The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation distributed record amount in novel year

By Caity Coyne, Staff writer

The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation distributed a record $13.5 million to community organizations last year, Dr. Michelle Foster, president of the nonprofit organization, announced Tuesday.

“When things got hard, people got charitable. People here are really, really generous. They want to support their neighbors and people around them,” Foster said. “The pandemic showed us that’s true.”

The announcement came as part of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation’s annual report to the community. According to the report, the organization took in $3.6 million in donations in 2020 — not a record, Foster said, but not a concern either.

“It’s my pleasure to report that [The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation] is solid,” Foster said. “As they say in that famous song, ‘solid as a rock.’”

In 2020, the Foundation awarded more than $1.3 million to COVID-19 recovery and support.

Dr. Sherri Young, health officer at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and keynote speaker at Tuesday’s presentation, said fighting the pandemic would have been much more difficult without support from the Foundation, which supplied tents, equipment, food and water, among other things, to volunteers and employees at the county’s dozens of COVID-19 testing and vaccination events.

Tuesday marked 442 days of the department’s Health Command for COVID-19 response, Young said. She urged people to get vaccinated to help speed up the return to normal.

“We’re going to get there because we have hope, we have community and we have each other,” Young said. “We are going to continue to march on and finish this pandemic, then we’ll march on to the next thing together, because that’s what communities do.”

The Foundation also distributed more than $743,000 to criminal justice reform projects in 2020, and hosted a series of high-profile events aimed at furthering conversations on race relations in West Virginia.

“After the callous killing of George Floyd, the days after May 25 were difficult for me,” said Foster, who is Black.

As she read statements from people across the nation in response to the murder, she said she froze every time she tried to write her own. So instead of putting out a statement, Foster said she wanted to move the conversation forward through the Summit on Race Matters.

“People were so interested in learning more and trying to make a difference,” Foster said. “It’s incredible to see how much of a success this was.”

Also Tuesday, The Foundation recognized area organizations as Change Makers, an annual award given to people and groups working to improve the Kanawha Valley with programming initiatives and services. The 2020 recipients were West Virginia Women Work, Legal Aid of West Virginia, FestivALL, the Kanawha Valley Collective and the Keep Your Faith Corporation.