Grant Impact Stories

Community Foundation awarded 418 grants in the period January 1-December 31, 2017 totaling $1,555,217 in support of the arts & culture, environment, education, health & human services, and other means of community growth. From grantee reports and site visits and community conversations with donors and grantees we learn about what has worked, what has fallen short, and how we can dedicate our grant making to constantly improving impact.

Learn more about grant successes and ways we have partnered with donors to help solve specific problems in our community.

Parenting Skills Program Expands to Serve Tompkins County Jail Inmates and Family Members

Parenting Skills Program Expands to Serve Tompkins County Jail Inmates and Family Members

A pilot program that has offered parenting workshops for inmates in the Tompkins County Jail is expanding its curriculum and developing a cohort of classes for community members affected by incarceration.

Last year, the Parents Apart Program enrolled 38 inmates in six hours of classes facilitated by an experienced parenting educator from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. Beginning this month, the program was restructured into 12 modules that address specific issues related to inmates who are parents.

Community Foundation of Tompkins County funded the pilot program in the jail, along with several other organizations, and has offered Parents Apart a second grant to help develop a series of classes geared toward spouses of inmates and other caregivers in the community.

“The quality of parenting skills in our community impacts all of us,” said Janet Cotraccia, program officer for Community Foundation. “Children are deeply impacted when they have an incarcerated parent, and this programming is another way we can support access to a higher quality of life for all of our children.”

A report prepared by students in the Cornell University Department of Policy Analysis and Management found that jail participants found the program helpful and that they had attempted to implement what they learned in the workshops. The study was based on a survey of inmates and community residents who have taken the course, which has been offered in Tompkins County since the 1990s.

The workshops in the jail are designed to provide inmates with the resources necessary to continue their relationships with their children while incarcerated and to co-parent them successfully after their release. Topics covered include effective parenting skills, effects of separation and divorce on children, and conflict resolution strategies.

“We felt it was very important to offer this to incarcerated individuals because even if they’re not going through a divorce, they are separated from their children, and their children are impacted by their incarceration,” said Jennifer Gray, a community educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, which developed the program.

The next phase of the program will focus on developing a series of workshops that will be offered to community members impacted by incarceration. With a second grant from Community Foundation, program organizers are conducting a focus group with residents to determine what type of parenting skills class should be offered and what type of supports are needed.

“One thing that can be done to help people while they’re in the jail is for trained professionals to work with their family members and other caregivers to build on and strengthen their existing parenting and communication skills,” said Chris Kai-Jones, the Student and Community Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension. “The premise of this work is that parents and caregivers impacted by incarceration, like all parents, can benefit from having some shared tools to help their children thrive despite life’s challenges.”


This Summer - Trumansburg Philomathic Library to Offer Third Community Read Ksana Broadwell and "Esperanza Rising"

This Summer - Trumansburg Philomathic Library to Offer Third Community Read

Middle school students and their families in Trumansburg will read the novel “Esperanza Rising” in the third Community Read this summer, thanks to a grant from Community Foundation.

The library will use the $1,200 grant to purchase 300 copies of the novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan, which chronicles the life of a Mexican girl and her family who migrate to California during the Great Depression and live in a Mexican labor camp. The book is based on the life of the author’s grandmother.

Ksana Broadwell, director of the Ulysses Philomathic Library, said she chose the book because it explores a number of themes in current events, including immigration, racism and classism. “The book is an award-winner, it is ten years old now, and it’s becoming a modern classic,” Broadwell said. “It touches on a lot of current topics of the time we live in.”

The books will be distributed in June at the Trumansburg Middle School and at the library. Parents and students will be able to comment on the book on the library’s Facebook page during the summer and also attend a community discussion in August.

Broadwell said the library would not be able to sponsor the Community Read if it didn’t receive funding from Community Foundation, which provided this year’s grant from the Myrtle Dee Nash Memorial Fund. “The Community Foundation has been very supportive of our Community Reads,” Broadwell said. “We very much appreciate the Community Foundation’s support.”

Click here to learn more about Community Foundation’s annual Library Grant Cycle

Kids Discover the Trail! Program Expands

Kids Discover the Trail! Program Expands

This spring, hundreds of elementary school students experienced a 19th century classroom in the Eight Square Schoolhouse, dug for fossils at the Museum of the Earth and identified wildflowers in the Cornell Botanic Garden.

A record number of children in Tompkins County — 4,400 — participated in Kids Discover the Trail! (KDT!) program, a series of field trips that bring learning to life at eight educational organizations. This year, 80 percent of district elementary students from all six school districts in Tompkins County participated in the program.

KDT! was expanded to all six school districts last year after Community Foundation of Tompkins County, along with several other donors, funded a feasibility study in 2011. Community Foundation contributed $10,000 toward the study, which examined how the program could be introduced into elementary schools in districts beyond Ithaca and Trumansburg.

“The feasibility study was critical in documenting both the need as well as outlining the required logistics,” said Charlie Trautman, a member of the Discover Trail Board of Directors and former executive director of the Sciencenter. “Each site had its own challenges and opportunities. Once we had the study, it was possible for the Discovery Trail board to outline a way forward.”

After the study was completed, new schools were phased each year until all six districts had been added by last spring. The newest grades to take a field trip this spring were the third grade in Newfield, which visited the Johnson Museum of Art, and the fifth grade in Dryden, which will visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in June.

Diane Tripodi, a first-grade teacher who is the program’s liaison in Newfield, said that many children wouldn’t have the opportunity to visit museums in Tompkins County if they didn’t participate in the KDT! field trips. When her first-grade class went to the Museum of the Earth in early May, she said it was the first time many of them had seen the museum.

“I think that cost is a deterrent for a lot of families, because it’s not just one child going — it’s a full family,” Tripodi said. “For families that are working hard to make ends meet, that would just be an extravagance they just couldn’t afford.”

Payton Daley, a student in Tripodi’s class, visited the Museum of the Earth for the first time during the field trip and was so excited about learning about fossils that she went back with her sister and her parents the following weekend. The museum gives each student on the field trip a family pass offering free admission.

“She was really just excited to show her dad the fossils,” said Dorinda Daley, Payton’s mother. “She thought it was really cool.”

Before students travel to any of the eight sites, an educator from one of the organizations visits their classroom or their teacher conducts a pre-trip activity to prepare them for the field trip. The KDT! program also provides a book relating to the visit, such as bird or wildflower guides, to each student.

Star Bressler, executive director of the Discovery Trail, said the program will continue to add classrooms from the six school districts each year. “Our goal is to reach all of Tompkins County,” she said. “We’re only growing a few grades at a time so it may take several years to do that. But I think it’s more important to grow the program in a sustainable way, both financially and educationally.”

Bressler said she is thankful for the funding of Community Foundation, which also awards grants to the program annually through its donor-advised funds. “We are really deeply appreciative of the funding we receive from Community Foundation,” she said. “The study wouldn’t have been possible without its contribution.”

Janet Cotraccia, program officer for Community Foundation, said the funding was awarded to the feasibility study because Community Foundation saw the value of providing access to local arts and cultural resources for all children in Tompkins County. “Scaling up this kind of programming to allow access for all, while engaging our fund advisors in dynamic ways to support this kind of programming, is a great example of how we magnify philanthropy,” she said.

quote Dwight D. Eisenhower

This world of ours...must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.