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!


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.