Potter Trust distributes $230,000 in grants in Kent

DOVER — Even though Col. Benjamin Potter died almost 200 years ago, he continues to touch numerous lives in Delaware every day.

Col. Potter (1769-1 843), the former owner of the Parson Thorne Mansion and farm in Milford, was not only a generous person, he also had a keen foresight that continues to help the economically underprivileged in Kent County today.

The CenDel Foundation and the Delaware Community Foundation, which administer funds from the Potter Trust — a gift left by Col. Potter — announced Thursday they have distributed more than $230,000 in grants to nonprofits this year focused on emergency housing, homelessness, hunger and health care during a luncheon at North Dover Elementary School.

The grant amounts ranged from $4,000 to $28,000.
This year’s Potter Trust grant recipients include: Food Bank of Delaware, Children’s Beach House, National Council on Agricultural Life & Labor Research Fund (NCALL), Communities in Schools, First State Community Action Agency, Peoples Place, Harry K Foundation, Milford Housing Development Corporation, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Catholic Charities, Caring Hearts Helping Hands and the YMCA.
Charlie Sterner, a former CenDel board member and current chair of the Potter Trust Grant Committee, said he is always taken aback by the legacy that was left by Col. Potter.

“Benjamin Potter, when he passed away, his will provided for a trust to be set up with the income from that trust to benefit underprivileged folks in Kent County,” Mr. Sterner said. “That’s where the funding comes from. The trust has several million dollars in it and the income from that trust that’s earned each year is distributed via these grants into the community to benefit underprivileged folks in our county. It’s been a huge benefit to those people that need it.”

Mr. Sterner said this year the Potter Trust received 27 applications requesting more than $800,000 in total requests.
However, the organization had only about $240,000 to distribute, which always makes the decisions on who receives the grants that much more difficult.

“Decisions are very difficult. There’s a lot of need out there,” said Mr. Sterner. “There’s a lot of good organizations that put requests in but we cannot fully fund or fund everyone each and every year. Those decisions are very difficult.

“There’s a lot of discussion and a lot of thought put in by the committee in arriving at the suggested grant awards.”
Once the committee comes up with suggested grant recipients, they have to be approved by the CenDel Board and also by the Delaware Community Foundation board, which provide oversight for the grants.

Jeremy Tucker, president of the CenDel Foundation, said the organization’s members are passionate about what they do.
“I am very proud to serve in this role,” he said. “It’s a wonderful organization that I think has made a huge difference in our community.

“Since our founding in 2008 we’ve been able to distribute approximately $3 million dollars in grants and funding to organizations and nonprofits across Kent County. It’s money that’s gone on to help so many people facing all sorts of issues.”

Michael DiPaolo, vice president for the Delaware Community Foundation in southern Delaware, is new to the Potter Trust but he is still amazed by what it accomplishes.

“Once I found out about the Potter Trust and the great work that it does in Kent County I was really excited that this gets to be a part of my job — helping people in Kent County to better their lives and help them through tough times,” Mr. DiPaolo said. “To think that we’re a part of something that’s been going on for 176 years, and will be going on 176 years from now, is pretty remarkable.”

Easing hunger pains
There was a reason that North Dover Elementary School was selected as the site of this year’s distribution of the Potter Trust.

Several students at the school are members of the Food Bank of Delaware’s Backpack Program, which received a $15,000 grant to fund North Dover’s Backpack Program, which provides meal items to food-insecure children from the school to take home for weekend nourishment.

Larry Haas, chief development director for the Food Bank of Delaware, said this is the inaugural year for the Backpack Program at North Dover.
“We’re very fortunate to have received a foundation grant to support our Backpack Program and it’s very cool to be here (at North Dover Elementary School) because this is actually the site of the Backpack Program,” he said.

“The foundation will support 76 kids throughout this school year. We have about 30 students right now, but hopefully we’ll build up to that 76. Usually we hit that mark just after the holidays because people kind of get ramped up and the need is really expressed throughout all of our sites.”

Mr. Haas said the Backpack Program has been running since 2006 and is currently at just under 200 sites across the state. Last year, around 6,200 kids received the weekly backpack in Delaware through the school sites.

“The children receive a backpack kit with four meals and two snacks, and it really helps them get through the weekend until they can come back to school for that next school meal,” said Mr. Haas. “We actually provide more meals leading up to extended holiday breaks.
“This helps the students perform better and actually behave better while in class.”

NCALL fights off evictions
The National Council on Agricultural Life & Labor Research Fund (NCALL), based in Dover, received a $20,000 grant to provide crisis and emergency assistance to low income residents in the Central Dover area who are facing eviction.
Karen Speakman, executive director of NCALL, said last year the organization distributed assistance to 123 people.

“NCALL is a lead agency of Restoring Central Dover and a key part of it is providing emergency assistance to the residents of Central Dover, which is primarily very low income and has about a 30 percent home ownership rate right now in that community,” she said. “It’s hard to paint a positive picture sometimes because they can’t either pay their utilities or pay their rent, as well as their mortgages.

“So, this assistance goes a long way towards helping them. Maybe it will help with the hard choice between whether I pay the rent or buy food? This money is certainly not something we had in our back pocket and the people in our back pocket need a lot.”

Beach House helps youth
The Children’s Beach House, located in Lewes, received a $4,000 grant for essential needs (food, clothing, supplies, emergency rent/utilities) of economically disadvantaged Kent County families whose child participates in the case management of its Youth Development Program.

Pat Tosi, vice president of Children’s Beach House, said children come to the facility to grow emotionally and develop as a person.
“We have a program that is a summer camp down in Lewes,” Ms. Tosi said. “We have a beautiful facility and the children come down and it’s a safe environment. There are group activities that are all geared to specifically what is needed in their development.

“Children coming down who have come from poverty are overwhelmed, but they are there with children like themselves. They have an opportunity to be themselves because it’s safe. These children understand one another, and they learn from each other.”

She said there are several amenities at the Children’s Beach House, but that is not necessarily what the children take home with them.
“It’s funny because you can ask any of the children that come down to our program and you would think they would say, ‘What’s great about Children’s Beach House? Well, it’s the food because they have a culinary chef there and they eat all they want, it’s a beautiful facility and they go out on kayaks, horseback riding and group activities.’

“But that’s not what they say they love about it. It’s where they have friends. This is the only place that they feel comfortable relating to children and to adults. We help them form these relationships — and they’re forever.”

Other wishes granted …
Nine other organizations received grant funding from the Potter Grants, including:
• Communities in Schools — $28,000 to identify needs and assess available resources to vulnerable students in Kent County schools. Strategies include academic (mentoring and tutoring) and non-academic (healthcare, housing, safety and nutrition).

• First State Community Action Agency — $28,000 for emergency assistance to low income families facing threats to continued housing and health. Funding is used for eviction prevention, mortgage default prevention, emergency food, utility disconnection prevention and prescription assistance.

• Peoples Place — $20,000 for its education and job training program opportunities benefitting Kent County homeless. Included are GED classes and other general workforce job training to create marketable skills and foster self-sufficiency.

• Harry K Foundation — $20,000 to address the hunger needs of vulnerable children and their families by contributing to the establishment of 3 new food pantries in Kent County schools.

• Milford Housing Development Corporation — $28,000 to pay for free emergency home repairs of low-income homeowners to prevent homelessness and threats to safety.

• Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition — $28,000 to provide emergency financial assistance to Kent County residents undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

• Catholic Charities — $28,000 to prevent homelessness by providing financial assistance to low income households at risk.

• Caring Hearts Helping Hands — $5,000 to provide holiday meal assistance to low income working families in Kent County.

• YMCA — $10,000 to support its partnership with Delaware Adolescents Program Inc. to aid pregnant and parenting teens, and their babies through curriculum topics including health, care of infants & toddlers, and nutrition.

Mr. Tucker said he is always excited — and proud — that the CenDel 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 $3 million in grants, funding and scholarships in Central Delaware. That’s really exciting for us and something to be proud of.”
Reach staff writer Mike Finney at 302-741-8230 or mfinney@newszap.com.

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