Foundation gives grants to county programs

MIAMI COUNTY — Four programs designed to benefit area children will be recipients of a $15,000 grant each from the Miami County Foundation.

According to Cheryl Stiefel-Francis, foundation executive director, the grant money will be distributed to the organizations this month.

“We’re celebrating our 30th anniversary and providing year-end grants was a way for us to provide gifts that will benefit Miami County. The agencies selected serve the county. The committee also considered program outcomes, the number of Miami County residents served and our past relationship and support with each of these groups,” Stiefel-Francis said.

“It’s like a Christmas gift for us,” said Claire Timmer, executive director of the Miami County Dental Clinic, host of the Traveling Smiles program. “We are thrilled.”

Traveling Smiles treats children who may not have insurance or a family dentist. Dental professionals travel to area school districts, conducting dental exams and cleanings as well as fillings and extractions, Timmer said.

“We see kids who don’t have a dentist. Sometimes we refer them to a specialist. But it really is a benefit to both parents and kids,” Timmer said.

Troy and Piqua elementary schools have successfully participated with Traveling Smiles. And last year, 27 students at Upper Valley Career Center benefitted from the program.

“We’ve decided to go into our smaller districts this year,” Timmer said, including Miami East, Milton-Union and Tipp City schools. “We’re also going to Bradford and hopefully Covington schools.”

So far, according to Timmer, 15,000 Miami County students have received dental care with the clinic’s Traveling Smiles program.

With the cost of dental supplies and procedures on the rise, the $15,000 grant from the Miami County Foundation will be a big help, Timmer said.

Also designed to support the county’s schools, Rachel’s Challenge, sponsored by the Upper Valley Medical Center Foundation, will put their grant to good use.

Rachel’s Challenge is an anti-bullying program based on the writings and life of Rachel Scott, who at 17 was the first students killed at Columbine High School in 1999. Rachel left a legacy to reach out to those who were different or who were picked on by others at her school.

In Miami County, Rachel’s Challenge is a five-year project, said Kathleen Scarbrough, president/executive director of UVMC Foundation and executive director for the hospital’s Fund Development and Community Affairs.

The project is in its second year, Scarbrough said.

“In year one we went to every school and the three faith-based schools in the county, grades K-12. The UVMC Foundation paid for the first year,” Scarbrough said.

“For year 2 — the current school year — we decided to concentrate on the middle and high school students,” she said.

The UVMC Foundation works with local educators to design Rachel’s Challenge programs to meet the needs of students and school officials.

“Teasing begins in grade school, but for some reason, at the junior high level they become more proficient. What I hear from educators is that middle school is where the greatest risk is,” Scarbrough said of bullying.

The $15,000 grant will go to funding Rachel’s Challenge for the 2016-17 school year. Scarbrough said meetings with educators will begin after the first of the year to begin making plans on how to allocate the grant money.

Two reading enrichment programs also will receive Miami County Foundation grants.

At the Troy-Miami County Public Library, the Imagination Library project will receive $15,000 to purchase books for children age birth to 5 years who are enrolled in the program.

“The Miami County Foundation has funded Imagination Library for the last two years,” said Rachelle Miller, library director. “This is definitely going to be a big boost for us in paying for the program. They’ve (Miami County Foundation) always been a support to the library.”

Imagination Library is a non-profit program developed by performer Dolly Parton to promote early childhood literacy. Parents may enroll their child at birth through age 5. Children then receive one book per month by mail. By age 5, children will have a library of 60 titles.

A recent survey of the program, Miller said, revealed that 98 percent of parents said their kids were more interested in reading as a result of Imagination Library.

Almost 3,000 children in Miami County are enrolled in the program, Miller said.

Another reading program, Kids Read Now, is currently reaching nearly 5,000 students.

Administered by Leib and Barbara Lurie of Troy, Kids Read Now is designed to eliminate the summer reading slide experienced by young students.

“This is the only multi-district summer reading program in Ohio and one of the very few in the country that can drop in to any district, any school, any class, any grade,” Leib Lurie said.

During the summer months, “kids who read a book, get a book, up to 10 free, new books to keep,” said Lurie, noting that weekly communication between the students, their parents and Kids Read Now is vital to the program. Using technology, students report in weekly and complete a worksheet in order to receive their next book.

“We hope to expand this program for next summer,” Lurie said, and will use the foundation grant money toward that goal.

Kids Read Now is currently active in 24 school buildings, Lurie said.

“We hope to go to about 30 buildings this coming summer.”

Working with local educators, the reading program is based upon state and school district test statistics and research. “We’re planning on making a number of changes in the way we distribute, track usage and hope to expand to 100,000 kids in the next five years,” Lurie said.

“In Ohio, 100,000 students start fourth grade a year or more behind,” in reading, Lurie said. “These kids in Ohio are four times more likely to drop out of school, receive no college and find it’s harder to make a living wage.

“The Miami County Foundation has been extremely supportive. The grant helps to make the program sustainable,” Lurie said.

Those who would like to donate to the Miami County Foundation for future grant-making opportunities may contribute by mailing a donation to P.O. Box 1526, Piqua, OH 45356 or online at

For more information, call the foundation office at 773-9012.