When a community organization in New Albany has a worthy cause to forward, its leaders can take comfort in knowing the New Albany Community Foundation is there to help.
Formed in 1994, the foundation is a public, nonprofit organization that supports efforts to benefit the New Albany community. Its main areas of focus are education and lifelong learning; arts and culture; health and wellness; the environment and historic preservation; and community building.
In fiscal year 2011, the foundation gave out $238,000 in grants, and was already up to $333,000 in fiscal year 2012 by late May.
“The bulk of that was for education or the arts,” says foundation Executive Director Craig Mohre.
New Albany-Plain Local Schools, Healthy New Albany, the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts and the New Albany-Plain Local Joint Parks District are just a few of the organizations that have benefited from the foundation’s support. Other groups include the New Albany Arts Council, the New Albany Ballet Theater, the New Albany Children’s Choir, the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New Albany branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the city of New Albany, the Plain Township Fire Department and the New Albany-Plain Township Historical Society.
New Albany-Plain Local Schools
For years, the foundation has been using its resources to bring in guest speakers for students, many of them authors and all of them imparting valuable experience and knowledge. Most recently, the foundation brought in former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to speak at the McCoy Center, and while here she also spoke to students. Clarence Jones, speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., is another recent example.
“The kids become familiar with not only the author, but their subject,” says Mohre.
Last year, the foundation formed the Central Ohio Leadership Academy, expanding the scope of its guest speakers for students and bringing in students from other school districts across central Ohio to New Albany for the events. These other schools include Licking County high schools, Columbus high schools and several private schools including Columbus Academy and the Columbus School for Girls.
The academy is a partnership with the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University – the students keep journals and do projects associated with the lecture series, and even receive college credit for it. The foundation invested about $60,000 in the launch of the program.
Author visits are another major boost the foundation provides for New Albany students. Teachers suggest authors based on what the students are reading and the foundation helps to bring them in, familiarizing students with the books’ subject matter as well as concepts including writing a book and creating characters.
“They also provide the authors’ books to our students, so the students not only get to capture what they’ve written and read, but they tend to get to experience it firsthand,” says Ric Stranges, principal at New Albany High School.
That experience often has a major impact on students. Stranges gives an example of a student who spent time with author David McCullough when he came to town for a foundation-sponsored author visit, and she has now graduated from college and is making her living as a writer.
“She still goes back to that day that she spent with David McCullough that changed her life,” says Stranges.
The foundation also funded the environmental sciences program at New Albany High School – a magnet program that draws students from 16 different central Ohio high schools.
Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts
The foundation was a major partner in the creation of the McCoy Center. The center hosts a huge assortment of cultural activities in New Albany – guest speakers, school assemblies, informational lectures and artistic performances, to name a few.
At a time when the school district needed a new high school auditorium, city leaders wanted a community center and township officials wanted a senior center, the foundation helped create a facility that incorporated all three.
“We built a $15 million, state-of-the-art facility with teaching spaces … and then a 780-seat theater, and to this day, it’s just been a remarkable collaboration,” Mohre says.
Even now, the foundation plays a big part in raising money for programming and operations.
“Everything we do includes some sort of funding from the foundation, so they’re a partner on all of our programming,” says Mindy Hayward, director of marketing and communications for the McCoy. “Many of the artists that we bring in … wouldn’t normally be looking at a community like New Albany to do performances.”
Healthy New Albany
The foundation was very much involved in the creation of Healthy New Albany – the project was the brainchild of Mohre and Phil Heit, who is also founder of the New Albany Walking Club and the New Albany Walking Classic – and convened the group that started the organization.
“The mission is to promote a culture of health in our community,” says Mohre. “From that, there are a number of initiatives, all volunteer-driven.”
Mohre and Heit started with the Walking Classic and gradually added more initiatives, including a lecture series at the McCoy Center that brings in experts to speak on a variety of health-related topics, the New Albany Farmers’ Market, community gardens and Healthy New Albany Magazine.
“At Healthy New Albany, our intention is to become a model for how cities go about developing a culture of health,” says Heit.
Healthy New Albany was started just last year, and since then, its initiatives have gained major ground – for instance, the farmers’ market is already up to 65 vendors, and the magazine is mailed to all residents and distributed to business parks in the New Albany area.
New Albany-Plain Local Joint Parks District
The foundation was one of several partners involved in the development of Wexner Community Park.
A playground, a pavilion and a commons area make up the park, which opened in 2004. Much of the funding came from a bond issue, but the foundation’s support allowed for the completion of the playground area.
“We were not going to be able to move forward if we hadn’t partnered with (the foundation),” says Dave Wharton, director of the parks district.
Now, thanks in part to the foundation, the community has a small park in the center of town that’s very popular for events, from birthday parties to an Independence Day celebration.
“It’s been a fantastic resource for everybody,” says Wharton.
The foundation also funded a planning study for the forthcoming Rose Run Streamside Park, though that park is overseen by the city rather than by the parks district.
Garth Bishop is editor of CityScene Magazine. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.