More than $995,000 has been donated or pledged to the West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund since it was established on Saturday, March 25. Donations and pledges have been made by thousands of individuals, families, and businesses across Berks County and the country.
To assist with urgent, immediate needs, more than $450,000 has already been distributed to the families of those who died and to those displaced from their homes.
“Out of respect for the families, we will not be providing specific details regarding those distributions,” said Kevin K. Murphy, president of Berks County Community Foundation, which created the fund in partnership with the United Way of Berks County at the request of West Reading Borough Council. “Our hope is that the funding will ease their burden as they cope with their loss.”
The West Reading Disaster Relief Fund will continue to accept donations until May 31, 2023, at which time it will sunset, with all remaining funding to be held for immediate and future needs related to the following priorities:
“We are grateful to everyone who has given to the fund, including so many of our local businesses,” said Tammy White, president of the United Way of Berks County. “The outpouring of support of neighbor helping neighbor has been inspiring. We continue to thank everyone for the kind generosity.”
There’s talk sometimes that all is not right with the children, or in the case of a recent op-ed by Pennsylvania Senator Ryan Aument, that all is not right with our public schools. While that doom-and-gloom position may win headlines and votes, it’s far from the reality on the ground, at least here in Berks County. Our school districts are using innovative, creative learning experiences to ensure students have the skills they need to succeed not only in the classroom, but in life.
We recently attended the Governor Mifflin School District’s first-ever Mustang Nation Learning Expo, where teachers and students at every grade level showcased innovation and expertise for the community at large. The visitors at the packed-house event had the chance to experience more than 80 interactive presentations, during which students were eager to share their knowledge on topics ranging from Entrepreneurship in Elementary School to Analyzing AI: Student Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence through a Literary Lens. We even met a group of first graders who have become real experts on Rainbow Trout. Throughout each presentation, at every grade level, students were applying their classroom learning to real world questions and problems.
Contrary to Senator Aument’s assertion that our students are being failed by an “antiquated system … with goals that are no longer relevant,” the Governor Mifflin event demonstrated ways our schools are preparing and motivating students not only to enter today’s workforce, but to be ready for the uncharted jobs of the future in disciplines of science, math, technology, humanities, arts, and beyond.
Teachers and administrators at Governor Mifflin are so determined to ensure their students hit the ground running upon graduation, they’ve become students themselves in the Total Experience Learning® program at Albright College. This groundbreaking teaching methodology supports educators and gives them the tools to transform what could be hum-drum lessons into hands-on, interactive, entrepreneurial learning experiences. There’s a real focus on encouraging students’ organic curiosity and interests to create meaningful engagement.
And, it is not just Governor Mifflin School District. School districts, administrators, and teachers across Berks County, from Reading to Boyertown and beyond, have engaged in Total Experience Learning programs, to ensure that K-12 education in Berks County continues to be relevant and motivating to today’s students, and that the PA Department of Education learning goals are not just met, but exceeded.
A dedication to continuous improvement and lifelong learning is critical not only for our students and teachers, but also for our elected leaders. Senator Aument’s proposal to study the current education system and learn from other systems around the world is admirable. But to start from the premise that all parts of the current system are irrevocably broken and that increased funding is not the answer fails to recognize the stellar achievements of dedicated administrators, teachers, and students across the Commonwealth. Our local schools rise to the challenge of educating our students for a global economy every day, despite being funded at wildly varying levels with little to no regard for the demographic and social make up of their student cohorts.
Rather than simply dismissing all PA public education as broken, the legislature should look at the actual data and do its constitutionally mandated job to provide for a fair and adequate level of school funding so that all children, regardless of their zip code, can achieve the kind of success that we saw at the Mustang Nation Learning Expo.
Intergenerational dialogue is a great way for individuals to learn and understand each other. Besides, with our families, there aren’t many opportunities for young and older adults to talk to each other about life. Twin Valley Community Education wanted to create a space where children can practice this at school and teach the importance of these connections through hands-on experience. With funding from Berks County Community Foundation, they implemented a new educational project entitled Bridging Generations.
The main purpose of this project is to bridge the gap between generations to promote better communication from different walks of life. Twin Valley Community Education Foundation wanted students to learn about handwritten communication, while simultaneously connecting them with a generation outside of their own. The funding for this program came from the Hawley and Myrtle Quier Fund. This fund makes distributions to improve the quality of life for Berks County residents, with emphasis on the arts, education, women’s issues, children’s issues, and animal welfare. This program was created to foster human connections in our community.
A group of second-grade students at Robeson Elementary Center who were not behind on their schoolwork, and who had an interest, were paired with a participating older adult whom they could become local pen pals with. This program was intended to fill a gap and provide students with an older adult and vice versa. According to Lynn Weller, the program coordinator, “This program was successful in bringing Berk’s older individuals and elementary students together to learn from each other and form friendships in a safe and meaningful way.”
Not only did this program succeed in connecting two different generations, but it also succeeded in teaching children the importance of letter writing and written communication. Weller reported that “before this program, 32% of participants reported that they were unsure how to write a letter, and 79% were unsure how to address a letter.” The program proved to be a positive experience for the older adults who participated as well. Many participants were elated to teach children about the importance of writing. Additionally, it gave them an outlet to share stories and life advice, which they really enjoyed.
Weller mentions that more students will be encouraged to participate in the future, not just those who are ahead with their studies. In addition to this, there is a hope that an event will be hosted at the end of the program where the participating children and their families can meet the senior citizens in person.
While this grant opportunity is no longer available, you can still donate to the Hawley and Myrtle Quier Fund for new future programs by visiting www.bccf.org. If you are looking for funding for your next project, check out other funds that are available at www.bccf.org.
For nearly three decades, I’ve had the joy of meeting with individuals and families as they write their wills – usually with the help of their lawyer – and listening to them describe the people who are or have been important to them in life. Of course their parents, siblings, or children are often mentioned, sometimes a beloved teacher or coach.
Taking the time to create a will can feel daunting, but one way to make the task more interesting is to consider whether – and how – you’d like to give back to your community after you’re gone. That’s where we come in. Berks County Community Foundation offers a unique and powerful way for individuals to make a lasting impact in their community by creating a charitable fund through their will.
Creating a fund through a will is an easy and meaningful way for you to support causes and organizations that align with your values and passions. This can be done by including a provision in the will that directs a specific asset or portion of the estate to the Community Foundation, which will be used to establish a named fund in your memory or in honor of a loved one.
The process of creating a fund through a will is relatively simple. You can work with your attorney to include language in your will that directs assets to the Community Foundation. You can also consult with our staff to determine the most appropriate type of fund for your charitable interests and goals. Once the will is executed, we’ll work with your executor or personal representative to establish the fund according to the instructions provided in the will.
The benefits of creating a fund through a will at the Community Foundation are numerous. Not only does it provide a way for you to make a lasting impact in your community, but it also offers a range of giving options, such as unrestricted funds, field of interest funds, and designated funds. This allows you to support a specific cause or organization, or to give the Community Foundation the flexibility to respond to the changing needs of the community over time.
In addition to the charitable benefits, creating a fund through a will also provides a number of personal benefits. It can help to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, and it can provide a way for you to leave a lasting legacy in memory of a loved one. It can also be a way for you to make a difference in the lives of others, even after you are gone.
Overall, creating a fund through a will at the Community Foundation is a powerful way to make a lasting impact in your community. It’s easy to set up and provides a range of giving options, allowing you to support the causes and organizations that are important to you while also leaving a lasting legacy.
Berks County Community Foundation is committed to responsible stewardship of the charitable assets entrusted to us by our donors. One of the ways we do this is through our 4.5 percent spending policy for endowed funds.
Endowed funds are a type of charitable fund that are established with a minimum donation of $50,000. The principal of the fund is invested, with a portion of the investment earnings distributed each year to support charitable causes and organizations in accordance with the fund agreement. The spending policy for an endowed fund is the percentage of the fund’s average value over a rolling three-year period that is distributed for charitable purposes each year.
We have adopted a spending policy of 4.5 percent for endowed funds. This means that, on average, 4.5 percent of the value of an endowed fund is distributed each year for charitable purposes. This spending policy is a balance between preserving the purchasing power of the fund over time and providing a steady stream of support for charitable causes and organizations.
The spending policy is reviewed regularly by our board of directors, and any adjustments to the spending policy are made with the goal of balancing the long-term preservation of the fund’s principal with the need to provide support for charitable causes and organizations.
One of the benefits of this policy is that it allows people to know that when they establish an endowed fund with us, their donations will continue to support the causes and organizations they care about for generations to come.
In addition, this policy also allows the fund to grow over time and allows more money to be distributed over time, meaning more impact can be made in the community over time.
Overall, our 4.5 percent spending policy for endowed funds is an important part of our commitment to responsible stewardship of charitable assets. It’s designed to balance the long-term preservation of the fund’s principal with the need to provide support for charitable causes and organizations, and to ensure that our donors’ gifts continue to make an impact for generations to come.
Berks County Community Foundation is committed to maximizing the long-term growth of our endowed funds in order to support charitable causes and organizations in the community. To achieve this goal, we’ve developed an investment philosophy that emphasizes diversification, long-term growth, and low costs.
Our investment philosophy is based on the belief that diversification is key to achieving long-term growth and managing risk. We invest in a mix of stocks, bonds, and real assets, such as real estate and natural resources, to spread risk and capture growth opportunities across different asset classes.
We also believe in a long-term investment approach. We understand that investments can be volatile in the short-term, but over the long-term, the stock market has historically provided strong returns. Therefore, our investment strategy is designed to capture these long-term returns and provide a steady stream of support for charitable causes and organizations.
In addition, we are committed to keeping costs low. We understand that high costs can eat into returns over time, and we strive to minimize expenses to maximize returns for our donors and the causes they support.
To help us achieve our investment goals, we use Fund Evaluation Group (FEG) as our investment consultant. FEG is an independent investment consulting firm that provides investment advice, research, and due diligence services to a wide range of nonprofit organizations and foundations.
FEG helps us to monitor and evaluate the performance of our investments, and they provide us with regular reports and recommendations to ensure that our portfolio is aligned with our investment philosophy and objectives. They also assist us with researching and selecting new investments, as well as monitoring and assessing the performance of our current investments.
Our investment philosophy is based on the belief that diversification, long-term growth, and low costs are key to maximizing the stability of our endowed funds in order to support charitable causes and organizations in the community. By using Fund Evaluation Group as our investment consultant, we can achieve our investment objectives and ensure that our donors’ gifts continue to make a positive impact for generations to come.
UPDATE – More than $660,000 has been donated to the West Reading Disaster Recovery Fund since it was established on Saturday, March 25. Donations have been made by more than 1,500 individuals, families, and businesses across Berks County and the country.
To assist with urgent, immediate needs, on March 30 the fund distributed a total of $220,000 to the families of those who died and to those displaced from their homes. An additional $230,000 will be distributed to those groups in the coming days.
“Out of respect for the families, we will not be providing specific details regarding those distributions,” said Kevin K. Murphy, president of Berks County Community Foundation, which created the fund in partnership with the United Way of Berks County at the request of West Reading Borough Council. “Our hope is that the funding will ease their burden as they cope with their loss.”Based on the level of donations received, the fund will continue to provide grants until it is depleted. The priority of those grants is as follows:
“We are grateful to everyone who has given to the fund,” said Tammy White, president of the United Way of Berks County. “The outpouring of support of neighbor helping neighbor has been inspiring. The magnitude of this event transcends geography as local giving from Berks Countians is joined by contributions from people across the United States showing their support for our community. We thank everyone for the kind generosity.”
READING, PA (February 6, 2023) – Berks County Community Foundation and Reading Pride Celebration (RPC) recently distributed the first round of grants from the Reading Pride Celebration Gives Back Fund. The grants support local programs that align with the fund’s mission of promoting diversity, inclusion, and equality in the Berks County area.
The following organizations received grants:
“Our LGBTQ+ youth are the future leaders of our community and we hope that these funds help educators create programs and provide much-needed resources that benefit them while promoting inclusive environments and communities,” said Enrique Castro, Jr, RPC’s Executive Director.
Each grant will be used for outreach, education, and advocacy efforts aimed at creating a more inclusive community for everyone.
“We are delighted to support these organizations through the Reading Pride Celebration Gives Back initiative,” said Cindy Milian, Health and Human Services Program Officer at Berks County Community Foundation. “Their work is essential to promoting equality and understanding in our community, and we are honored to support their mission.”
The Reading Pride Gives Back Fund was created with a portion of the proceeds from the Reading Pride Celebration Festival 2022.
Berks County Community Foundation is a nonprofit corporation serving as a civic leader for our region by developing, managing, and distributing charitable funds to improve the quality of life in Berks County, PA. More information is available at www.bccf.org.
Reading Pride Celebration is an organization that has the mission of promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by building a community that embraces and supports differences and seeks to eliminate racial oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other oppression. Every dollar raised through our Pride festival or other fundraising initiatives goes directly back to support our mission and programs.
Media Contact: Erica Caceres, Communication Manager, Phone: 610-685-2231, Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today – March 7, 2023 – marks one year since Berks County Community Foundation created the Fund for Ednannia at the request of the City University of New York Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. As Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine enters a second year, the importance of this charitable fund only grows.
Since last March, the Fund for Ednannia has provided an opportunity for more than 60 individuals and charitable foundations to make a direct impact on communities affected by the war. Every dollar donated is distributed to Ukrainian community foundations in towns and cities across that country, providing much-needed relief to those impacted by the war.
Thanks to their generosity, our fund has sent nearly $200,000 to Ednannia, which is the Ukrainian network of community foundations. Click here to read a full report about the grants that Ednannia has distributed thanks in part to this support.
In addition to creating and managing the Fund for Ednannia, we’ve provided leadership support, too. Last summer, I traveled to Poland to meet with Ukrainian community foundations to discuss plans for rebuilding and recovery. And last month, our foundation was among the first endorsers of a global Philanthropy Statement of Solidarity and Support to the People of Ukraine that expresses our combined commitment to stand with the Ukrainian people and civil society.
Our collective efforts to support Ednannia exemplify the power of community philanthropy. By bringing together donors, foundations, and civil society, it is possible to provide meaningful assistance to those in need, regardless of their location or the scale of the crisis. Thank you to all who have given and all who continue to give. Click here to support the Fund for Ednannia.
Kevin K. Murphy
Berks County Community Foundation
Photo description from Ednannia: Community Foundation of Berezan has become a focal point for all communities surrounding Berezan that were affected by the warfare (Baryshivska territorial community and others). Community Foundation organized a humanitarian hub on the base of its office. The situation was especially drastic with baby food – as the warfare was very close there were no deliveries, so the Community Foundation appealed to other Community Foundations and CSOs with the plea to send whatever is possible to be able to feed the kids in these communities.
Local Youth Hope to Unite Community on MLK Day
Reading, PA–Local teens involved in a youth-driven initiative for social justice called Stand Together Against Racism (S.T.A.R.) are coming together on Martin Luther King Day to host a community event sure to leave an impact. The S.T.A.R. initiative was born through the support of Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading and VOiCEup Berks. These motivated high school students are providing an opportunity for families to learn, unite as a community, and pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King.
In honor of MLK Day on January 16, S.T.A.R. students will host a drop-in event at Berks County Community Foundation, 237 Court Street in Reading, from 1-4 pm. Throughout the entirety of the event, there will be a student-created art exhibit, mini-service projects for youth ages 8+, and storytime for ages 4-7. Additionally, there will be a screening of the student-directed documentary, created by S.T.A.R. members, entitled ‘Stand Together’ at 2 pm (recommended for ages 11+). Following the film screening, there will be a youth-led discussion on racism and youth activism. This event will be fulfilling for all community members. More information can be found at www.voiceupberks.org/opportunity. This is a drop-in event and registration is not required but appreciated.
Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading focuses on promoting a lifetime commitment to service among youth by offering volunteer projects for youth ages 11 to 18 on Saturdays, after school, during school, virtually, and during the summer. YVC of Reading, hosted by VOiCEup, is one of over 30 affiliates of Youth Volunteer Corps, headquartered in Kansas City. YVC of Reading has engaged hundreds of young people from diverse backgrounds in over 24,000 hours of service to help this community over the past 6 years. Find more information at www.voiceupberks.org/yvc. VOiCEup Berks is a fund of Berks County Community Foundation.
Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading MLK Family Full Event Schedule