Scholarship Applications Now Available

The Community Foundation is now accepting applications for over one hundred different scholarship funds. Last year, the foundation awarded 123 scholarships totaling $239,175. Scholarship opportunities exist for both the high school student going to college or for adults and non-traditional students seeking higher education. Visit our students page for more information about how to apply. 

Keuka Area Fund Now Accepting Grant Applications

The Keuka Area Fund at the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes provides a vehicle for individuals, families, and businesses to invest in the residents of the communities surrounding Keuka Lake and to protect the physical environment of the region. The fund is permanently endowed at more than $250,000. Since its inception in 2007, the fund has made over $104,000 in grant awards.

Applications to its 2014 funding cycle are now being accepted from nonprofits serving the residents of Southeastern Steuben County – specifically, the towns of Bradford, Prattsburgh, Pulteney, Urbana, Wayne, Wheeler - and Yates County will be considered. The deadline to be considered in August 21, 2014. 

Priority will be given to applicants who develop programs around offering creative responses to the community’s most pressing needs and concerns, increase access and opportunities for people from low-income or underserved segments of the community and involve cooperation or collaboration among program providers.

Applications can be found by visiting the Community Foundation website at Questions can be directed

Community Foundation Celebrates 100th Anniversary

The Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes will be hosting a year-long celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the very first Community Foundation established in 1914.

2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of community foundations, a great idea that was started in Cleveland in 1914. To celebrate, the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes has launched a new project called 100 Classrooms. 

Staff of the Community Foundation will be visiting 100 different classrooms in Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties by the end of 2014 teaching students in grades K-5 about philanthropy. Students first learn what the word philanthropy means and the kind of philanthropist they would like to be. Each classroom then brainstorms the needs they see in their communities and ends the lesson by awarding a $100 grant to the local charity of the students’ choice!

“We feel that the best way we can celebrate this milestone in community foundation history is by teaching the next generation of philanthropists how they can give back to their community. By giving back we don’t just mean donating money. Students learn about volunteering their time and talents to organizations and a community they love,” said, Randi Hewit, president. 

At the end of 2014, the Community Foundation and students from 100 classrooms will have granted $10,000 to local nonprofit organizations in Chemung, Schuyler and/or Steuben counties. Classrooms that are visited along with the grants made will be posted on the foundation’s Facebook page and on their website  

A community foundation is a tax-exempt, nonprofit, autonomous, philanthropic institution composed of permanent funds established by donors for a defined geographic area. With $40 million in assets, the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc. is home to more than 170 individual charitable funds - each with a purpose that mirrors our donor's particular philanthropic goals. Our strong infrastructure, holistic view of our community, and ability to build partnerships ensure that we practice the art of effective grant-making to promoting solutions that address our community's greatest needs and serve the common good.  For over 40 years, the generosity of donors from all walks of life has made the work of the Community Foundation possible.

Chemung County project claims success in prepping kids for school

The eyes of Chemung County — and perhaps beyond — are upon the Class of 2024.

The Chemung County School Readiness Project announced Thursday that its five-year pilot project to better prepare kids for kindergarten is showing big results.

Of the Chemung County children entering kindergarten in 2011 (the Class of 2024), 68.6 percent were judged ready, compared with just 47.5 percent five years earlier.

The project covered children in the Elmira, Elmira Heights and Horseheads school districts.

Randi Hewit, president of the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, led Thursday’s news conference at Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira. When chimes sounded during the event to indicate a baby was born in the hospital, she ad-libbed and drew laughter: “There’s a baby being born. That baby will be ready for kindergarten.”

With results now in hand, Hewit and others plan to trumpet its success to the community, too.

“We will be using this announcement to launch a public campaign that we can sustain these results and build on them, where 70, 80, 90 percent of kids will be ready for kindergarten in the future. That will set us apart from anywhere in the country,” Hewit said.

The Teacher’s College at Columbia University helped establish the baseline for the results. Researchers from SUNY Albany did the five-year evaluation.

How it works
The project aims to prepare children from birth to age 5 for kindergarten and uses the services of agencies already in place. Its holistic approach includes a free home visit by a nurse to assess the family. It provides training to all child-care providers in the county. It works with health care professionals regarding medical and dental visits and good health habits. It promotes early literacy skills and provides programs to educate parents.

For the project, youngsters were evaluated in eight areas: pre-academic skills of initiative, language/literature, movement/music and science; socio-economic skills of task orientation, behavior control, assertiveness and social skills.

“Literacy is only one piece,” Hewit said, naming off other areas evaluated: “Can the kids sit still? Can they raise their hands? Can they line up? Can they work as a group? Can they function in a team environment?”

Seeing results
Ralph Marino, president of the Horseheads Central School District and a project team member, said, “When I have conversations with our prekindergarten teachers, our kindergarten teachers, they are (saying) it is making a difference in the classroom.”

Don Keddell, a team member and retired assistant superintendent for the Elmira City School District, said the success is not attributable to any one particular strategy. “It’s really the blending of the nurse visitation idea, the idea that you need knowledgeable parents and caregivers. We need to be sure that young people are physically and emotionally healthy.”

The project was born six years ago when a group of local early-childhood professionals decided they lacked a coordinated effort in prepping kids for kindergarten, Hewit said. At the same time, her organization wanted to look beyond giving out small grants and put $1 million into something that would help the community.

She credited Elmira’s Carl Hayden, former state Board of Regents chancellor, with coining “School Readiness” as the goal, and he became chairman of the effort, described as bringing together services already at work in the area.

“If you make life great for young children, they will be ready for school. And kids who are ready for school will be successful, and boom, you have a work force, a healthy, vibrant community,” Hewit recalled Hayden saying.

Hayden told Gannett News Service that when he testifies next month before the governor’s New NY Education Reform Commission, he will ask it to support similar programs statewide.

Costs, savings
The project’s services are open to any child in Chemung County, and most are free. There are subsidies and sliding fee scales for those that carry a charge.

The School Readiness Project has served more than 4,500 children since 2006, at a cost of about $400 per child per year. The Community Foundation and Chemung County each have put up $1 million for the project.

Keddell said national studies have shown that for every dollar invested in early childhood, communities have been able to save from $7 to $14 in social services, criminal justice, remedial education and employment training.

Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli, another team member, said it’s money well-spent, reflecting back on his years working with troubled youths as a probation officer.

“I saw things go well when kids were put in a structured environment. We spent a lot of money to put them there,” Santulli said. “However, I saw in 60 days after discharge, their whole life changed back again to where they were before, only they were two years older. It was just the way the system was designed.

“What makes more sense is sending a nurse, social worker at time of birth to really do an evaluation of the family and what they have and what their needs are,” he said.

Project team members said it will be important to track the performance of students in school to judge the long-term effectiveness of the program.

Hewit said the Community Foundation and Chemung County have agreed to continue funding the project for a year as initial results are evaluated. Other sources of income to continue the program will be sought locally, she said.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” Hewit said.