Potter Trust brings aid to Kent County nonprofits

CenDel President Jeremy Tucker speaks to the nonprofit representatives about the process in which the grants go through before they awarded to the organizations at the Kent County Recreation Center last Thursday. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — The Potter Trust has worked magic for numerous nonprofit organizations in Kent County over the past 175 years.

The magic wand that is waved annually toward helping the economically underprivileged in Kent County is due to the generosity and foresight of Col. Benjamin Potter (1769-1843), former owner of the Parson Thorne Mansion and farm in Milford, not the boy wizard from the books and movies.

The CenDel Foundation and the Delaware Community Foundation, which administer funds from the Potter Trust, announced Thursday they have distributed $235,000 in grants to nonprofits this year focused on emergency housing, homelessness, hunger and health care during a luncheon at the Kent County Recreation Center.

The grant amounts ranged from $15,000 to $40,000.

This year’s Potter Trust grant recipients include: Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware, Cancer Support Community of Delaware, Catholic Charities, Communities in Schools, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Food Bank of Delaware, Milford Housing Development Corporation, NCALL Research and Westside Healthcare.

Charlie Sterner, a former CenDel board member and current chair of the Potter Trust Grant Committee, said picking which charitable efforts to support is never an easy task.

“(Mr. Potter) basically created this fund from his wealth to benefit the poor people of Kent County,” Mr. Sterner said. “He left a great bulk of his estate for this charitable endeavor.

“It’s hard work. It’s hard to make those decisions. It’s agonizing a bit because there’s certainly more need out there than there is funding. Not all deserving applications can be funded each and every year.”

Jeremy Tucker, president of the Dover-based CenDel Foundation, has been intrigued by the Benjamin Potter Charity Trust for several years now.

After all, the Potter Trust, established by Col. Potter in 1843, is one of the oldest trusts in the nation and has helped nonprofit organizations in Kent County for 175 years.

“When I first joined the board (of the CenDel Foundation) six or seven years ago, I was most interested in this idea of the Potter Trust and the fact that something established in the 1840s is still having an impact on Central Delaware 175 years later,” Mr. Tucker said. “I think that’s extraordinary.”

This year’s Potter Trust grant recipients included: The Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware, Cancer Support Community of Delaware, Catholic Charities, Communities in Schools, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Food Bank of Delaware, Milford Housing Development Corporation, NCALL Research and Westside Healthcare. Representatives of each of the groups attended a luncheon last Thursday at the Kent County Recreation Center. (Submitted photo)

Nowadays, Mr. Tucker gets to see the benefits of the Potter Trust up close and is one of many who has a hand in helping to decide which nonprofit organizations are selected to receive the funds and how much money they are awarded.

Much-needed weekend meals

The Boys and Girls Club of Delaware received the largest grant from the Potter Trust this year, receiving $40,000 in aid that will be used to provide weekend meals to children and to expand the food pantries at three Kent County Boys and Girls Club sites.

John Wellons, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware, said he has heard the stories of the hungry children.

“Periodically we’ll hear stories about the Friday afternoon snack or mealtime where kids are trying to hoard the food because there’s not going to be much around on the weekend,” Mr. Wellons said.

“That is the great thing about this grant is that for three of our locations in Kent County – in Dover, our Milford club and a site that we run at the Academy of Dover – we’re going to be able to send meals home to 500 kids or so every weekend.

“The money will allow us to expand our food bag program for kids to Kent County. Through a partnership with the Harry K. Foundation, we’ll be able to offer food bags to kids, so they have a little extra in their stomachs during the weekend. Food insecurity is such a huge issue in Delaware.”

Tony Windsor, manager of grants development who also coordinates Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware’s statewide nutrition programs, said there is a very real need for the additional nutrition that will be sent home on the weekends with the children.

“Kids Count Delaware data shows that 20 percent of children between the ages of zero and 17 in Kent County are living in poverty,” Mr. Windsor said, “and 17.8 percent of those children face food insecurities and studies show that food insecurities are detrimental to the development of children.

Representatives from Catholic Charities accept a Potter Trust grant check from Charlie Sterner last Thursday at the Kent County Recreation Center. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

“It increases the opportunities for them to be hospitalized and suffer from chronic diseases, such as obesity because of the poor quality of their diets.”

He added, “We recognize for our children that nutrition is such a valuable part of what we need to provide. We need to help our children maintain their bodies, so they can do better in school. They can be healthier and not face so many health issues.”

Several others helped

Dover-based NCALL Research received $30,000 in funding for crisis and emergency assistance for rent, utilities and other issues to prevent homelessness in the “Restoring Central Dover” area.

“Part of NCALL is ‘Restoring Central Dover,’ so we’re working on a very holistic approach to revitalizing downtown Dover,” said Karen Speakman, executive director of NCALL. “In Dover itself there certainly is a core need. I know we helped over 137 individuals last year.

“This money is certainly not something we had in our back pocket and the people in our back pocket need a lot.”

The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition also received a $30,000 grant that will assist cancer patients with out-of-pocket medical costs, rent and transportation.

Lois Wilkinson, of the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, said “We really appreciate receiving this grant. I just can’t tell you how many letters and ‘Thank yous’ we receive from those we help.

“They are overwhelmed from their diagnosis and are grateful for whatever we can do. From helping them pay for their heat or electric, it makes a big difference.”

The Food Bank of Delaware was awarded a $25,000 grant to install food pantries at three Connections mental health clinics in Kent County serving underprivileged patients.

Tony Windsor, manager of grants development who also coordinates Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware’s statewide nutrition programs, said there is a very real need for the additional nutrition that will be sent home on the weekends with the children through the help of a $40,000 Potter Fund grant. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

“Connections has locations in Dover, Smyrna and Harrington, which provides services to hundreds of people a week with substance and mental health issues,” said Larry Haas, chief development director for the Food Bank of Delaware. “The partnership with Connections was a natural extension of the vulnerable populations that we serve.

“This will allow us to serve between 15 and 20 households a week, providing them with 25 pounds of nutritious food at each of those three locations.”

Five other nonprofit organizations received grant funding from the Potter Trust, including:

• Cancer Support Community Delaware — $15,000 for education and coaching of disadvantaged cancer patients identified by oncologists as at risk and requiring one-on-one counseling.

• Catholic Charities — $20,000 for housing stability and homelessness prevention via payment of rent, utilities, etc. of qualifying clients in Kent County.

• Communities in Schools — $30,000 for its Basic Needs & Resources Program conducted on site in Kent County schools, identifying at-risk youth, making needs assessments, and coordinating community resources to provide solutions.

• Milford Housing Development Corporation — $30,000 for its home repair project, which provides free emergency home repairs to qualifying individuals to prevent homelessness and threats to safety.

• Westside Healthcare — $15,000 for its diabetes prevention and management program, including the acquisition of point of care testing equipment for A1C and retinal eye screenings.

Mr. Tucker, president of the CenDel Foundation, said he is always excited — and proud — that the Dover foundation is involved with the Potter Trust.

“Our job is to increase philanthropic giving in Kent County, improving the lives of those living in Central Delaware,” he said. “We are very proud of the fact that since our founding in 2008, we have been able to distribute more than $2.5 million in grants, funding and scholarships in Central Delaware. That’s really exciting for us and something to be proud of.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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