Reading, PA (May 9, 2024) – The Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund of Berks County Community Foundation recently awarded $75,000 in grants to nine organizations. The Power of the Purse Fund supports organizations and projects that focus on women’s education, economic empowerment, safety, rights, and health.

The following grants were awarded:

“From an outsider’s perspective, you think that there are these big mountains that you have to go over, but sometimes it’s a small amount of money or just a small gesture that can make the difference for someone being successful and getting out of poverty or getting a job,” said Chiara Renninger, founder of Power of the Purse. “I learned that just small things can really make a huge difference to people.”

“Being able to enhance the spirit of the Power of the Purse (POP) initiative is really empowering for the women in our community,” said Cindy Miliam, health and human services program officer. “POP funding for these organizations supports the belief that woman play a pivotal role in driving change and shaping the future of Berks County.”

Power of the Purse Fund was created in 2012 as a women’s giving circle. For more information, click here.


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

Imagine the fear and isolation of facing breast cancer without support. In Berks County, approximately 126 women receive this life-changing news each year, according to the Pennsylvania County Health Profiles. No one in Berks County needs to face breast cancer alone. Breast Cancer Support Services (BCSS) is there every step of the way.

Breast cancer treatment often leads to physical and emotional changes that can be difficult to process. BCSS recognizes the impact goes far beyond the physical. That’s why BCSS’s ‘Face Up to Safe Beauty’ program is so impactful. This empowering series of quarterly workshops equips individuals to reclaim their sense of beauty and confidence through exploration of health and wellness, skin care, and beauty basics.

“This program allows survivors to learn new information and share experiences, including setbacks and wins, in a safe, nurturing environment, knowing they are not alone in their journey,” says Michele M. Reinert, Executive Director of BCSS.

Founded in 1993 by survivors and their loved ones, BCSS understands the immense challenges faced by those diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the years, their services have grown and adapted to meet the ever-evolving needs of women, men, and families facing breast cancer. Whether it’s navigating treatment options, finding emotional support through peer connections, or simply fostering a sense of community, BCSS has the resources to empower individuals on their journey. In 2023 alone, 18 newly diagnosed women received complete makeup sets, expert instruction, and eyebrow shaping techniques. An additional 68 survivors participated in programs covering gut health, skincare, makeup blending, and more.

Michelle, a participant in Breast Cancer Support Service’s ‘Face Up to Safe Beauty’ program, experienced the value of the program first-hand. “I struggled to find beauty in losing my hair and eyebrows, along with the many changes in my skin,” Michelle says. “This session helped me practice drawing on my eyebrows and realize I can still feel good about looking in the mirror during treatment.”

“These programs have helped me feel more confident in my skin,” says participant Leslie. “Having time to focus on myself and what makes me feel good can be rare, so I am grateful for these workshops for helping me do that.”

This program is possible thanks to the Richard L. Henry Memorial Fund of Berks County Community Foundation.  This fund is dedicated to supporting women with breast cancer or organizations that aid them.

Visit the BCSS website today to learn how to get involved or donate. You can also inquire about volunteer opportunities and make a direct impact. Every act of kindness, big or small, empowers someone facing their toughest battle.

Every year, Earth Day is celebrated across the globe with tree plantings, festivals, and various volunteer activities that remind us of our collective responsibility to steward the natural environment and limit impacts on the earth.  

The Berks County Earth Day Committee hosts an Earth Day celebration every year to bring the community together and educate about environmental and conservation subjects while encouraging participants to make sustainable choices. Thousands of people gathered in City Park on April 20 to enjoy live music and food from local vendors and participate in a range of educational activities from planting seeds and trees to litter clean ups to wildlife demonstrations.  

“The pure joy of seeing little ones bouncing from booth to booth, learning about our Earth, made my heart smile. They’re the future of our planet, and their enthusiasm gives me hope for a brighter tomorrow,” said Lazarely Martinez, a first-time attendee of the Earth Day celebration in City Park.  

The Youth Volunteer Corps held a table at the event that promoted planting vegetables in a bag. The bag was recyclable, and dirt was donated from Ridgewood Soils in Birdsboro. Kids of all ages were instructed to scoop dirt into their bags and then were provided with lettuce or spinach seeds to plant in the soil. Participants were encouraged to place the bags in sunlight and watered regularly. When leaves start to sprout, they can be cut and are ready to be eaten.  

“I like spinach because it makes me feel strong and planting it makes me feel like a farmer,” said Avian Robles, an 8-year-old student at Muhlenberg Elementary Center after planting his spinach planted bag.  

At the Community Foundation, our goal is to keep Berks County a beautiful place by supporting projects and programs that recognize the value of our open space and provide education on how to reduce our impact on the planet. The Earth Day celebration was made possible by the Hawley and Myrtle Quier Fund of Berks County Community Foundation. This fund makes distributions to improve the quality of life for the residents of Berks County. This support not only benefits the present generation but also lays the foundation for a more sustainable future for generations to come. 

Over 100 students from the Berks County school districts came together on April 8th, 2024 at Muhlenberg High School for a mental health event. This inaugural event was created by the Youth Mental Health Ambassadors of Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC), along with students from Muhlenberg High School’s Avedium Club who saw the need in our community.

In the past decade, research has proven that psychological stress influences the physical body and can sometimes lead to death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 24 is suicide. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that that one in seven 10 to 19-year-olds experience mental health conditions that are largely unrecognized and untreated.

The youth-driven and youth-led Building Unity in Our Community event took place on Monday, April 8th.  Student participants received information on mental health from local therapist Paige Schoelkofp from As You Are Counseling Services and from a youth-led panel discussion. Coping skills stations were set up to focus on art therapy, music therapy, journaling, equine therapy, and more! Each station had a hands-on experience. Students were able to participate and ask questions throughout the day.

This program was funded by the Home Health Care Foundation Fund of the Berks County Community Foundation. The Home Health Care Foundation Fund provides grants to organizations and programs that support preventative healthcare, community health, health-related charity care, and/or support in recovering from illness or a disability at home. This fund is available to organizations and programs that serve Berks County and/or those counties that are contiguous to it. To learn more about the fund, please click here.

“Without the funding, I strongly feel that our students would have made the program successful because of how passionate they are,” Lindsay Sites, YVC Program Director at VOiCEup Berks said. “Because of the funding, we were able to have a bigger impact and a bigger reach.”

VOiCEup Berks is an official affiliate of YVC. VOiCEup Berks creates opportunities for people to volunteer, learn and lead in their communities. YVC is a team-based service-learning program for youth ages 11-18. One of the many goals of YVC is to inspire youth to a lifetime commitment to service.

“I wanted to be part of YVC because my goal is to reduce the negative stigma related to mental health. When I graduate and move on from high school, my goal is for the students that come after me to continue reducing the stigma,” Addison McKittrick from Exeter High School said.

To learn more about VOiCEup Berks and how you can get involved, please click here.

Berks County is home to hundreds of houses of worship in both the urban and rural areas, many built throughout the 1700s and 1800s. These buildings have been vital cultural vehicles that have helped knit the fabric of our cultural heritage for generations. But these sacred places are at risk, like many others across America. With this threat to Berks County’s sacred places in mind, it’s important to preserve the contributions that are being made in the community. Sacred places are ubiquitous in our communities, forming an integral part of social safety nets. This started the “Sacred Places” project to set out to build an inventory of the purpose-built sacred places within the city.  

Berks County Community Foundation is collaborating with Partners for Sacred Spaces, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that brings people together to find creative ways to maintain and make the most of America’s older and historic houses of worship.   

For more than five years, Partners for Sacred Places and Berks County Community Foundation have collected the history of local houses of worship, assessed the condition of the buildings and the stability of their congregations, and encouraged partnerships to preserve these sacred places. 

As a result, the Community Foundation will continue its partnership with Partners for Sacred Places in 2024 to provide its New Dollars/New Partners program. Several congregations spanning across denominations, locations, sizes, and missions – will have the opportunity to focus on building capacity to better serve their communities as anchor institutions, nurture transformation, and shape vibrant, creative communities.   

If you lead or volunteer with a congregation in Berks County, we invite you to a free informational session on Thursday, April 18, 2024, at 6:00 pm at Berks Nature (575 St. Bernardine Street, Reading, PA 19607). 

You can register for the informational session by clicking here. In the months that follow, the New Dollars/New Partners training program will be available for congregations interested in participating.   

Funding for this project came from James P. Born, Sr. Fund of Berks County Community Foundation. The fund supports local houses of worship, interfaith dialogue, and inclusive programs for all children, including those who are underprivileged.  

We look forward to seeing you at the session and collaborating with places of worship in Berks County.  

On February 28th, Berks County Community Foundation held a Winter Get Together. Over 30 professional advisors attended the event, which included a roll-out of our updated Giving Guide.  

The Giving Guide is a comprehensive resource designed to explain what a community foundation is and the advantages of using Berks County Community Foundation. The guide includes explanations on the various types of funds one can establish, how to create a charitable fund, and more.   

Introductions to the program officers and their areas of focus were part of the evening’s festivities, in addition to introducing a new face, Molly McCullough Robbins.  

Robbins comes to the foundation as the Vice President for Philanthropic Services handling resource development and promotional efforts of the foundation. Robbins will work with the program officers to identify individuals in the community who may be interested in supporting the foundation’s work.  

The event was also a chance for us to thank the professional advisors who, by introducing the Community Foundation to their clients, allowed us to carry on our mission of promoting philanthropy and improving the quality of life for Berks County residents.    

Since the Community Foundation was founded 30 years ago this year, 50% of the charitable funds we manage have been the direct result of a referral by a professional advisor. If we look at the dollar amount of those funds referred to by a professional advisor, it is 76% of our current investment pool. 

Details on how you can be a referral and spark change are available in the Community Foundation’s Giving Guide.  

If you have questions, please email

In March 2023, the Berks County Commissioners released a study about public health in our community. The study was conducted by Health Management Associates and listed four recommendations:

1. Create a Berks County Health Director position to lead public health collective action and coordination and serve as a trusted communicator about public health information. 

2. Establish a Public Health Advisory Panel and appoint members who can advise on public health assessment, assurance, and policy activities. 

3. Support the establishment of a “Healthy Berks” Coalition to serve as a coordinating body for public health efforts in the county. 

4. Create a Berks County Health Data Analyst position to improve Berks County-specific public health data completeness and accuracy. 

The report and its recommendations have received nearly unanimous praise and support from our region’s medical community and voices representing a wide range of public responsibilities. You can access the report by clicking here.

As the commissioners prepare for a final decision on the study, we are happy to support Berks County Medical Society’s virtual lunch and learn conversation on March 6th, 2024, about this study and its path forward. This event was supported through the Community General Hospital Healthcare Fund of Berks County Community Foundation. The goal of this lunch and learn is to review the report and have an open discussion on the future of public health in our community.  

For more information and to save your virtual seat, click here. 

The generosity of our donors allowed us to award $610,000 in scholarships in 2023. Each scholarship has specific eligibility criteria based on the donor’s intention when the scholarship was created. Our scholarship application opens on January 1 each year. The deadline to submit all applications is 11:59 P.M. on March 1. Applications cannot be edited or submitted after the March 1 deadline. To maintain a fair process, we cannot make exceptions.

All of the scholarship opportunities currently offered by the Community Foundation are available to students with no need for any documentation from FAFSA for this year only.

How do I apply? Create an account in our online portal using a personal email address. Do not use your school address. Once you create an account, this account will serve as a hub for your universal application. Ensure you have ample time to complete the application, as it may require up to an hour.

What’s a universal application? It’s a single form that matches your answers to the scholarship(s) for which you may qualify.

How do I know if I am eligible for a scholarship? After submitting your application, check your dashboard for additional questions or requests that need to be considered for the matched scholarship.

Where is my dashboard and how do I access it? Click here to watch a video guide on accessing your dashboard.

Should you have questions during the application process, our FAQ section provides helpful information. We wish you the best of luck. If you have questions, you can email or call us at 610.685.2223 and ask for Kim Sheffer, Lifelong Learning Program Officer.

For nearly 30 years, Berks County Community Foundation has helped individuals, families, organizations, and businesses achieve their charitable objectives. We know that change radiates outward, and we help people create a brighter future and a legacy of real transformation for all of us. This often includes creating a fund to honor the memory of a loved one or support a cause about which the individual or family cares deeply. In either case, a member of our staff works with the people involved to determine the best way to meet their charitable objectives.

How does it work?  First, think about what you are passionate about supporting.  We can help you achieve your charitable goals, no matter the cause or motivation. Let us help you discover the type of charitable fund that best matches your goals.

Different funds fulfill different dreams.

Which of these types of funds works best for your dream? 

Ready to put your charitable vision into action?  We are here to help. Click here to use our short questionnaire to set your journey of generosity in motion. Questions? Email We look forward to helping you fulfill your charitable goals.

VOiCEup Berks has developed the Youth Mental Health Education Initiative, which addresses the need for accessible mental health resources for local youth while recognizing that young people have an easier time communicating with others their own age. VOiCEup will educate youth about mental health issues and the support systems available to them. 

Fifteen student participants, also known as Youth Mental Health Ambassadors (YMHA), will work directly with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which will teach them about mental health topics, resources for support, and suicide prevention efforts. Once the YMHAs complete these learning requirements, they will assist VOiCEup Berks staff. This project was funded by the Home Healthcare Foundation Fund.

VOiCEup Berks promotes individual and community growth by connecting different sectors of Berks County through volunteer opportunities. The organization hopes to reach thousands of youths and adults in our community with this initiative, which includes the following activities:

To address the need for youth education on suicide prevention, VOiCEup Berks will educate local youth through “Question, Persuade, Refer” (QPR) training, a professional form of suicide prevention training. Certified VOiCEup Berks staff will train students on properly identifying and addressing a suicide crisis. Upon completion of the training, students should be able to persuade and refer someone to get help effectively. Young Mental Health Ambassadors, students at Yocum Institute, students from the VOiCEup Berks advisory board, and students from local high schools will receive training from the staff of VOiCEup Berks. 

The Yocum Institute will partner with VOiCEup to complete the “Suicide Prevention Through Art Collaboration” project. Yocum performers will bring a suicide awareness play called “Between Apt. 2B and the End Zone” to different high schools in Berks County. The primary goal of the play is to spark hope in the students watching while simultaneously reducing the stigma behind suicide. 

To reach as many Berks County residents as possible, Youth Mental Health Ambassadors will work alongside the Muhlenberg Aevidum Club and a marketing professional to create a suicide prevention marketing campaign. This campaign will be youth-driven and focused on normalizing discussions and treatment related to mental health. Promotions will include social media campaigns, printed content, an awareness video, t-shirts, and billboard advertising. 

To help parents handle mental health crises, there will be a workshop for parents to learn about the mental health needs of youth.

More information about the program can be found on the VOiCEup Berks website at

The Home Healthcare Foundation Fund supports:

Applications are now being accepted until March 15. For more information about the fund and to apply, please click here.