City manager: Philanthropists can help

Published 11:22 pm Friday, November 3, 2017

Suffolk’s city manager shared how he believes the philanthropic community can help the government at the annual Suffolk Foundation community forum on Wednesday.

Patrick Roberts was the keynote speaker for the event, which also featured information on the foundation’s progress.

“The Suffolk Foundation serves what you believe is important in the community,” said Les Hall, president of the board of directors of the foundation. “I believe the Suffolk Foundation is the community’s checkbook and savings account.”

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The Suffolk Foundation is celebrating its 10th year this year. From 2008 to 2016, Hall said, the foundation gave $6.6 million in gifts and administered 45 funds. It recently crossed the $6 million mark for assets.

The foundation gives grants to a variety of organizations working in various areas of Suffolk and also Smithfield, Franklin, Courtland, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County.

From 2008 through 2016, ForKids has received the highest amount of combined grants from the foundation, at $52,000. It is followed closely by the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, Suffolk Family YMCA and Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia.

As this is also the 10th anniversary of the opening of the free clinic, Executive Director Chet Hart talked to the crowd of more than 100 at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts about his organization.

“One of the greatest gifts to this community was the opening of Western Tidewater Free Clinic,” he said.

Roberts shared the City Council’s vision for the city, touching on subjects including transportation, safety and quality of life.

“We all have roles in that vision,” he said.

The city’s philanthropic community can help by supporting organizations the city also supports through its budget but doesn’t have the funds to support as much as those organizations would like.

Those organizations include the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, ForKids, Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, the Children’s Center, Virginia Legal Aid Society, Western Tidewater Free Clinic and more.

“The root cause of that is we have competing demands and limited resources,” Roberts said. He encouraged philanthropists to seek out these organizations and fill out what the government is unable to provide.

“In doing so, you don’t just support that particular cause,” Roberts said. “You’re moving the city’s vision forward.”

Roberts also encouraged local foundations to continue to have competitive grant processes where the city can apply for needs.

He mentioned the Obici Healthcare Foundation’s support of the Whaleyville Community Center, which helped the city outfit the new facility with exercise equipment.

“It would have been challenging for the government to do that without the Obici Healthcare Foundation,” Roberts said. “Continue to create those opportunities. We’ll go after them.”

He also said the philanthropic community can get involved directly in a number of areas where the city could use some help, such as homelessness, job training, blight removal and more.

Philanthropists also can continue to help Suffolk become known as a place for civil discourse, Roberts said.

“We want to be a city where people, to the extent they want to be, can be engaged,” he said.

Hall noted the foundation’s recently “Friends of the Foundation” campaign, which brought in 83 new friends making gifts to the foundation’s annual campaign, Hall said. He also noted that donors can now donate to “The Tribute Fund” in honor of or in memory of someone living or deceased.

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