July 15, 2020

Community Foundation’s Philanthropy Provides Scholarships and COVID-19 Relief

By Anne Levin

The Princeton Area Community Foundation (PACF) recently awarded over $90,000 in scholarships to area high school and college students. Late last month, the organization announced that more than $1 million had been given to over 50 nonprofits, and more than $2.4 million had been donated to its COVID-19 Recovery Fund.

When it comes to local philanthropy, PACF figures prominently. The organization has more than $170 million in assets, which they invest and administer as grants and scholarships. PACF, which operates from offices on Princess Road in Lawrence Township, has earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the country’s largest independent charity evaluator, for the 10th consecutive year.

Key elements of the Foundation’s success include its focus on the local area, and its ability to match philanthropists with specific organizations that are meaningful to them.

“We really care about this region,” said Nelida Valentin, PACF’s vice president, grants and programs. “We have so many different populations and different issues, and they differ throughout the state. What helps us be successful at this is that we make linkages between individuals who are donors and organizations that want to set up charitable activities. We bring the people together to actually make that happen, and we do it in so many different ways.”

PACF awarded $39,350 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors, and renewed another $53,400 in scholarships for college students who are scheduled to be resuming classes in the fall. Additionally, the $5,000 Thomas George Artist Fund Award went to Kyle Lang, who recently completed his studies at Mercer County Community College.

Gifts that went to Princeton High School students are the Princeton Post No. 76, American Legion Dr. Henry J. Frank Scholarship (four years) $1,000, to Cosette Hansen, who will attend George Washington University; the A. Myrtle Hensor Teaching Scholarship Fund (one year) $1,000, to  Meghan Callahan, who will go to the University of Scranton; and the Louise Maas Allied Health Professions Scholarship Fund (one year) $1,000, to Eleanor Wilkinson, who will attend Clemson University.

Other students awarded by the Foundation have graduated from Ewing High School, Hamilton High School West, Notre Dame High School, Collingswood High School, North Hunterdon High School, Middletown High School North, and Cranford High School.

“We know this school year has been hard for students, especially for seniors,” said Jeffrey M. Vega, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, in a press release. “We are very grateful for our donors, who help us help such hard-working students pursue their dreams. On behalf of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, we would like to congratulate each scholarship winner, and we wish each student a successful future.”

Donors donate for different
reasons. “They may have had some kind of life experience, or be focused on a particular area that makes them want to set up a scholarship around that issue,” said Valentin, who referenced a family that had lost a member to cancer and wanted to fund someone who had been affected by the disease in some way. “It’s a really good thing when you focus on the intersection of needs.”

When the pandemic hit, PACF immediately set about getting funding together. “We were able to launch quickly to help nonprofits we fund and even those we haven’t in the past,” said Valentin. Help with food, shelter, and keeping the nonprofits they fund afloat were the priorities. “We’re at the center of all these donors and programs and funds that have been set up, and we try to listen. Our goal is always to make sure we’re promoting philanthropy and really getting at real solutions. More and more has been focused on trying to employ those resources in ways that have impact – at the intersection of where dollars create a systemic and healthy community.”