On Wednesday, Sept.11, members of Centre Foundation’s Giving Circle gathered at Above the Valley for their annual cocktail reception to hear presentations from three local organizations: Centre Safe, Housing Transitions, and Taproot Kitchen.

Each year, Giving Circle members pool their resources to create grants for local nonprofits. Due to an increase in memberships, the Giving Circle granted a total of $17,000, up from $15,000 in previous years.

After members’ votes were tallied, Centre Safe was awarded $11,000 to build an outdoor play area at the Centre County Child Access Center.

Centre Safe empowers survivors of sexual or domestic violence and works toward eliminating violence. Since 2008, the Centre County Child Access Center, a program of Centre Safe, has provided a safe place for custody exchanges and supervised visits for families with a history of violence.

Several families expressed interest in wanting to play outside during their visits; however, without a secure area, this was not possible.

“When I see my dad, we always make the best of our time together,” said one teenage boy in the program. “It’s nice, but we used to always spend our time together outside. That’s how I wish I could spend time with my dad again, playing catch and catching up. The outdoors makes me happy.”

Recognizing the need for a safe outdoor space, Centre Safe partnered with the Construction Trades Program at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology (CPI), which will design and implement the project free of charge, leaving only the materials needed as costs.

“I consider projects like these to be life changing for my class,” said Joe Luther, CPI Horticulture/Landscaping Teacher. “This project will give my students a chance to showcase their newly learned skill sets while giving back to the community.”

Anne Ard, Executive Director of Centre Safe, and Jamie Jones, Director of the Centre County Child Access Center, were on hand to accept the check from Giving Circle members.

“The generosity of this community is truly amazing,” said Ard. “This evening really shows just how much support there is for all of the community organizations here in Centre County.”

In June, organizations were encouraged to apply for the Giving Circle grant. From the 40 applications that were submitted, ten were selected to advance to the next round. Giving Circle members then voted on the top three finalists to present their proposals at the cocktail reception.

Thanks to the generosity of Giving Circle members, the runners-up each received $3,000 in grants, a $500 increase from previous years.

Housing Transitions, a nonprofit that provides housing programs and supportive services to those in need throughout Centre County, will use the grant to increase security at their homeless shelter, Centre House, by adding facial recognition cameras and remote door access.

Executive Director Morgan Wasikonis discussed the importance of added security to maintain a safe environment for both clients and Housing Transitions staff. Karl Gassmann, Development and Community Relations Coordinator, was also in attendance to share the project idea with Giving Circle members.

Taproot Kitchen, a catering venture that engages and employs people with intellectual disabilities, will use the grant to hire a part-time kitchen assistant to coordinate staff and volunteers, manage inventory, and maintain food safety and quality controls.

Co-Founder Sharon Schafer presented the idea to Giving Circle members – replete with images of vibrant food and smiling faces. Employee Sarah Pelchar, described as Taproot Kitchen’s “Star Baker,” along with volunteer MJ Kitt were on hand to answer questions from Giving Circle members.

Since the establishment of the Giving Circle in 2006 as part of Centre Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration, members have distributed $156,000 in grants, supporting important projects and organizations that serve Centre County.

Previous recipients of the Giving Circle grant include: ACRES Project, Interfaith Human Services, Park Forest Preschool, Centre Volunteers in Medicine, House of Care, Discovery Space, Housing Transitions, Strawberry Fields, and Centre Helps.

More information about the Giving Circle program is available here. Photos can be found on our Facebook page.

Centre Foundation’s mission is to inspire and facilitate a culture of giving to create a vibrant community.