University reviewing first round of community grant proposals for 2018

Since 2008, a committee has semi-annually awarded more than $50,000 in grants to community organizations

Olivia Cooper, News Writer

Numerous non-profit organizations across the county are currently waiting to see whether they will receive funding from Washington and Lee, as the university’s Community Grants Committee begins conducting its Spring 2018 evaluations.

The Community Grants Committee, which was established in 2008, works to support non-profit organizations in the greater Lexington and Rockbridge County community. The committee has granted $512,755 to local organizations since its founding.

The program allows for grant requests between $500 and $25,000, according to the Washington and Lee University website. Organizations are asked to apply only once per fiscal year.

The committee follows certain guidelines when selecting recipients. For instance, when considering religious organizations, the committee will only provide grants for non-denominational activities that are open to anyone. The committee also gives special consideration to collaborative groups of local organizations.

With an annual budget of $50,000 to contribute to community grants, the committee evaluates proposals twice during each academic year—once in November and once in March.

Evaluations held in November 2017 resulted in the university giving $30,760 in grant money to 19 of the 29 organizations that applied. The Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity, the Rockbridge Regional Library Youth Literacy and the Rockbridge SPCA were a few of the community organizations that were selected.

Committee Chair James Farrar, who is also senior assistant to President Dudley, said the Community Grants Committee is beneficial to the university itself.

“For many reasons, it is in the university’s best interest to give back to the local community,” Farrar said in an email. “There is a long history of local organizations approaching both Washington and Lee and Virginia Military Institute for financial assistance on a variety of projects.”

Farrar said the committee helps the university maintain its connections to the surrounding community.

“These deep ties to the local community represent one of the university’s most attractive features,” Farrar said. “And with that in mind, the university believes it should be an active partner in its growth and development.”

Executive Assistant to the Board of Trustees Katherine Brinkley, who manages the submitted proposals, said the effects of the grants are widespread.

“The effects of these grants extend beyond the agencies that receive them and the individuals directly affected,” Brinkley said. “The funds circulate in the community and benefit many others as well.”

The Rockbridge Ballet was one of the organizations that received a grant in the last biannual evaluation. Artistic Director Jessica Martin said the grant allowed them to purchase a touring dance floor.

“Receiving this grant allowed our organization to provide a safe dance floor for our students’ use,” Martin said in an email. “It allowed us to continue to provide numerous pre-professional quality performance opportunities for our local dancers.”

Martin said the committee was particularly helpful in providing assistance to the Rockbridge Ballet.

“We found that the grant committee is extremely helpful in aiding applicants through the grant application process,” Martin said. “They have readily made themselves available to answer questions by both email and telephone, supporting applicants and providing clarification as needed.”