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.

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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.

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.

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. 

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 www.voiceupberks.org.

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.

John Paul II Center for Special Learning created a monthly “girls only” club for girls ages 10 through 21. The goal of Girl Talk 101 is to create a safe space where young girls with special needs can discuss topics they may not feel comfortable discussing in front of their male classmates or at home. 

The program provides a safe space for girls to ask questions without feeling embarrassed. It also provides a support structure for families who may not know how to approach a sensitive subject. 

“Some parents may find it difficult to respond appropriately when their daughters ask questions relating to their personal hygiene,” says Melissah Jablonski, director of advancement of John Paul II Center for Special Learning.  

The Power of the Purse (POP) in Berks County Fund has awarded grants to Girl Talk 101. POP is a women’s giving circle that started in 2012 to support causes that improve the quality of life for women and children in Berks County. The idea came from Chiara Sockel Renninger, a financial advisor who had taken part in something similar in Lehigh Valley. 

“I wanted to start a group that would give local women a place to pool their charitable resources to improve the lives of women and girls in our community,” Renninger said. 

Since its inception, POP has provided more than $439,000 to many local organizations, including John Paul II Center for Girl Talk 101. 

John Paul II Center helps children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They acknowledge the dignity of all learners while challenging them daily to reach their potential. 

Applications for POP are open until January 24. To learn more about POP and to apply for funding, please click here

One of the ways we help to improve the quality of life for Berks County residents is by funding programs that help support education activities and the general health of the community which can include youth sports.  

 There are so many benefits to youth sports. Through sports, children learn a variety of skills that they can apply to life, such as leadership, teamwork, and discipline. Additionally, children are given the opportunity to practice a healthy activity while making friends at the same time.  

Reading Youth Legion Baseball recognized the need for affordable sports in the Reading Area and created a summer baseball team for youths. To help cover operational costs, the 2022 Community General Hospital Healthcare Fund granted the program $6,000. The funding covered the costs of team registration and insurance, new uniforms, baseball equipment, and umpire salaries. The team played in the Senior Berks American Legion League for a total of eight weeks. These eight weeks provided Reading Youth with a baseball experience with a competitive atmosphere comparable to standard travel baseball.   

The 2022 Community General Hospital Healthcare Fund supports a variety of causes, all of which benefit the general health of the Berks County community. To learn more about this fund, visit https://bccf.org/funds/community-general-hospital-healthcare-fund/ 

K-9 units have been proven to strengthen local police forces by aiding in crime-fighting efforts. Thanks to the generosity of local residents, Berks County Community Foundation manages several charitable funds that benefit police K-9 teams in the area.  

Funding has supported several projects related to the training and maintenance of K-9 teams. The Cheltenham Township Police Department recently requested grants from these funds to support the costs of training for handlers in areas like decision-making, de-escalation, and threat assessment. A police team’s job looks different every day, so making sure the handler is well-equipped to handle various outcomes and scenarios is paramount to the success of both the K-9 team and the police team.  

Grants from these funds can also support the costs of certifying or recertifying police K-9s. The City of Reading Fire Department has one K-9 named Gracie who helps the fire department and police with arson cases. Gracie can tell the difference between the scents of various flammable liquids. She can alert officers where samples should be taken from, which provides investigators with more evidence of how a fire was started. The evidence that Gracie helps collect is vital in convictions of arson cases. The City of Reading Fire Department requested funding to pay for Gracie’s recertification so that she can continue to work in Berks County and surrounding counties.  

Grants from these funds can also support the costs of maintenance and upkeep of K-9 teams, which can be costly for police departments. Berks County Community Foundation has provided funding for a few different K-9 upkeep projects. Both the City of Reading Police K9 Unit and the Plymouth Township Police Department requested funding to finish renovations and upkeep for their K-9 buildings. Making sure the dogs have a safe and comfortable space to rest after a workday is imperative for the dogs’ well-being. Additionally, the buildings can serve as storage areas for K-9 supplies.  

The K9 Unit funds at Berks County Community Foundation have also provided grants to cover the cost of new training equipment, veterinary bills, pet insurance, and other necessary K-9 equipment. 

To learn more about the various K-9-unit funds that we manage, visit https://bccf.org/fund-directory/ 

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/.

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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

The Power of the Purse in Berks County (POP) in Berks County held its 2022-2023 kickoff meeting at Berks County Community Foundation. POP is a women’s giving circle where donations are pooled to create an impact in the Berks County community. In the meeting, there was a discussion on how to improve the lives of women and girls that included explaining The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy’s XX Factor Framework. Based on this framework, there are five dimensions that women look to thrive in their community: health, education, economic empowerment, personal safety, and legal rights.  

“Collectively, if there is not an impact on all five, women cannot thrive. Progress in one will create a domino effect with the other dimensions,” explains Katherina M. Rosqueta, Founding Executive Director for the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania. 

The Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund of Berks County Community Foundation awards grants to programs that break the cycle of poverty by eliminating or addressing barriers for Berks County girls and/or women who want to enter or re-enter the workforce or seek education they need to do so.  

The deadline to apply is January 24, 2023. 

This funding is made possible by the generous women who are members of the Power of the Purse in Berks County, which was started in 2012 to improve the lives of local women and children. 

You can learn more about POP, how to apply for a grant, how to donate to the group, and what grants have been previously awarded at https://bccf.org/pop/

 Apply for a grant directly at http://bccf.link/grants. The deadline to apply for funding is January 24, 2023. 

READING, PA (May 12, 2022) – Celebrating its 10th year of improving the lives of local women and girls, the Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund announced Thursday it recently awarded $55,400 in grants to eight organizations in Berks County.

Administered by Berks County Community Foundation, this charitable fund has had 89 female members since its inception. The women have donated a total of $385,983 to 24 organizations over 10 years.

A group of women started the Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund in 2012 to improve the lives of local women and children. The group awarded its first grants in 2013.

The group marked its 10th year of giving with a ceremony at The Nature Place, the headquarters of conservation group Berks Nature at 575 St. Bernadine St. in Reading.

“The donations of our members are combined and targeted toward specific programs so that we have a greater local impact than we would if we each gave individually without a coordinated effort,” said Chiara Sockel Renninger, the group’s founder.

The women who give to the Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund have steadfastly sought to break the cycle of poverty for women and girls, said Franki Aitken, Chief Operating Officer at Berks County Community Foundation.

They do this by giving to programs that eliminate or address barriers for girls and/or women who want to enter or re-enter the workforce or seek the education they need to do so, Aitken said.

“While the impact of the Power of the Purse is measurable in the number of dollars donated and people assisted, the true impact – the extent to which lives were reclaimed, souls nurtured, and hope restored – is immeasurable,” Aitken added.

This past year, the 50 current members of the Power of the Purse reviewed grant applications, met with nonprofits, and voted to determine which programs received grants. For more information on the Power of the Purse, including how to join or contribute, go to bccf.org/pop.

This year’s grant recipients:

“When we started the Power of the Purse, I was confident there would be interest among other local women in joining,” said Renninger, the group’s founder. “Still, it’s gratifying to see the group is still growing and adding enthusiastic members after 10 years.”

Students Julianna, left, and Katie, will be part of the Girl Talk 101 club at John Paul II Center for Special Learning. The Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund is providing the club with startup money.
From left to right, students Julianna, Bella, Cynthia, and Katie will be part of the Girl Talk 101 club at John Paul II Center for Special Learning. The Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund is providing the club with startup money.

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Berks County Community Foundation is a nonprofit corporation that serves as a civic leader for our region by developing, managing and distributing charitable funds aimed at improving the quality of life in Berks County. More information is available at www.bccf.org.

NEWS RELEASE

Contact: Jason Brudereck, Director of Communication, jasonb@bccf.org, 610.685.2223