Focused partnership

Published 8:23 pm Monday, September 27, 2010

Gail Pruden, left, president of the Suffolk Education Foundation, and Whitney Saunders, president of the Suffolk Foundation, sign the papers signifying an agreement between the organizations to transfer the education foundation's assets to the Suffolk Foundation to manage.

The president of the Suffolk Foundation opened his organization’s board meeting Monday with a smile on his face.

“We have some very pleasant business today,” Whitney Saunders told those gathered in a downtown bank’s conference room.

Shortly thereafter, Saunders and Gail Pruden, president of the Suffolk Education Foundation, signed papers to transfer the education foundation’s $411,000 in assets to the Suffolk Foundation.

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The move will allow the education foundation to focus on fundraising and making grants that support education in Suffolk while the Suffolk Foundation concentrates on investing the funds wisely, Pruden said.

“This is based on a long and serious look at what we needed to do to be the best we can be,” Pruden said. “We are delighted to support the mission of the Suffolk Foundation and feel this transfer is a win-win situation for both organizations.”

The Suffolk Education Foundation was formed 17 years ago to enhance educational experiences of students and staff in Suffolk Public Schools. The foundation has funded more than $450,000 in college scholarships and classroom grants for initiative programs.

The Suffolk Foundation was formed in 2006, and since then it has provided more than $400,000 in disaster relief, annual awards, scholarships and donor-advised gifts to nonprofits.

“We see it as an opportunity for the community to benefit from the charitable impulses of two foundations,” Saunders said Monday.

George Birdsong, a member of the Suffolk Foundation board, said the move fulfills what board members had hoped would happen — for the Suffolk Foundation to become an umbrella organization that handles the investments of many community partners.

“This is going to allow us to do what we do best,” said Mary Donny, the executive director of the Suffolk Education Foundation. “This is a partnership.”

The Suffolk Education Foundation still will retain control of fundraising and the grant process, she added.

In addition to its own grants, the Suffolk Foundation also administers scholarships given in the names of Howard Mast, a former director of parks and recreation in Suffolk, and Col. Fred V. Cherry, a Suffolk native who was held a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Last year’s Suffolk Foundation grant recipients included ForKids Inc., the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, the Suffolk Literacy Council and more.

For more information on the Suffolk Foundation, call 923-9090. For more information on the Suffolk Education Foundation, call 377-4713.