Celebrating 25 years of
stewardship in Berks County

As part of our 25th Anniversary Celebration, Berks County Community Foundation is taking a look at the past, present and future of different aspects of our region.

Our building — the first commercial “green building” in Berks County — opened in 2009. Its 10th anniversary coincides with the 25th anniversary of Berks County Community Foundation as an institution.

Read an entry in The President’s Journal by Kevin Murphy about “A decade of building green.”

Find out more about our green building here.

Below is the original video that was created when our green building first opened in 2009.

The Met-Ed / Penelec Sustainable Energy Fund of Berks County Community Foundation provides grants, loans, and equity investments to promote:

  • the development and use of renewable energy and clean energy technologies
  • energy conservation and efficiency
  • sustainable energy businesses
  • projects that improve the environment in the companies’ service territories, as defined by their relationship to the companies’ transmission and distribution facilities

Conservation Equity Fund

Grants from this fund support the preservation and conservation of open space, environmentally sensitive land, and historic properties in Berks County.

A recent example includes the blast furnace that was preserved in time for the 43rd annual Hay Creek Festival at Historic Joanna Furnace north of Morgantown.

For the first time, visitors could view the preserved bosh, which is the interior lining of the blast furnace. It is one of the last remaining boshes in the eastern United States. The bosh can be seen from inside the Casting House. This $160,000 project has been in research and planning for almost five years and was underwritten in part by grants from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Conservation Equity Fund of Berks County Community Foundation.

For more information, read this article in the Berks Mont News.


A small grant, a big difference

In 1998, Berks County residents were worried about protecting the farmland that is integral to the way they think about Berks County.

If you ask people what they love about Berks County, they’ll say, ‘You can be in the city and then 10 minutes later you can be driving around in the rolling farmlands and see the great vistas, and visit the farm stands. So there were a lot of groups trying to figure out how to preserve that land.

But the groups had different goals and priorities. One of the biggest hurdles was getting them to come up with cohesive objectives for farmland preservation.

Using a grant of about $4,000, the Community Foundation brought in a consultant who worked with the groups until they had developed one goal, which was to preserve 200,000 acres of farmland.

At that time, the county was spending about $1 million a year to buy conservation easements – guarantees from farmers that their land would never be developed.

One million a year was sort of like trying to bail out the ocean with a Dixie cup. It was woefully insignificant and there was not much chance that we were going to succeed in this before the developers had developed everything in sight.

The Community Foundation encouraged county officials to use the $1 million to borrow money so they could start buying more conservation easements before more land was developed. By the end of the year, the county commissioners floated a $35 million bond issue that, with matching grants from the state, led to about $50 million being spent on farmland conservation in Berks County over a five-year period. At the end of that period, the Community Foundation reconvened the interested parties. They re-evaluated their goals, and another $35 million bond was floated with matching state grants.

A $4,000 grant that ultimately triggered about $100 million in state and federal investment took us from a community that was in danger of losing its farmland to one that will always have it.

Other environment and land use funds

  • Bellman Fund for Berks Nature: Grants support maintenance and improvements to the Brownsville Road property in Lower Heidelberg Township.
  • Mensch Mill Growth Fund: Grants support environmental programs and preserve and restore historic buildings, places and artifacts at the Mensch Mill Conference and Retreat Center in Huffs Church.
  • Mount Penn Preserve Partnership Fund: Grants are for capital improvements that protect, promote and enhance the natural beauty, heritage and attractions of the Mount Penn Preserve.
  • Roberts Family Fund for Stream and Wetland Preservation: In memory of Willard and Ruth Roberts, grants from this fund support Berks Nature’s stream and wetland preservation and conservation projects.