AARP Guest Column: A Bridge To Solutions – Igniting Hope and Fueling Impact

The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation’s President and CEO Michelle Foster discusses the transformative impact of TGKVF’s work in the Kanawha Valley and Mountain State

Founded in 1962, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation (TGKVF) is a prominent philanthropy leader. It ranks among the top 80 community foundations nationwide and serves as the largest in central Appalachia.

The term “philanthropy” itself signifies a love of humanity, a sentiment richly embodied by the numerous individuals in our community whose generosity shines brightly. It is our donors’ support that has made our work possible and impactful.

We deeply appreciate all the donors who, as of December 31, 2023, have established and contributed to the 582 funds we manage, ranging from $10,000 to $68 million. Your contributions have been instrumental in our growth. At the end of 2023, we had over $323 million in assets under management, up from $290 million in 2022. To everyone who contributed to the $17 million we received last year, thank you for your dedication to investing in your community through our foundation.

For those who received a share of the $13.6 million in grants we distributed, we are delighted to partner with you in positively impacting our community. I am also excited to share a record-breaking achievement in our scholarship program. In 2023, we awarded over $1.5 million in scholarships to 485 deserving students. It is a privilege to invest in our students, who are the very legacy of our community.

As our mission states, we are about helping donors, nonprofits, and other collaborative partners strengthen our community so all of the people and places we serve have the opportunity to thrive. At the heart of our mission lies a profound belief in the power of unity, collaboration, and compassion. We understand that challenges in our state are plentiful, and the road to progress is often fraught with obstacles. Yet, it is precisely in these moments of adversity that the true spirit of our community shines brightest. It is in these moments that we must come together, resilient and determined, to forge pathways towards a brighter future.

Our theme for 2024, “A Bridge to Solutions: Igniting Hope and Fueling Impact,” encapsulates the Foundation’s unwavering dedication to building connections—between individuals, organizations, and ideas. It speaks to our belief that by fostering dialogue and collaboration, we can overcome even the most daunting of challenges. But a bridge is more than just a physical structure—it symbolizes hope, a testament to our collective ability to transcend barriers and reach new horizons.

Igniting hope is not merely a lofty aspiration but a fundamental necessity in our work. In a world often beset by uncertainty and despair, hope is our guiding light, illuminating the path forward and inspiring us to persevere in adversity. The spark ignites change, empowering individuals to believe in a better tomorrow and motivating communities to come together to pursue shared goals.

Yet hope alone is not enough. It must be accompanied by action—a commitment to fueling impact and effecting tangible change in the lives of those we serve. Here, our role as a community foundation is paramount. Through strategic investments, targeted initiatives, and grassroots support, we can catalyze transformative solutions that address the root causes of inequity and injustice.

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