2012-09-27 / News

Newport County Fund celebrates 10 years of giving to area nonprofits

Islander James Wright chairs the advisory board

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Newport County Fund, a subsidy created by the Rhode Island Foundation to provide money to deserving nonprofit organizations in the county’s six municipalities. It was the first and only fund to be established by the foundation with a geographic focus.

The fund’s mission is simple: to improve the lives of Newport County residents. Toward that end, this year more than $180,000 was provided to 25 nonprofits spread across Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth and Tiverton.

Included in those numbers were four grants to Jamestown organizations. The awards went to the Conanicut Island Land Trust, the Jamestown Historical Society, the Jamestown Community Chorus, and the Jamestown Education Foundation. The local grant money was drawn from the Jamestown Community Fund and the Jamestown Fund for the Performing Arts – both are administered by the Newport County Fund.

According to Linnea Petersen, president of the Jamestown Historical Society, the grant of $1,070 that the society received this year has been instrumental in the creation of two brochures. One provides visitors with information about local sites that are owned by the society, including the windmill, the museum, Conanicut Battery National Historic Park, and the Friends Meetinghouse. The other is a walking tour of Narragansett Avenue, featuring historic sites along the way.

“It’s good for Jamestown because it helps to familiarize visitors with historic things that they should look for,” Petersen said.

The money has also been used to restore the old Lyons Market sign that is currently hanging in the library. The sign needs some conservation work. Also, the society plans on building two new signs that commemorate the passage of George Washington down Narragansett Avenue on his way from Saunderstown to Newport.

James Wright of Jamestown has been the chair of the Newport County Fund’s advisory committee for the last three years. According to Wright, the impetus for the creation of the organization was the desire to build bridges between the Rhode Island Foundation and Newport County.

“The goal is to support charitable institutions in Newport County, and to promote better communications between them,” he said. “It’s also a way to give donors and philanthropists in Newport County a chance at projects that they might want to fund.”

The Newport County Fund operates two programs in pursuit of its mission. One program is used for smaller grants that award gifts of up to $10,000. It helps new programs get off the ground. The committee’s members represent each of county’s six cities and towns, which helps to inform the decision making as far as which programs get funded. Site visits by the committee members are also a key factor in deciding on grant applications.

“We’ve had people say that our early support not only helped them financially, but also helped them as a stamp of approval,” Wright said.

For a number of years, the other component of the fund was a program for large grants. Taking notice of the economic recession, the organization has now converted that part of the program to one that provides emergency end-of-year funds to organizations that help people in need.

“It’s money that has to go into the community before the end of the year,” said Wright. “To help people in need. It’s more directed giving.”

It was the group’s large-grant program that helped start the Jamestown Teen Center. A threeyear commitment from the fund was instrumental in creating the center’s after-school programs. Following the three-year commitment, the fund helped to organize Newport County After School Excitement – also known as iNCASE. The network is an initiative to have community partners from different areas of the county work together to share programming.

Quentin Anthony is the president of the Conanicut Island Land Trust. Earlier this year, the land trust received a $5,000 grant from the Newport County Fund. According to Anthony, the money has been used to help with the cost of the organization’s project at Godena Farm. The plan will convert a portion of the farm to an environmental learning center, and will include a new trail system that will eventually be marked by new shrubbery and wildflower planting. Informative signage will also be erected for educational purposes.

“This grant from the Newport County Fund will keep pushing that project forward,” Anthony said. “It’s a project that doesn’t come without cost. We’re trying to build a small parking lot so that people can get off the road safely and park their cars. It meant a great deal to us.”

The Jamestown Education Foundation also received a grant from the Newport County Fund this year, in the amount of $2,160. Sally Schott, president of the foundation, said that the money will be used to fund an after-school strings program at Melrose Avenue School. The instructor will be Emily Anthony, a well-known strings teacher. This is the second year that the fund has provided money for the yearlong program.

“It enables us to run a discrete program that would be outside of what we could afford with our regular fundraising,” Schott said.

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