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 to19-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 Berks County Community Foundation. The Home Health Care Foundation Fund provides grants for organizations and programs that serve Berks County and/or those counties that are contiguous to it. The fund was created to support charity care and other programs for the good of the community. 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.  

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. 

On November 8, Berks County Community Foundation held its Annual Meeting at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Reading. More than 100 civic leaders attended the event, which included brief presentations by the Community Foundation’s program officers and an overview of the year by Kevin K. Murphy, foundation president. 

“This year marked the culmination of our plan to increase our impact in Berks County by expanding the number of program officers working on specific causes,” Murphy said. “Our annual event gave us the opportunity to introduce these new faces to the community.” 

The program officers oversee distributions from more than 346 charitable funds that were created by Berks County residents to support causes in the community that were important to them. In fiscal year 2023, those grants and scholarships totaled more than $6.2 million. That brings the total amount of grants and scholarships distributed since the Community Foundation’s founding in 1994 to over $101 million. 

In addition to Murphy, who provided a recap of the West Reading Disaster Relief Fund, attendees heard from: 

Vice President for Programs and Initiatives Monica Reyes about an effort underway with the Berks County Medical Society to share the results of a study about public health released by the Berks County Commissioners this year; 

Health and Human Services Program Officer Cindy Milian about the work she oversees to support animal welfare and to assist families who have children with special needs; 

Environment and Energy Program Officer Emily Smedley about grants that are increasing energy efficiency for local organizations and grants that are improving soil health by monitoring the flight patterns of birds of prey; 

Lifelong Learning Program Officer Kim Sheffer about teacher mini-grants, which support innovative classroom projects across Berks County. 

Details about each of these initiatives are available in the Community Foundation’s 2023 Annual Report. 

In addition to learning about the work the Community Foundation is undertaking, attendees were invited to pick up a brush and add their touch to a Berks County mural, and to listen to a trio of local student musicians. 

If you’d like to join the Community Foundation at future annual meetings, please send your name and email address to info@bccf.org and ask to be added to the invitation list. If you’d like to learn more about the Community Foundation, including how to start a charitable fund of your own, visit www.bccf.org. 

Annual Event

READING, PA (August 2, 2023) – Berks County Community Foundation recently awarded more than $80,000 in grants to thirteen organizations from the First United Church of Christ Mission Fund and the St. John’s UCC Reading Fund.

The organizations receiving grants and the amounts received are as follows:

$1,100 to the Reading Musical Foundation for its Summer Music Camp Scholarship Program. This program awards scholarships to Berks County students so that they may attend a summer music camp of their choosing. This funding will support the cost of camp scholarships for two Reading School District students.

$3,000 was granted to Bethany Children’s Home to support summer programming. During the summer months, Bethany Children’s Home provides fun, first-time experiences for its residents like going to the beach, an amusement park, or an art museum. Funding will support travel expenses, meals, souvenirs, and potential admission costs.

$3,500 to Reading Youth Legion Baseball. Reading Youth Legion Baseball will provide children from the City of Reading with the opportunity to play competitive baseball while keeping costs affordable.  Funding will support umpire fees, registration and insurance costs, uniforms, and equipment.

$4,623 to The S.P.A.R.K.S. Foundation for its Classroom Visitation Program. This program brings STEM lessons to elementary school students who are otherwise not able to participate in extra-curricular activities due to financial barriers. The hour-long program of lessons coupled with experiments covers topics that address educational standards in science for the grade level. Funding will support the costs of materials used for the STEM lessons and overhead costs such as rent, office supplies, and utilities.

$4,790 to Berks Youth Chorus to teach young people to perform confidently in a choral setting and to help students improve their overall musicianship. This grant will support the costs of operation that would normally be paid through a raised tuition. Keeping tuition costs low allows students to participate, regardless of their family’s income level.

$5,500 to The LGBT Center of Greater Reading for its Discovery Day Camp. Discovery Day Camp is geared towards helping youth ages 14 to 18 explore their identities in a safe and healthy environment. Through this camp, participants will learn, connect, and express themselves with like-minded individuals. Funding will support activity supplies, breakfast, lunch, insurance, and training for facilitators.

$6,500 to GoggleWorks Center for the Arts for its ongoing “GoggleWorks Gardens at Lauer’s Park” project. This project has four local gardens, which serve as local green spaces and outdoor classroom spaces for students. This program will provide two recurring weekly classes in the garden classrooms, as well as four after-school art programs. GoggleWorks Gardens at Lauer’s Park is a collaborative program of Lauer’s Park Elementary, Longwood Gardens, Rodale Institute, The Food Trust, and local farms. The funding will support program staff salaries.

$6,510 to Opportunity House for kitchen equipment upgrades. This grant will support the cost of upgrading the kitchen, which will allow the shelter to produce meals more efficiently and offer a greater selection of meal options. Funding will support the cost of a planetary floor mixer, a combination food processor, an immersion blender, and a meat slicer, as well as the cost of shipping for these appliances.

$6,750 to Immanuel United Church of Christ for its Preschool summer camp. This project provides summer day camp programs for children ages three to five. The goal of the day camp is to help students retain their school year momentum during the summer and to help younger students start their preschool education in a Christian setting. This grant will support the teacher’s salaries and supplies for snacks and crafts.

$8,000 to Hope of the Nations (HOTN) Hope Center for its Summer Arts Camp. The weeklong summer arts camp will feature dance classes and hands-on crafts. HOTN will partner with Feet on the Streets Ministries to serve elementary and middle-school-aged children. Funding will support camp administration, food for students, craft supplies, dance instruction, and more.

$8,250 to Café Esperanza for a project called “The Breakfast Club.” This project works to combat hunger in the summer months by providing free, nourishing breakfast to kids that would typically get free breakfast at school. Café Esperanza plans to provide additional summer enrichment activities for students, such as gardening, an art camp, a support group, and an anti-bullying program. Funding will support the costs of food, plants, garden expenses, art supplies, and salaries for supporting staff.

$10,000 to New Journey Community Outreach Inc. for its ongoing Fighting Poverty, Feeding Hope project. The goals of this project are restoring hope, dignity, and comfort in the community, while providing individuals in need with clothing and food through various outlets, including a daily soup kitchen, weekly grocery distribution, and an emergency food distribution and clothing center. Through this program, New Journey Community Outreach Inc. plans to serve 50,000 lunches and provides food pantry groceries for 9,200 families and emergency food for 480 families. Funding will support program staff wages, professional fees, and utility costs.

$10,000 to The Salvation Army for its Rental Assistance Program. The Salvation Army – Reading helps support local individuals and families who are struggling to pay rent, with an emphasis on supporting older clients who live on a fixed income. This allows these individuals to stay in their homes, reducing homelessness and eviction in the community. Funding will pay landlords to support families in need of rental assistance.

Both the First United Church of Christ Mission Fund and the St. Johns UCC Reading Fund were created with the goal of supporting causes that were important to the churches, with an emphasis on addressing pressing needs for youth. To learn more about the St. Johns UCC Reading Fund, visit https://bccf.org/funds/st-johns-ucc-reading-fund/. To learn more about the First United Church of Christ Mission Fund, visit https://bccf.org/funds/first-united-church-of-christ-mission-fund/.


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.

Having a community-based summer camp opportunity for children can be beneficial – and in some cases necessary – for families. The Salvation Army Reading Citadel has long recognized the need for affordable summer childcare and hosts a summer day camp for children ages 6 through 13. The program is supported in part by a grant from the First United Church of Christ Mission Fund of Berks County Community Foundation.

Last year, the Salvation Army’s summer camp provided 42 children with a healthy environment where they could spend their days during the summer. The camp offered activities to keep the kids entertained, such as academic instruction, arts and crafts, unstructured playtime, opportunities to explore science and nature, field trips, bible lessons, and more.

This summer camp first ran in 2021, and the Salvation Army Reading Citadel was able to host 26 children. The following year, the camp expanded, and a decrease in COVID-19 cases in the area allowed for more field trip opportunities.

The primary goal of summer camp is to further develop academic, artistic, and leadership skills while helping children retain the academic progress they had made during the school year.

To achieve this goal, the camp staff had the children take math and reading assessments during the first week of camp. Based on the performance of the campers, the camp staff assigned children math and reading lessons that would benefit them the most. At the end of the camp season, the children took a new exam at the same difficulty level. The camp staff found that the children had improved their scores by an average of more than 16 percent.

The First United Church of Christ Mission Fund supports causes that were important to the mission of the First United Church of Christ in Reading, PA, including helping Berks County children participate in activities that their families would otherwise not be able to afford.

When asked about the impact that summer camp had on student life, Victoria Schrag, secretary of Salvation Reading Citadel, said, “It felt like we were building a family here at the summer camp.”

In the coming years, the Salvation Army Reading Citadel staff hopes to expand to support even more campers.

To learn more about the First United Church of Christ Mission Fund, visit https://bccf.org/funds/first-united-church-of-christ-mission-fund/

To learn more about the Salvation Army Reading Citadel, visit https://easternusa.salvationarmy.org/eastern-pennsylvania/reading-pa/

READING, PA (July 6, 2023) – Berks County Community Foundation recently notified the recipients of the 2023 grants from the Albany Township Tomorrow Fund.  

The Albany Township Tomorrow Fund provides grants for community-minded organizations and initiatives that benefit the residents of Albany Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, with a preference given to programs related to youth education and advancement.  

The following grants were awarded: 

The Albany Township Tomorrow Fund accepts applications annually from February 1 – March 15. 

This fund was created in 2019 with the to improve the quality of life for Albany Township residents. To learn more , visit here.

Media Contact: Erica Caceres, Communication Manager, Phone: 610-685-2231, Email address: ericac@bccf.org


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, PA (June 28, 2023) – Berks County Community Foundation recently awarded $10,600 from the Berks County Tennis Fund to two organizations that are hosting summer tennis programs for Berks County youth. $3,810 was awarded to the Conrad Weiser Tennis Association (CWTA) for its CWTA Summer Tennis Program. Funds will support the costs of summer camp salaries, tennis balls, rackets, and other tennis equipment.  

CWTA promotes tennis in the Conrad Weiser area and across Berks County through a variety of tennis programs for all ages and skill levels. The summer program is open to any student-athlete in Berks County. Its primary goal is to instill strong values related to self-esteem, leadership, and integrity in players, and to show individuals how tennis can have a positive impact on one’s life.  

$6,790 was awarded to the Reading Recreation Commission for its City of Reading (COR) Tennis & Education Club. Funds will pay for court instructors and educational program staff. 

The mission of the Reading Recreation Commission is to provide quality recreation programs and facilities for the residents of Reading with a primary focus on youth programs. 

Its tennis program teaches children and the community about tennis, education, nutrition, and fitness while providing a positive, well-rounded summer experience. Up to 300 individuals, primarily students in the city of Reading, participate each year. Registrations from participants from other areas of Berks County are also accepted. 

“Our program helps children learn and develop positive personality characteristics that are useful on the tennis court, but, more importantly, are applicable in many off-court situations,” says Matthew Lubas, recreation supervisor at Reading Recreation Commission. 

The Berks County Tennis Fund was created to enhance the quality of life for children and adults in Berks County through the sport of tennis. Programs supported by grants promote and teach tennis as a lifelong leisure activity, a competitive sport, and a vehicle to develop skills in patience, self-discipline, and critical thinking. This fund accepts applications annually from January 1 – March 15. To learn more about this fund, visit https://bccf.org/funds/berks-county-tennis-fund/.  

Media Contact: Erica Caceres, Communication Manager, Phone: 610-685-2231, Email address: ericac@bccf.org

READING, PA (June 8, 2023) – The Gilmore | Henne Fund of Berks County Community Foundation has awarded $9,500 in grants to five parks. The Gilmore | Henne Community Fund was created by Wilson High School Graduates and NFL players John Gilmore and Chad Henne to support the costs of park programs and recreational improvements.

Grants were awarded to the following applicants:

“I am elated to support projects that will make our parks safer, more accessible, and more enjoyable for visitors,” said Emily Smedley, environment and energy program officer. “These improvements will revive some of our local green spaces and create a healthy environment where residents can share special moments with one another.”

The Gilmore | Henne Community Fund was created in 2010 with the goal of improving the community and the quality of life for Berks County children through park improvements. To learn more about the Gilmore | Henne Community Fund, visit https://bccf.org/funds/gilmore-henne-community-fund/.


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.

Media Contact: Erica Caceres, Communication Manager, Phone: 610-685-2231, Email address: ericac@bccf.org

Reading, May 26, 2023 – The Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund of Berks County Community Foundation recently awarded $56,000 in grants to seven 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:

 “These grant recipients exemplify the spirit of the Power of the Purse initiative, which aims to uplift and empower women in our community,” said Cindy Milian, health and human services program officer. “The Power of the Purse Fund was established with the belief that women play a pivotal role in driving positive change and shaping the future of our society.”

Power of the Purse Fund was created in 2012 as a women’s giving circle. For more information, visit https://bccf.org/funds/power-of-the-purse-in-berks-county-fund/.


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.

Media Contact: Erica Caceres, Communication Manager, Phone: 610-685-2231, Email address: ericac@bccf.org