Foxes on grass
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First-Ever Grants Distributed from $10 Million Estate Gift to Support Local Outdoor Parks and Recreation

The Central New York Community Foundation recently distributed $301,000 in grants from the Dr. Robert J. Vitkus Fund; more than $1 million in additional grants distributed from other funds to local nonprofits.

When Bob Vitkus passed away last year, his estate named the Central New York Community Foundation the recipient of $10 million to support outdoor parks and recreation areas, a cause that had significant importance to him.

The Community Foundation recently distributed the first-ever grants from the Dr. Robert J. Vitkus Fund. Three organizations received a total of $301,000 for projects that promote outdoor parks and recreation and improve wildlife habitat and forest health.

Grants distributed from the fund included $64,000 to the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation to purchase a 27.5-acre property in Cazenovia, NY, for habitat and open space conservation, $150,000 to the Central New York Land Trust to support enhanced outdoor recreation and water quality at the Albanese Preserve at the R.J. Vitkus Conservation Area of Skaneateles Lake, $10,000 to the Charles N. Gordon Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to construct a plumbed building to assist with wildlife rehabilitation efforts, $2,000 to Friends of Wildlife to purchase a new security camera at the Webster Pond and $75,000 to Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (TNT) to replace a spray fountain at Washington Square Park.

Bob Vitkus holding fishAt first glance, Bob, was a successful oral surgeon and an avid hunter and fly fisherman. But the depth of his character went far beyond the descriptions of his attention to detail and love of the outdoors. When Bob passed away in June 2020 after a 17-year battle with pancreatic cancer he left much for community benefit through his estate gift that established his fund.

“Bob’s legacy is being carried on through the impact of these grants,” said Thomas Griffith, vice president, development of the Community Foundation. “The power of endowment takes the generosity of amazing people like Bob and ensures that their charitable wishes persevere through generations. This fund allows Bob’s values of honoring the outdoors and being a good sportsman to be carried on through time for the enjoyment of others.”

While Bob will be missed by so many, his legacy lives on through his gracious financial support for the conservation of Central New York’s land, promoting both sportsmanship and habitat development.

Griffith stated, “He didn’t just give us money, he gave us nature.”

The Community Foundation additionally funded a number of nonprofit projects that fall into the areas of arts and culture, civic affairs, education, health, human services and the environment.

$1,059,135 in Community Grants Distributed

Cazenovia Preservation Foundation- $64,000

Purchase a 27.5-acre property in Cazenovia, NY, for habitat and open space conservation and to provide public access to the Sherman’s Gulch Trail

CDS Wolf Foundation- $33,000

Construct Monarch Commons, affordable and supportive housing community that will serve homeless veterans

Center for Community Alternatives- $15,000

Launch its Youth Violence and Peer Leadership Program which provides education and peer leadership training opportunities to Syracuse youth impacted by violence

Central New York Land Trust- $150,000

Support enhanced outdoor recreation and water quality at the Albanese Preserve at the R.J. Vitkus Conservation Area of Skaneateles Lake

Chadwick Residence- $20,000

Implement a new Senior Resident Advisor position to facilitate the HEAL Together Program that focuses on increasing independent living skills for homeless women

Charles N. Gordon Wildlife Rehabilitation Center- $10,000

Construct a plumbed building to assist with wildlife rehabilitation efforts

Chenango Nursery School- $4,350

Purchase new software to create a safe and reliable communication space for parents and caregivers

Community Memorial Hospital Foundation- $50,000

Renovate and expand its Emergency, Radiology, Lab and Rehab departments

Exceptional Family Resources- $30,000

Create service provider and client matching software to make connections more efficient and mutually beneficial

Friends of Rosamond Gifford Zoo- $50,000

Construct a 20,000 square-foot free standing animal health center that will replace the current medical clinic

Friends of Wildlife- $2,000

Purchase a new security camera at the Webster Pond

Fund for the City of New York/Center for Court Innovation- $25,000

Hire Peacemaking staff to coordinate a new Community Impact Team, which is a resident-based group

The George & Rebecca Barnes Foundation- $18,000

Make necessary renovations to its historical building on James Street

Gigi’s Playhouse of Syracuse- $5,785

Host its Amina Grace Speech & Language Program which provides free 1-on-1 speech therapy

Greater Syracuse Land Bank- $50,000

Restore a nationally registered historic church on the Southside

Greater Syracuse Works- $40,000

Launch workforce development programs in response to increased needs within the community

Inclusive Alliance IPA- $45,000

Compose and implement a business and sustainability plan

McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center- $50,000

Hire new therapists to increase staff diversity to work with clientele representative of the larger population

Mercy Works- $30,000

Expand its Synergy and Digital Music Labs that are components of its career pathways program

Musical Associates of Central New York- $35,000

Implement a Diversity Fellowship and a literacy/music project for the elementary schools feeding into Corcoran High School

Oneida Community Mansion House- $50,000

Support its Save the Roof preservation project that protects its historical building by repairing roofs and masonry

Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment- $27,000

Purchase a passenger van to transport New Americans participating in the Syracuse Refugee Agriculture Program where they grow culturally appropriate crops to improve their own food access

TNT-Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today- $75,000

Replace a spray fountain at Washington Square Park

The Upstate Foundation- $50,000

Support the Golisano Center for Special Needs– AccessCNY Sensory Movement Exploration Center which promotes physical activity and wellness for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Volunteer Lawyers Project- $50,000

Expand its Immigration Program that supports New Americans with legal services

Whole Me, Inc- $25,000

Create a succession plan to help facilitate a smooth transition as the organization experiences a change in senior leadership

Workers Justice Center- $5,000

Conduct a landscape analysis to help create more targeted education and outreach to farms and farm labor institutions in Madison and Onondaga counties

 

$20,000 in LeadSafeCNY Grants Distributed

Hopeprint- $10,000

Support initial development of the NExT Microneighborhood initiative on the Northside of Syracuse, creating safe and affordable homes for local residents

WCNY- $10,000

Support for its LeadSafeCNY Public Service Announcements to inform families of the dangers of lead paint in homes

 

About the Central New York Community Foundation

The Central New York Community Foundation is a public charity established in 1927 that receives contributions from donors, manages them to grow over time and then distributes funding to local charities to help them thrive. It is the largest charitable foundation in Central New York with assets of more than $366 million and has invested more than $230 million in community improvement projects since its inception. As a grantmaker, civic leader, convener and sponsor of strategic initiatives, the Community Foundation strives to strengthen local nonprofits, encourage better understanding of the region and address the most critical issues of our time.

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