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WISH presents grants totaling $123,000 to local nonprofits, learning projects

By Staff | Aug 30, 2019

Recipients of the WISH grants pose for a photo following the awards presentation on Sunday at Shepherd University. Toni Milbourne

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Women Investing in Shepherd, a women’s giving circle, awarded four grants to two community nonprofits and two Shepherd University learning projects on Sunday evening, totaling $123,000.

Receiving the first grant for $30,750, was Community Network Inc./The Bethany House. The Bethany House provides emergency shelter to women and children. They provide service 24-hours a day year-round, offering 32 beds as well as clothing and personal hygiene items to those seeking their assistance. Their help does not stop there as they also provide help in finding housing, transportation and more.

Executive Director Teresa Shumate accepted the award.

“This grant will allow us to purchase new beds and mattresses,” Shumate told the WISH members gathered at Erma Ora Byrd Hall. “We can also get cots for overflow, storage totes and new clothing for those with job interviews.”

In addition, the funds will help secure transportation and materials for life skills classes.

Shumate said in the past two years, Bethany House has helped 258 women and 98 children, provided 11,904 safe nights, 20,808 meals and 239 nights in motels, when there was not enough space at the facility to meet the needs.

Semper Li Ashley House was the recipient of the second $30,750 grant, which was accepted by Mountaineer Behavioral Health founder Dr. Jonathan Hartiens.

Mountaineer Behavioral Health received a $3 million grant in 2017 to open as the first long-term substance recovery facility in the Eastern Panhandle.

According to Hartiens, the WISH grant will allow a three-prong mission to help those who have completed a program and need assistance in transitioning back to every-day life. The three-prong mission will focus on assisting with transportation, providing housing resources, including the Ashley House, and offering vocational re-entry services.

“One of the many problems individuals face is that they lack resources when they leave the facility,” Hartiens said. “The WISH grant will help with these transitional resources to sustain recovery.”

Also receiving a grant was the Health Promotion Expansion as part of the School of Recreation, Sports and Exercise Sciences at Shepherd. With the funds, the department will purchase new equipment for the first-floor room at the Butcher Center.

Director and Associate Professor of Recreation and Sport Studies Stacey Kendig spoke about the importance of addressing the issue of obesity.

“This is a dream come true for us,” Kendig said.

With the funds, new treadmills will be purchased, as well as flooring. Outreach programs will be developed and expanded as well.

The Shepherd Speech and Debate team secured the fourth WISH grant, which was accepted by volunteer assistant coach Katie Zakrzewski, who shared some of the success stories the teams have had in the recent past.

“Currently the team is the three-time state champion on the debate side,” she said. “Shepherd University students have ranked 38 times on the national scale in national competition.”

According to Zakrzewski, the greatest roadblock to continued success has been financial constraints. The grant funds will help with costs of travel to competitions, as well as with providing scholarships to incoming freshmen who have a desire to be on the team. In addition, Zakrzewski said the funds will help with investing in some paid assistant coaches. Currently all the coaches are volunteers, with the only paid position being the faculty advisor.

WISH member and Shepherd University President Mary J.C. Hendrix praised all those who helped form the WISH group five years ago.

“This is a group of dedicated volunteers and generous donors who are creating a positive change through informed philanthropy,” Hendrix said.