With $32.5 million in donations since its founding in 1974, the charitable Scioto Foundation has supported various scholarships and public projects in Portsmouth and around the county. The group held its annual meeting Tuesday at the SOMC Friends Center, and featured a look back at the previous year’s accomplishments as well as a look ahead to this year’s goals, which may or may not include bringing various county officials together to create a 15-year development plan.
Past chair and current board member Josh Howard said the foundation accepted 23 new funds in 2017, bringing the total of funds the foundation helps financially and in other ways to 276. According to Howard’s chart, the foundation started off with just one fund in 1974. To help support those groups and other foundation activities, the organization took in $3.7 million in contributions last year.
In total, Howard said the Scioto Foundation’s assets currently sit at $37.5 million. That’s up from more than $22 million 10 years ago, and marks a huge difference from assets of $200,000 in the year the organization was formed.
Apparently one of the foundation’s bigger undertakings is the UCAN endowed scholarship fund. Students at schools from Clay to Portsmouth to Wheelersburg to East and New Boston all received monies, with endowments at each school ranging from a little more than $13,000 to $280,000. In total, the foundation handed out more than $66,000 in scholarships. Additionally, 106 so-called mini grants were awarded to local schools at a clip of $1,000 per year. Further, 142 teachers took advantage of stipends to gain professional certifications.
Scioto Gives is the name for the foundation’s contributions to various charitable organizations throughout the county. Last year, those donations amounted to more than $480,000, including matching funds coming from the various recipients. As one example of the foundation’s impact, Howard’s presentation noted the Friends of the Scioto County Homeless Shelter now have an endowment fund of $74,000.
Scioto 365 was launched in January 2017, with the stated goal of “impact grant-making focused upon building strong communities through community and economic development.” Donors become members by giving $365 – a dollar a day for one year. Howard said some donors chose to donate $3,650 and became lifetime members. During his presentation, Howard added the foundation issued a request for proposals from local non-profits and governments in May with the theme of “creating work-life balance.” Projects considered for funding included parks and recreational areas, bike paths, community signage and lighting, and overall community appearance. Connex Inc. won the first grant of $20,000.
For Tuesday’s event, attended by perhaps 50 local officials and community leaders, the keynote speaker was Torey Hollingsworth, manager of research and policy with the Greater Ohio Policy Center in Columbus. Hollingsworth spoke extensively on what she called “legacy cities,” good examples of which would include Portsmouth and several other cities in the state. Legacy cities are older, industrial urban areas that have experienced significant decline in population and jobs resulting in diminished service capacity and resources. Portsmouth is one of 20 such small to mid-sized legacy cities in Ohio. Hollingsworth — and later Scioto Foundation Executive Director Kim Cutlip — said legacy cities were once major economic driving forces throughout Ohio. Citing examples of legacy cities from other states, Hollingsworth expressed a hope that Ohio’s legacy cities can rise again and once more be viable, thriving population centers.
As an example of one legacy city she said has been able to largely turn things around, Hollingsworth pointed to Lancaster, Pa., which she said developed a “culture of collaboration.” She touted a 15-year development plan put in place and followed by Lancaster officials and community leaders. She credited the plan with, among other positives, rehabbing Lancaster’s downtown. Hollingsworth expressed a hope that with some cooperation among local officials, perhaps the same can happen here. She talked about Portsmouth’s existing downtown potentially being a huge advantage for the city and county, and a real opportunity for development and economic growth.
During her closing remarks, Cutlip said 15-year development plans may not be “sexy,” but they can indeed be very helpful. She noted the Scioto 365 theme for this year is “Pride of Place,” which means putting an emphasis on livability and quality of life, concentrating on such things as public spaces, public art and perhaps even just fixing sidewalks to make areas more accessible.
While Tuesday’s meeting was attended by plenty of public officials, none returned requests for comment following the session. Despite the hopes of Hollingsworth and Cutlip, it is unclear if the idea of creating a long-term development plan for the county gained any traction.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931