Your Community Foundation is 45!

 celebrating 45 years of giving in the finger lakes  

2017 marks the 45th Anniversary of your Community Foundation! We've got some exciting plans and events up our sleeves to help mark this milestone year. Beginning in February, the foundation will be publishing blogs written by friends near and dear to the Community Foundation.  Blogs have been written describing the work and contribution of the Community Foundation along with stories about their grants in action.  An Anniversary Gala will be held November 14th (the day before National Philanthropy Day, no less) at the Corning Museum of Glass. On the in-between months foundation staff will be surprising the community in various ways - keep your eyes peeled! 
It's going to be a great year of philanthropy!


Science Discovery Center

Lisa Mailto

Back in 2005, the Regional Science & Discovery Center decided to close its site and concentrate on delivering STEM education programs on an outreach basis only.  The Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes has been with us every step of the way supporting our Pre-K through 12th grade year-round programming. As you can imagine, it was a challenge to get our “name” out in the community without a physical location. Our business office is located in Corning and our educators are in Elmira. Thankfully, we have been able to enhance our presence in the region with various programs the Community Foundation has supported for several years. 

Our Mobile Laboratory, which travels throughout the Southern Tier delivering programs to 3rd-8th graders, is our “mobile marketing tool”.  A few years ago, with support from the Community Foundation, we decided to re-wrap the Lab. Now we have a cleaner and more distinctive outreach vehicle that you can’t miss when we are driving to the schools!  Whenever we are ready to write a grant proposal, Community Foundation staff members always have quickly answered our questions about foundation processes and procedures; this is extremely helpful in a competitive funding market. We are very grateful for the support the Community Foundation gives to our region and we look forward to continuing the partnership we established so many years ago.

Arnot Health

Hannah Smith

The Community Foundation of Elmira, Corning, and the Finger Lakes: Building Bridges to a Stronger Community

Staff in the Falck Cancer Center discuss with patients what they have learned using the iPad purchased with funds from the Community Foundation.

Staff in the Falck Cancer Center discuss with patients what they have learned using the iPad purchased with funds from the Community Foundation.

The Arnot Health System could not be more grateful for the generosity and compassion the Community Foundation has shown us over the years. The Community Foundation of Elmira, Corning, and the Finger Lakes is an incredible asset to our organization, and we are blessed to have them as a resource in our community.

As is the case with healthcare systems across the nation, ever growing industry demands and regulations have stretched our resources thinly. Despite this, the support of the Community Foundation has allowed us to continue to improve the services we provide our patients and strengthen the quality of our care.

Over the past year, the Community Foundation has afforded us the opportunity to renovate our Behavioral Science Unit and Acute Rehabilitation Unit. These changes have created a safer space for our patients to receive services and for our staff to come to work. In addition, Community Foundation funding has allowed us to deliver the Healthy Kitchens Program to individuals across our community. The Healthy Kitchens Program is an evidence-based program developed by Tulane University to educate individuals on how food can serve as a form of medicine. The program provides participants with the skills to shop for and prepare healthy meals on a budget, and to learn to see food as a healthy and delicious form of maintaining positive health outcomes. Each participant leaves the workshop with the recipes, utensils, and knowledge to continue to use the skills they learned during the workshop.

A meal prepared during a Healthy Kitchens Workshop

A meal prepared during a Healthy Kitchens Workshop

During previous funding cycles, Arnot has received funding for efforts across our system to improve the quality of the care provided to our patients. We have procured scales for patients to monitor their weight for indications of potentially dangerous fluid retention, chronic disease management software, iPads to deliver education to our cancer patients, and rehabilitation equipment, including early intervention equipment for preschoolers, who could prevent a lifetime of challenges by receiving treatment early.

In addition to this financial support, the Community Foundation offers professional development and capacity building opportunities that have helped our staff and our organization grow and develop. We have participated in workshops and trainings, such as the Failure Summit, that have served as great learning opportunities.

Staff utilize equipment in the Saint Joseph’s rehabilitation unit

Staff utilize equipment in the Saint Joseph’s rehabilitation unit

The Community Foundation also spearheads initiatives that bind people across our community together in an effort to address areas of need. One such initiative is the School Readiness Project. Arnot has been extremely fortunate to participate in this effort to prepare children to begin school. We continuously refer children to this program, and our staff have witnessed firsthand the growth and development of the children in this program, and the improved understanding among parents about what it takes for children to thrive as successful students and learners.

It is a challenging landscape for nonprofits across our community, and organizations are continuously being asked to do more and more with less and less. The Community Foundation has built a support system in our region that has allowed nonprofits not only to sustain operations during these trying times, but to thrive in the face of adversity. Thanks to the strong base that the Community Foundation of Elmira, Corning, and the Finger Lakes has built, organizations across our region can continue to improve and expand offerings available to those we serve.


Faith In Action

Dick Russell

When a small non-profit organization like ours looks for funding, it feels like we’re walking a tight-rope. The temptation is strong to look to the side and add or alter our services to qualify for some new, flavor of the day, niche funding. Another peril is becoming an organizational shape-shifter, trying to make our program fit into a box that wasn’t designed for it. Anyone familiar with the non-profit world can tell stories of “mission creep”, where a once thriving organization began following the money and in the process became nearly unrecognizable and of little value to those it was originally intended to serve. It turns out fine for a few, but terribly for many. Trying to be everything to everyone when obtaining program income might make for a better balance sheet in the short term, but can easily lead to organizational impotence as the roots grow wider instead of deeper. To be sure, there are valid reasons for every organization to evolve as we don’t want to become the nonprofit version of a video rental store. Recognizing how the services being provided today can be honed to meet the needs of tomorrow comes from careful planning and clear mission-focused thinking. The beauty of the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes is their holistic view of community life. When we submit an application for grant funds, we are confident that our program is evaluated according to its role in the overall health of the community organism. We are always treated as partners- friends even- working together with the Community Foundation and all the other organizations they partner with toward a healthy society in our little corner of the world. Thank you for all the ways you’ve helped this area over the past 45 years. Happy Anniversary, Community Foundation!

Rose's Youth Philanthropy

Susan Mason

When I think of the Community Foundation, I get a big smile on my face.  This organization will always have a warm spot in my heart for all the wonderful things it has done to help our family.  With the aid of an amazing staff, its creative programs, and the generous scholarship money our sons have received, I will always be grateful to the Community Foundation.

Our first introduction to the CF was when our second son applied for a scholarship there.  He received honorable mention and was awarded a monetary award.  With the high cost of college expenses, we were very happy with that additional help, as well as with the recognition he received for his hard work.

Two years later our third son, Ryan was asked by his guidance counselor to join a group through CF called RYP – Roses Youth Philanthropy.  We learned that this group was started from a generous donation by the family of S. Roberts Rose.  They set aside money with a dual purpose.  The funds would be donated to local youth organizations to help with their programs. But in addition, the entire process and decision making of how to distribute the funds would be done by high school students under the direction of a supervisor.  What an awesome and inventive idea!

Ryan joined the group as a junior. They initially started out just learning about grants, why they are important, the process of getting the specifications out to the youth organizations, and so much more.  As the year progressed, they put into action what they had learned.  The students received grant applications back from numerous organizations asking for varying amounts of money for a variety of programs.  Then the students gathered to discuss all the requests knowing they had a set amount of money to parcel out.  They previously interviewed each organization who had been awarded grant money the previous year and as a group reviewed how they had actually used their funds.  It was taken into consideration if they used all the grant money and how many youth it helped.  They learned the meaning of the phrase “to get the most bang for a buck” as they decided who should receive funds and how much they should receive.  In addition to the focus on the grant process, the RYP students also participated in volunteer activities such as sponsoring a family at Christmas and actually going out shopping for them, as well as sorting and packing food for the Food Bank.  The entire process was not only hugely educational, but also planted seeds in each of the students to think about philanthropy and its immediate effect on others in our community.  Hopefully this group is creating future philanthropists.

When our next son, Owen, was a sophomore he also joined RYP while his brother Ryan also continued with it as a senior.  Joining at a younger age was a greater advantage for Owen since during the first year of participation everything is new, and they are just learning about the grant process.  Owen was able to participate for two more years, as a junior and senior, already knowing the yearly cycle of events.

Owen had the opportunity in his senior year to apply his knowledge of the grant process for a project he was working on.  In order to compete for the Ernie Davis Memorial Scholarship, Owen created an exhibit with memorabilia and information on Ernie Davis which was displayed at the airport.  Realizing the airport did not have the display cases he needed to showcase the items he had collected, Owen wrote a grant application to the Board of Directors at the airport to request funds to purchase the cases.  From his knowledge from RYP, he knew how to research and be very specific about his needs, the potential costs, assembly, timeline, etc. in writing his application.  Without his RYP experience, it would have been a daunting task.  But he tackled the application, and it was approved by the airport.

Ryan has also seen long lasting benefits from participating in RYP.  As he studies Economics in college, he already has first hand experience in how non-profits work and how their funding is dependent on donations.

Aside from RYP, as seniors, both Ryan and Owen applied for every CF scholarship for which they qualified.  The process was even easier for Owen as it had become an online application by then.  The single general application automatically qualified them for numerous scholarships.  They both also applied for almost a dozen other scholarships administered by the CF, for which they had to submit additional essays.  It was definitely worth it as they were each successful in receiving numerous awards.  Both of them continue to receive scholarship money through the CF each year they are in college.  As a parent with four children in college I can't express how truly beneficial that financial support continues to be to our family.

Throughout all our interactions with the CF, one of the most impressive benefits was dealing with the remarkable staff.  Both Sara Palmer and Katie McConville were so sweet and patient dealing with the groups of teenagers in the RYP group.  Their communications with our sons and with us were prompt, clear, and caring.  They devoted so much time to the group and went above and beyond to make this a successful program.  Nancy VanFleet was always courteous and helpful when we had questions about the scholarship applications and later about the scholarship funds.  She even came to the high school to help all the students set up their online accounts and start their scholarship applications.  The business manager, John, was also very helpful in processing the checks timely so the tuition payments were not late.  You just couldn't ask for better people to work with.

So I would like to congratulate the Community Foundation for a wonderful 45 year anniversary, and am excited to think of all the people like me and my family who will benefit from their programs in the future!

Tri-Cities Opera's Opera-Go-Round

Karin Phillips

Tri-Cities Opera’s Opera-Go-Round program packs the essential components of a major opera production into a big, traveling van and transports the magic throughout our local region, stopping at schools in diverse neighborhoods to deliver our product. Think of us like an ice cream truck, offering cultural confections…but with much better music!

Opera-Go-Round pairs our Resident Artists, talented young singers chosen through a competitive selection process, with area schools in a cooperative learning process. Our singers acquire advanced skills in professional performance while acquainting children with a unique art form and the thrill of live theater. In the words of the principal of one of our local elementary schools: “I love seeing the kids’ faces during the performance – spellbound.”  For some children, this represents a singular opportunity to experience live performance art.

This season our children’s opera is a junior version of our successful mainstage production of Hansel and Gretel. With mezzo-soprano Mary Beth Nelson as Hansel and tenor Jordan Schreiner playing the witch, teacher feedback indicates that our show has sparked lively (and timely) classroom discussion about gender stereotypes and defying societal expectations.

When Hansel and Gretel are missing their father, baritone Scott Purcell, and the forest becomes dark and terrifying, students learn that, in addition to their own ingenuity, they can rely on benevolent forces working tirelessly behind the scenes to help them, forces like the Sandman, the Dew Fairy and the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes.

At the end of each performance children have an opportunity to speak with the performers.  They want to know how long it took our Musical Associate John Elam to be able to make the piano “sound like that!”  They relish a hug from soprano Stacey Geyer, still dressed as Gretel. Our Resident Artists describe these moments, imbued with the possibility of real influence, as their favorite part of the job.  

When we approach a foundation to request funding, sometimes we pause. We wrestle with the notion that purely practical needs outweigh the delivery of our performance art and that there are other causes more deserving. But then we remind ourselves that art is what takes the house where the laundry is washed, the one that the firefighters protect, and transforms it… into gingerbread!

We are so grateful to the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes whose generous support has allowed us to reach thousands of children. Thank you for sharing our belief that Opera-Go-Round helps to create a life-long connection to the rewarding wonder and healthy escape of live artistic expression.  Put simply, in the words of renowned soprano Renee Fleming, “Opera is really fun!”

St. Mary's / Cantata Singers

Susan Nagle

I am writing on behalf of two organizations, St. Mary Our Mother School in Horseheads and The Cantata Singers, both which are greatly affected by the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes.

Because of the generous support of the Community Foundation, the school where I teach was able to replace an old wooden playground that was becoming less safe and causing injurious splinters, with a newer, safer, stronger and more exciting playground for the use of our schoolchildren as well as the entire community.  This playground is open to all and is heavily used throughout the week and on weekends. Significant fundraising and donated labor went into this project and the Community Foundation was an important part of what made it possible. We, and all the children who use the playground, are forever thankful!

As a member of a local community choral group, The Cantata Singers, the Community Foundation helps us immensely to deliver three free concerts each season to our community.  Because of organizations like the Community Foundation we have been able to effectively program works of great classical and contemporary composers and bring cultural enrichment to our community through exposure to quality choral music. Because our concerts are free and open to the public, it is possible for anyone in the community to have access to fine arts through live performance of great music. Their funds help us purchase music, pay professional musicians, cover the cost of marketing, and so much more.  We are extremely grateful and feel so fortunate to have the Community Foundation as our neighbor. This Foundation is truly an asset to our community!  Happy 45th Anniversary and may you enjoy many more years of generosity towards our community!

Arnot Art Museum

Rick Pirozzolo

“Thanks! I’ve waited my whole life to come here!”

Those are the words of a breathless Elmira third-grader as his class completed a tour experience at the Museum. Jacob had been the last one off the bus on arrival, and his teacher’s expression told a story of frustration and trepidation at the prospect of an hour of formal, hands-off curriculum. Several minutes in, though, he was a different person. His broad smile and wide eyes betrayed a new fascination, and his demeanor demonstrated self-control and leadership. It was remarkable, and it happens often here on Lake Street. Jacob, like all Elmira City School District students, continued to visit “his” Museum throughout his academic career—by the time they graduate, EHS students will have at least four Arnot Art Museum experiences—and these programs are made possible with the assistance of our Community Foundation. Step in on nearly any school day and you’ll see a classroom or two, sprawled on the gallery floors or creating their own works of art. Our Education programs change lives, and the Foundation shares credit for that positive change. 

“You mean we’re allowed to go inside that place?”

That’s the surprising response one of our Trustees received when he invited a business associate for a tour of the Museum several years ago. It’s a challenge, presenting a world-renowned art collection hidden behind a 180-year-old historic building’s daunting façade of imposing columns, few windows and a heavy door. When we identified the need for a more welcoming brand image, the Community Foundation rose to that challenge by funding new signage and an updated website. Gone is the confusing antique lawn monument, replaced by a contemporary sign that glows its welcome. Our new web presence holds a lush menu of information and enrichment, encouraging in-person visits and presenting the world of the Museum online. That’s all thanks in part to the Foundation.

“One hundred years is a major milestone. How will we commemorate it?”

That is a question we asked ourselves as we planned the Museum’s centennial celebration in 2013. It was a significant historical marker; it merits vibrant commemoration. Once again, a partnership with the Community Foundation is making that possible. We are hard at work on a major new Collections Catalog—the publication which will be the Museum’s principal calling card and resource for years to come, and (you guessed it) it is being funded by the Foundation. It will be available to the world after the New Year, and it will be a celebration of the Museum’s treasures: the artworks, the people, the building, and the partners who have helped make over one hundred years of creative, collaborative success.

“The wave is not separate from the water, and there are no waves in small ponds.”

The Arnot Art Museum was recently honored with the Foundation’s Wavemaker Award. Poet Kaye Newbury, in presenting the award with those words, acknowledged the two institutions’ nearly four decades of partnership. We’re so proud to be associated with the Foundation, and we send our best wishes on its fortieth anniversary. Newbury said it about the Museum, but it’s true about the Foundation too: “it’s a big wave that carries all of us to fantastic places we would never see or know otherwise.”

Congratulations, Community Foundation, on forty years of carrying us off to challenging, exciting, hopeful places. We’re thrilled to travel with you.

ARTS Council

Chris Walters

Over the last two years, the Steele Memorial Library in Elmira, NY has partnered with Aleta Yarrow on a series of 11 art workshops that cover a wide variety of topics such as printmaking, color theory, clay-making, and more. Grant funding covers all of Aleta’s artist fees to design and implement the programming, while the library contributes all supplies. Focused on adult learners, the workshops are open to all and free of charge, and with an average of 25 participants for each workshop, the library has successfully filled every workshop to capacity.

These grant funded workshops fulfill a vital mission of The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes in making the arts accessible to all, and none of this would be possible without the support and wisdom of the Community Foundation.

My name is Chris Walters and I work as the Grants Manager & Gallery Curator for The ARTS Council and it’s in this capacity that I’ve gained first-hand knowledge of the Community Foundation’s importance to our region.

As the arts and cultural advocate for the Southern Finger Lakes, The ARTS Council has worked for over four decades to enhance the quality of life of our community through the direct and indirect support of the arts in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, and Tioga counties. Central to our mission of making art accessible to all, we administer a number of grant programs that support artists and organizations in this endeavor.

What began as a simple conversation has grown into two flourishing grant programs that support the work of artists and organizations to better their communities and themselves. The ARTS Council recognized this need and the Community Foundation acted with a thoughtful and measured response. The vision and flexibility on display were astounding. To not become entrenched in the bureaucracy that so often defines our funding sources, their action speaks volumes to their capacity and creativity for finding solutions to issues and needs that face our local community.

The first grant created, QuickARTS, supports short-term community focused arts and cultural activities that advance access to arts and culture in Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben counties. The second grant, Artist Development, advances the professionalism of artists from Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben counties as they pursue career development opportunities that significantly benefit their work as professional artists. These grants are vital to nourishing and enhancing the work of our region’s artists and arts organizations.

Since 2008, we’ve granted nearly $100,000 in funding for these two programs. From free art workshops in downtown Elmira to helping send a Chemung county artist to a residency in Washington state, these grants have made a true difference in the lives of our local citizens and I am continuously impressed and in awe of the desire and capacity of our grant recipients to strengthen the artistic and cultural foundation of our community. In short, they represent the very best of this region.

I’m not originally from this area, but I couldn’t be prouder to now call this region my home and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in the work I do here. It’s wonderful to have played some small part in the Community Foundation’s 45 year history of making our region a better and more just place to live in and that they’ve chosen to make an investment in the arts and culture of our region that will pay dividends for years to come.

As evidenced by their mission statement, the Community Foundation firmly believes in Margaret Mead’s mantra that we should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world”. We’re happy they’ve included us in this grand campaign.

Thank you Community Foundation for supporting area artists and organizations who strive to make a difference, one grant at a time.


Institute of Human Services

Joy Williams

The first grant that I wrote wasn't to the Community Foundation.

It was the early nineties and I was a new hire at Steuben County's domestic violence shelter, the Net (part of Arbor Housing and Development today). One of the two washing machines in the place at the time broke, beyond repair, and well beyond the meager equipment budget line for the year.

Those washers went practically 'round the clock. This was a problem.

Karen, the program director, asked me if I'd write to a family foundation she'd heard about for money for a new one. This little narrative is not about me, so I'll skip ahead and say that we got the grant (expedited, even!) and bought the new washer. In the way that it goes with nonprofits, where even a single success implies general expertise, I got asked to write another grant, then another (and so on, becoming my career now for twenty-five years).

One of those next grants *was* to the Community Foundation. But I also got invited to be a part of the grant review panels of community members that the Foundation uses, then and now, to help read and rank applications. That's what this post is about -- those panels, on several of which I participated, then and after.

Those panels were like a window into the community. Yes, I learned much about writing grants by seeing example after example of them, and the types of information and styles of presentation that most moved the other reviewers. But on those panels I also learned more about our whole part of the Southern Tier.

Because on those panels were bankers, secretaries, school administrators, ministers. There were other nonprofit workers like me, too, but these were staff from nature centers, art galleries, services for the physically disabled. I got to see how the Community Foundation made a space for everyone, and -- most importantly -- how the ideas from one application from one agency could dovetail to include the activities proposed in another. Not all the time, not every grant, but enough to show how nonprofits weave a web of services and supports, initiatives and experiments, into a real community.

And my gosh, the things I learned about our community, through those grant panels and their grants. Even slavish devotion to reading the Leader and the Star-Gazette would mean months of study to come by these stories: the Civil War-era house being preserved; the horse-riding program that took people with autism or developmental disabilities both out of and into their bodies; groups teaching reading to children and other groups teaching the same to adults; the mobile science lab, bringing laboratory experiences right to your neighborhood... I do a disservice by not naming them all, or not remembering the names of the agencies behind the programs. Could all of these places and people inhabit this corner of the state?

Conversely, it was no surprise when, just a few years later, the Community Foundation used a large bequest to bring together schools, nonprofits, county services, and businesses together through the School Readiness Project. That large-scale initiative was the natural outgrowth of the kinds of collaborations that the Community Foundation had been encouraging all along - and that it continues to support, now, through programs and trainings as well as through its funding streams -- because the Community Foundation straddles so many sectors, so many divisions real and imaginary that separate us from each other.

The Community Foundation would be memorable if it were just for the much-needed money that it infuses to nonprofits, and it would be valued if it were simply a place that promoted the under-the-radar goings-on of the fantastic nonprofits that serve all areas of our community. It would be important if it simply offered scholarships to our students, or seminars to encourage women or to celebrate the lessons brought us by our failures (a genius idea that I have still been too embarrassed to contribute to!). Or the staff -- it would be so good to go on about the staff, who are among the most dedicated in the field. I mean, really, the low turnover rate there is astounding.

But the fact is, the Community Foundation is all these things, and more. And for me, learning about them meant learning about the community, through the grant review panels that they hold and through which they share their decision-making.

By the way, that family foundation to which I wrote my first grant application? Within a few years, its trustees placed the funds under the Community Foundation's care and grant management process. They knew a good thing when they saw it.

Happy 45th year, Community Foundation, and here's to many more.


Chemung County SPCA

Tom Geroy

The Community Foundation plays a very important role in the success of the Chemung County SPCA. With a solid team and sound financial management practices, they help support our work and ensure that our legacy of service to the community will carry on into the future. The foundation was instrumental in the recent overhaul of our cat adoption room by helping to fund community housing enclosures that not only enhance the marketing of our cats, but also improve their quality of life during their stay at the shelter. And when the staff was in the market for an office cat, we helped them find the perfect match! "Penny" now has her own office and is living the good life at the Community Foundation. We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with the Community Foundation!



Elaine Spacher

Our local Community Foundation has set the bar high in their field. I’d truly hate to move out of the area and have to work with anyone but the wonderful people here. There are so many great grants we’ve received from the Foundation over my 14 years at Tanglewood that it’s hard to know where to start when discussing the impact they’ve made on our organization. The Community Foundation is responsible for almost anything you see that is hands-on in our museum, they are responsible for our beautiful new highway and entrance signage, for our soon-to-be built treehouse, and for many of the great improvements to our Children’s Sensory Trail. Bamboo floor in our auditorium classroom? Check. New phone system? Check. New laptop and projector for programming and lectures? Of course!! Why are they so effective and awesome? Well, yes it is their “job,’ but for the people that work there currently, it is much more than that. They do it because they care about our local non-profits. Ok, maybe care is too mild a word. They are OBSESSED. Truly. With making this area a better place by helping provide a better quality of life through their thoughtful grant making. And it is thoughtful. I have been on a grant panel in the past, and so I have seen the process myself, it’s ordered and fair and full of smart, caring, philanthropic people. I love people that like to give money to worthy causes!  And I’m proud to say that I LOVE our Community Foundation and I never feel luckier than when I look through their grant announcements and think about all the difference they make in our area. So yes, my experience with our local Community Foundation is full of nothing but positivity and I truly want to thank them for what they do.