June 21, 2023
For over 20 years, Corry Community Foundation has worked to connect donors to worthwhile causes in the Corry area using endowments and a grant process. To ensure the funding is going toward the right causes and is able to actually make change in the community, CCF underwent a review process.
In the process, CCF and its members decided it was time to sit down and define its priorities, unveiling a strategic plan.
Kimberly Hawkes, board member, said the process will help them make informed decisions.
“Strategic planning is an active process,” Hawkes said. “Strategies developed and never revisited eventually are not aligned with organizational needs. CCF’s review and update of their strategy ensures that we are doing the right things, in today’s environment, to achieve our goals.”
In 2022, George Espy, the former vice president of community impact for Erie Community Foundation, helped CCF reaffirm its vision and mission to determine the direction CCF wants to head.
He started by asking the board members to list Corry’s assets and why they liked living in Corry. From there, the conversation branched out to include what it means to live in a healthy city.
Hawkes said they researched what being “healthy” means to other cities around the world and landed on the World Health Organization’s definition. The definition states that a healthy city is one that’s continually creating and improving physical and social environments and expanding those community resources which enable people to mutually support each other.
From there, the board researched successes and failures of growth in rural areas and determined best practices. Reflecting on the past mission for CCF, the focus is similar, but it’s more refined. Before, the areas of focus were too broad and generalized.
To visualize the new priorities, Hawkes illustrated a tree. Stemming from the trunk are health, safety and housing; inclusion; economic well-being; arts, culture and lifelong learning; and environment. With all of these aspects flourishing, it creates a healthy Corry region.
For each area, there are specific goals stated. For example, inclusion emphasizes cultural and biological heritage, as well as a sense of belonging and public participation in the community.
The environmental aspects include benefits such as clean air and water, along with maintaining green space and providing high-speed internet to residents.
“Within environment are obvious definitions of parks and green spaces, but also environmental benefits and interaction and connectivity,” Hawkes said. “Corry has tremendous environmental benefits, which can be maintained and improved if we support them and encourage others to do the same. Connectivity wasn’t the requirement previously that it is today.”
She explained that having connectivity both in person and virtually is critical for a community, which is a takeaway from Covid.
The plan also looks to enhance arts and culture, reduce poverty, prevent blight in neighborhoods and provide learning opportunities at all levels of life.
Some of the recent grants CCF has awarded include a new roof for the YMCA of Corry and last year’s Summer in the Park series for the Corry Area Arts Council.
Hawkes said the board will track which areas receive the most grant requests, and if there are none for projects specifically involving one of the goals, CCF may consider a community request for projects addressing that area. In other words, CCF would provide grants to those willing to work toward the goals CCF has.
Hawkes said CCF is planning meetings and surveys with local nonprofit organizations and with residents for additional feedback.
“We will seek a cross-section of the community to ensure we are hearing all voices,” she said.
She said that CCF’s priorities are not necessarily more important than others in the area, but they are priorities that CCF knows it can impact.
In a statement, CCF surveys for donors, charities and community members is the first step in an evolving process.
“CCF is moving toward intentional giving while remaining true to our donors wishes. Ultimately, everyone wants Corry to be a happy, healthy, thriving community that’s safe for families to settle to raise their children," the statement reads.