Luncheon commemorates giving spirit

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette The Rev. Velinda Smith, of Sojourner Truth Ministries talks about her organization’s mission at the Pearls with a Passion annual luncheon at the First Community Foundation Partnership in the city on Tuesday.

The fifth annual Pearls with a Passion luncheon on Tuesday celebrated the donation of $18,000 in grant money to six regional nonprofit organizations.

Pearls with a Passion is an endowed fund with First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, and it is the first women’s giving society in northcentral Pennsylvania.

“The Pearls initiative was designed to attract a broad spectrum of women, connected by a common passion for supporting nonprofits in our community,” said Jennifer Wilson, president and CEO of FCFP. “Our annual event celebrates our collective passion for philanthropy, educates us on nonprofits needing critical needs across the region and empowers us individually to become more involved in those charities that speak most closely to our personal beliefs and ideals.”

She said 102 women joined the annual membership this year.

“Each of our founders represents a $25,000 commitment,” she said.

These members and founders together ensure the grants are available to the nonprofits.

“As of today, this fund stands at $612,000,” Wilson said. “Its service area is reflective of the counties of our founders, which are Lycoming and Union.”

 Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, a founder, said that a pearl is created by a small grain inside of an oyster.

“That small grain creates what I believe is a beautiful, treasured work of art,” she said. “I think the Pearls with a Passion fund is much like its namesake, the pearl. Our impact only happens when the right circumstances line up, and that is philanthropic women … caring about our community, creating an environment in which we can all thrive and make the beautiful things happen, which is impacting lives with passionate giving.”

The $18,000 in grant money was divided up between the six nonprofits, including the following:

• $2,595 to American Rescue Workers for the purchase of a commercial freezer.

• $2,500 to Camp Susque for the Cornerstone Counseling Services program.

• $2,800 to Camp Victory for renovations to the main entrance of the med-shed.

• $3,000 to Family Promise for the Back-to-Work Fund.

• $3,552 to Sojourner Truth Ministries for the Night-Out program.

• $2,553 to Shepherd of the Streets for funds to provide costs of medications and transportation for clients to attend medical appointments.

Betty Gilmour, director of grantmaking, said the poll from the 2016 luncheon determined that people in crisis was the focus of this year’s efforts. A group of members and founders were selected to review the applications to determine who received the grant money.

“As always, there were more requests than there was funds,” she said. The selected six resonated the most with the Pearls.

Jon Hall, director of hospitality for Camp Susque, accepted the grant money for the camp.

“Thank you all so much for your willingness to partner with us and the work that we do at Camp Susque,” he said.

Cleveland Way, social services director of American Rescue Workers, said the freezer will be an asset as last year, it purchased over 300,000 pounds of food for its food pantry.

“That translates into 250,000 families in meals we’re able to provide,” he said.

Abbie Morrison, resource development associate with Camp Victory, said the renovations to the med-shed’s entrance will allow for better accessibility for wheelchairs.

“On behalf of the board of directors and our 1,600 campers per season, I thank you for supporting the remodel of the front entrance, including the automatic door which is vital for wheelchair users,” she said.

Melissa Magargle, executive director of Family Promise, said the money will go toward providing funds for documents, photo identification, uniforms and transportation needs in order for clients to obtain and retain jobs.

“It is really hard to put into numbers how many people are affected by not having an ID,” she said. “This will help us do that for them, so thank you.”

Pastor Velinda Smith, director of services for Sojourner Truth Ministries, said the men and women’s “Night-Out” program helps people in the community through food, fellowship and fun.

“We try to encourage people who sit home alone to come out and have fellowship,” she said. “We try to get people to talk about some things they have hidden inside … We call ourselves misfit — we miss, but we’re trying to fit.”

Dr. Morris Smith, director of Shepherd of the Streets, said the group was very happy to be one of the recipients.

“Thank you very much for participating with us and helping people who do not have insurance or are under-insured,” he said.

George Herman Logue, partnership board chairman, thanked all the founders and members for participating.

“I’m grateful and humbled by your generosity and the legacy you have given to our communities,” he said. “Your enthusiasm and passion for our neighbors in crisis are to be commended.”