Area nonprofits honored with grants from Pearls with a Passion

PAT CROSSLEY/Sun-Gazette From left, Jennifer Wilson, left, president and CEO of the First Community Foundation Partnership; Melissa Wagner, child safety and advocacy director with Geisinger; Renita Rogers, director and lead teacher at the Lycoming County Children’s Development Center; Jim Surfield, Susquehanna Township supervisor; JoAnn Shotko, member of the Central Susquehanna Sight Services board; Kathy Butler, director of the Hughesville Area Public Library and Sarah Bazydo, development manager at The Community Arts Center.

Six nonprofits involved in working with children and youth were awarded grants totaling $18,000 from the women’s philanthropic group, “Pearls with a Passion,” at their annual luncheon Tuesday.

With a membership that has grown each year since 18 women founded it in 2013, the group is run through the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to bring women together around a very positive event. Using giving as a catalyst for women to get engaged, get involved certainly to collectively give together, and identify a need. One of the best things about this program is every year they get to hear from different non-profits and so I think it’s as much about non-profit education as it is anything else. It’s a great way for them to learn about other organizations in our community,” Jennifer Wilson, president and CEO of the foundation said.

Each year one of five areas is chosen as the next year’s focus. This year it was groups that serve children and youth in some way, such as the Lycoming County Children’s Development Center at the city’s YMCA, which serves pre-school age children in an inclusive setting. The center plans to use the $1,000 grant to offer the children experiences in the community setting to use the skills they have acquired in the classroom.

“If it’s a physical need they can do it at bowling or swimming to use their therapies skills. If it’s a social thing or a sensory issue again they can use it,” said Renita Rogers, the center’s director and lead teacher.

Another recipient of a grant is a park in Susquehanna Township at Nisbet. The township received $5,000 toward the purchase of playground equipment.

Jim Surfield, a township supervisor, related how the old equipment had been deemed unsafe and had to be removed.

“When you’re a small township, our resources are very limited. Playground equipment sometimes falls at the bottom of the list,” he said.

The Hughesville Area Library received $2,500. According to Kathy Butler, director, the money will help to buy books and equipment for Wee Move!, a program that combines literacy and movement for children ages 1 through 5.

Central Susquehanna Sight Services also received a grant of $2,500 for its Prevention of Blindness Service Enhancement program that provide no or low-cost vision screening and eye health safety education for children ages 2 through 6. JoAnn Shotko, a member of the agency’s board accepted the grant. She told the group that the funds would allow her agency to screen over 400 pre-schoolers through the program.

Other grants went to the Community Arts Center, $3,000, for a program that provides accessibility for students to attend age-appropriate shows through the center’s educational performance series, and to Geisinger, $4,000 for its forensic interview program for victims of child abuse as conducted by the Child Advocacy Center, at Sunbury.

Melissa Wagner, child safety and advocacy director, noted that the goal of the Geisinger program is to provide a system where children are interviewed once and the interview given to various agencies by videotape, rather than have children repeatedly tell their story.

“Everything we do is child-centered,” she added.

Sarah Bazydo, development manager, accepted the grant for the Community Arts Center.