level but also passed final reading with the Virginia Board of Education in January.

The two systems are scheduled to merge administratively on July 1, 2022, with students attending joint schools beginning in the 2023-24 academic year.

“The Alleghany Foundation’s commitment to great schools in the Alleghany Highlands has been demonstrated in its grant history to our two school systems, and this commitment continues with the upcoming transition for our schools and our community,” said Mary Fant Donnan, executive director of The Alleghany Foundation. “All changes raise questions, and consolidation is of interest to our dedicated educators and staff, our school leaders and families. Two grants are intended to help with that by, first, supporting someone who has been through these steps before to help with planning for implementation, and, second, a grant supporting someone to focus on communicating information to help ease some of the inevitable growing pains that come with change and build awareness of the great efforts already underway within our schools.”

Covington City Public Schools is partnering with Alleghany County Public Schools to hire a joint communications specialist whose main goal will be to champion the strategic plan of the consolidated school system, celebrate the successes of the school system and build relationships within the school system and the community.

This position, funded over three academic years through a grant of $313,543, will be essential to providing clear information about the consolidated school system and getting both school system staff and community stakeholders bought in to efforts to create great schools in the Alleghany Highlands.

Melinda Snead-Johnson, division superintendent and director of special education for Covington City Public Schools, said a communication specialist will enhance the efforts of both Covington and Alleghany County schools to showcase the educational programs in the community.

“The engagement of our families and other stakeholders by providing much-needed information in a timely fashion will be a focus of this new staff member,” Snead-Johnson explained. “As we continue to coordinate services prior to the merger, we wish to engage our students, families and community partners in meaningful conversations. The communication specialist will provide the gateway to those conversations and provide coordinated strategies for optimal success. We are grateful to The Alleghany Foundation for supporting this effort with the awarding of this grant.”

“I know the people of the Alleghany Highlands are so interested in supporting our schools and in learning more about them. I am quite grateful to have a communication specialist assisting us in helping make sure our full community has access to important information. This role will enhance efforts that are already present, help us share important insights and help us cooperate even more as we work together,” said Kim Halterman, superintendent of Alleghany County Public Schools.

Jacob Wright, the chairman of the Alleghany County School Board, concurred with Halterman’s assessment. “The future of school systems and information has changed so much in the past 30 years,” he said. “I can remember when my mother would be asked to use her calligraphy skills to write information that would be duplicated on a mimeograph and sent out to parents. Today, there is so much information that gets sent out to the parents, the community and students through all different types of platforms.” 

“We truly live in an Information Age. As a society we have come to expect information almost immediately, and we are now able to give up-to-the-minute grades, homework assignments and information regarding openings, closings and even global pandemics. As this Information Age progresses and our school systems progress, we need to adapt to be able to more clearly communicate,” Wright continued. “We feel the opportunity to have a communication specialist will not only give us the opportunity to better communicate with the community but also allow us an opportunity to better showcase more of our student’s and division’s accomplishments.”

This round of grants was not limited to merger-based learning components. The Alleghany Highlands YMCA was awarded a $103,544 grant to support the STREAMin3 educational initiative. STREAMin3 is the early childhood curriculum developed by the University of Virginia that has been implemented in the Alleghany Highlands over the past two years in 19 of the 20 area programs.

“Area early-learning teachers, as well as school administrators, have welcomed this curriculum,” said Alleghany Highlands YMCA CEO Jennifer Unroe. “It is considered a practical way to help teachers develop the best practices for teaching and age-appropriate child development.”

Also falling under the Educational Focus area is a $10,000 grant to Garth Newel Music Center for the continuation of its Allegheny Mountain String Project. Now in its 11th year, this musical education program provides access to a high-quality, developmental string program for individual lessons, small group ensembles and orchestra. It is the first and only comprehensive strings education program in the rural Allegheny Highlands of western Virginia.

While quality education remains a top priority for The Alleghany Foundation, several other grants were earmarked for development of facilities and maintenance projects.

“Whereas the pandemic has made programming difficult, on the positive side, organizations have been able to catch up on maintenance and developing facilities,” Donnan said.

The Alleghany Highlands Community Services Board Foundation received a $234,165 grant to replace the roof on its Moody Building in Clifton Forge. The Moody Building houses three valuable programs offering services to intellectually and developmentally disabled children and adults. These services include center-based and community-based day support as well as residential in-home services. These services are vital to the individuals with disabilities and their families that reside in the Alleghany Highlands.

A second grant was awarded to the Alleghany Highlands Community Services Board Foundation in the amount of $44,330 for two years to support its Adult Drug Treatment Program. Funding will cover the cost of two new part-time Recovery Transition Coaches. These new positions were created to support those who are in or will soon be completing substance abuse treatment, those who are incarcerated and preparing for release from jail and those who are part of the newly established Drug Court Program that was approved in May 2020.

“The Alleghany Highlands Community Services Board is very grateful to The Alleghany Foundation for its support of various grants to the CSB,” said Ingrid Barber, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Community Services Board. “For many years, state, local and federal funding has been limited to the public behavioral health system.”

“The Alleghany Foundation grants have allowed our CSB to be innovative in the community serving the drug court participants with educational, training and housing needs, and also supporting our developmental services area with capital upgrades for continuation of programmatic services,” Barber continued. “The success of our efforts in the community would not be possible without leveraging grants from The Alleghany Foundation.”

Additionally, the Alleghany Historical Society received a $95,195 grant for completion of renovations to the Alleghany Highlands Industrial Heritage and Technology Discovery Center, an idea developed out of an initiative identified in Vision 2025. This initiative envisioned a trail of historic attractions throughout the Highlands which would include the C&O Railway Heritage Center, the Historic Wrightsville Museum, the Alleghany Historical Society Museum at the restored Covington C&O Depot and a Center for Industrial Heritage & Technology Discovery.

With initial funding from The Alleghany Foundation and subsequent contributions and grants from other sources, the Discovery Center began its development in April 2016, in buildings owned by Rooklin Real Estate on N. Maple Avenue in Covington. Through a gift/purchase arrangement, the Alleghany Historical Society obtained this property, and after five years of demolition, repairs and reconstruction, the project is nearing completion.

“The COVID-19 pandemic had created additional challenges in efforts to raise sufficient funds to complete the renovations,” said Dr. Paul Linkenhoker, president of the Alleghany Historical Society who has spearheaded the project.  “The Alleghany Foundation provided a supplemental grant of $95,000 which will soon complete the construction phase of the project.”

Project volunteers have been collecting artifacts, documents, photographs, interviews and material during the entire period of renovations, Linkenhoker explained. Exhibits, displays, hands-on demonstrations and experiments have been and are being created to make the Discovery Center a reality. “Additional supplemental funding will be solicited to complete the exhibits and prepare the center for an opening in the near future,” Linkenhoker said.

An amended grant to the Alleghany Highlands YMCA in the amount of $55,682 is earmarked for parking lot lights, spa renovations and security enhancements. “This critical infrastructure work will make our campus safer for our members and guests,” Unroe said. “We are most appreciative of The Alleghany Foundation’s continued support of the YMCA.”

Other grants, the project name, focus area and dollar amounts include:

  • Blue Ridge Legal Services, civil legal assistance for low-income Alleghany Highlands residents, Community Capacity, $4,500.
  • Special Olympics Area 18, bus insurance and equipment storage, Health and Wellness, $7,900.
  • Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, incentives for relocation program, Economic Transformation, $30,000.
  • Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, operational funds and program support 2021-24, Economic Transformation, $434,700.

Regarding the support for the two grants to the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, Donnan commented, “The Chamber has stepped up to help with a range of COVID-19 relief efforts this year and to support small businesses and help our community.  At the same time, the organization has led efforts to promote safe outdoor events that offer healthy activities for local residents and attract participants from a broad area.  These grants provide funding to foster economic development by encouraging people to relocate to the area and by supporting ongoing efforts to develop tourism in the coming years.”

About The Alleghany Foundation: The Alleghany Foundation was established in 1995 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 residents.

The total annual awards from The Alleghany Foundation now add up to more than $60 million.

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Grants Awarded March through August 2021
(Focus Area Included In Parenthesis)

Alleghany County Public Schools

Joint School Consolidation Implementation – Awarded $100,000
(Educational Excellence)

Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce & Tourism

Incentives for Relocation Program – Awarded $30,000
(Economic Transformation)

Operational Funds & Program Support 2021-2024 – Awarded $434,700
(Economic Transformation)

Alleghany Highlands Community Services Board Foundation

Adult Drug Treatment Program – Awarded $44,330
(Health & Wellness)

Moody Building Roof Replacement Program – Awarded $234,165
(Health & Wellness)

Alleghany Highlands YMCA

STREAMin3 – Awarded $103,544
(Educational Excellence)

Emergency COVID Relief for Infrastructure – Awarded $55,682
(Health & Wellness)

Alleghany Historical Society

Alleghany Highlands Industrial Heritage & Technology Discovery Center Renovation Completion – Awarded $95,195
(Economic Transformation)

Blue Ridge Legal Services

Civil Legal Assistance for Low-income Alleghany Highland Residents – Awarded $4,500
(Community Capacity)

Covington City Public Schools

Joint Schools Communications Specialist – Awarded $313,543
(Educational Excellence)

Garth Newel Music Center

Allegheny Mountain String Project – Awarded $10,000
(Educational Excellence)

Special Olympics Area 18

Bus Insurance & Equipment Storage – Awarded $7,900
(Health & Wellness)

Total Grants Awarded $1,433,559