Meet the 2023 Giving Circle Finalists
Update made on October 18, 2023.
A roof over your head and a hot meal waiting for you, free fresh produce to take home, and access to free breast cancer screenings. This is a small glimpse into the impact that is made by the Giving Circle each year.
Nonprofits across Centre County have the opportunity to apply for the Giving Circle’s annual grant, with hopes that Giving Circle members will choose to fund their project. From museum programming to mental health resources, this group of local philanthropists has granted $220,000 since 2006 to support various programs across the county.
This year, the members have spoken and voted for three nonprofit finalists to pitch their projects at the Giving Circle Reception on October 17: Habitat for Humanity, Housing Transitions, and Centre County Youth Service Bureau. Get to know each nonprofit and its corresponding project below.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Centre County
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Centre County is embarking on building Pennsylvania’s first-ever 3D concrete printed home with its 3D Home Build Project. Habitat is teaming up with X-HAB 3D, a 3D printing company specializing in concrete, and Centre County Housing and Land Trust (CCHLT), to utilize new technology while still building an affordable and energy-efficient home.
Two years ago, members of Habitat’s team went to an information session hosted by X-HAB 3D. As they did more research on the company’s work, they found that other Habitat affiliates across the country have taken advantage of 3D printing technology and partnered with similar organizations. Habitat for Humanity International encourages its affiliates to innovate with a cautious approach to ensure a balance of courage, capacity, and risk awareness.
“Innovation should embody and support learning and continuous improvement fostering long-term solutions and ensuring sustainability,” said Stephanie Fost, Executive Director at Habitat for Humanity. “How can we do more in our community while staying within a reasonable budget? We also felt it critical to partner with an organization that has a vision that matches Habitat for Humanity.”
The inspiration for this project follows the organization’s mission of “partnering with working families and volunteers to build affordable, quality homes and to provide services that promote successful ownership.” Due to the increase in the cost of a single-family home in Centre County, many individuals who want to own a home in the area are unable to – even with an education, steady employment, and consistent bill paying.
“We always go back to our mission. Habitat works together with families, local communities, volunteers, and partners from around the world, so more people are able to live in affordable and safe homes,” said Stephanie.
Assisting families and individuals achieve a more independent lifestyle is at the core of Housing Transitions’ mission. In pursuit of this mission, Housing Transitions is committed to renovating all of the bathrooms at its shelter, Centre House. Its Family Bathroom Project will focus on renovating one of its family bathrooms, which will affect 25 families throughout the year.
It has been 25 years since the family bathroom at Centre House was renovated and the organization has noticed deterioration under the flooring, which affects the ceilings below. Alongside the necessary maintenance of the bathroom, the purpose of this project is to have a space for residents to store their belongings, feel well-cared for, and maintain good hygiene habits.
“We often have families with multiple children who all need to get ready and be out the door at the same time,” said Executive Director at Housing Transitions, Morgan Wasikonis. “We also may have a suite with four adults who are not related who would share one bathroom. It is important for the bathrooms to be easy to keep clean, and neat and for there to be storage to help organize.”
What’s so important to the team at Housing Transitions is to convey what people who are homeless experience on a daily basis and how they are affected when basic needs like food and shelter aren’t met.
“When people are experiencing homelessness, they are under a tremendous amount of stress and our programs try to help alleviate as much of it as possible so that they can focus on overcoming barriers to housing,” said Morgan. “Staying neat and clean for job interviews, or to maintain current employment is critical. It is also extremely important for children who are experiencing housing instability with their families to have access to good hygiene and be able to get to school on time.”
Centre County Youth Service Bureau
To help children facing adversity, Centre County Youth Service Bureau pairs adult mentors (also known as Bigs) with them through its Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Currently, at least 25 youth (also known as Littles) have been waiting for over two years to be matched with a mentor.
Centre County Youth Service Bureau is set to launch its We Need Bigs program, a targeted volunteer mentor recruitment campaign, so local youth can be connected with a Big as soon as possible.
“We consistently have more Littles waiting to be matched than Bigs,” shared Christine Bishop, CEO at Centre County Youth Service Bureau. “Our efforts have almost always focused on finding Bigs to mentor the Littles who are already waiting. We believe there are many more children and teens who would benefit from a mentor than the number currently on our list, and we’d love to be able to put the word out that we have increased capacity to serve more kids.”
One barrier for people becoming a Big is the perceived time commitment or that they don’t have the necessary experience with children.
“Once prospective volunteers learn more about the requirements and realize they can just invite their Little into their life and what they already do, it doesn’t seem as daunting,” said Christine. “Additionally, our matching process takes into account the interests and experiences each volunteer already has and connects them with a youth in the program that would be a good fit. Once matched, volunteers are thoroughly supported by their assigned case manager who provides coaching, training, resources, and encouragement.”
This campaign will allow Centre County Youth Service Bureau to dedicate its time to reaching out to prospects directly, speaking with local organizations, and displaying advertisements in local media. Utilizing these methods will allow them to find the right mentors to match with their Littles.
Giving Circle members voted for which one of these three organizations would receive the annual Giving Circle grant on October 17. Housing Transitions was selected as the main grant recipient and the recipient of a bonus grant provided by VIP Giving Circle members. In total, Housing Transitions received $15,000 to fund its Family Bathroom Project. Centre County Youth Service Bureau and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Centre County each received $4,000 towards their respective projects.
Giving Circle members made a large impact on these three organizations and the community members they serve. Every year, they have a new opportunity to give back to a different group of Centre County nonprofits. Interested in becoming a part of this local philanthropic movement? Join the Giving Circle and you can be a part of the Giving Circle next year!