Steve Gerus and Rosemary Blieszner established the very first endowment at the Community Foundation as a way to engage their entire family in giving back to the community. Focused on education, Steve, Rosemary, and their children began reading grant applications and awarding grants to local  teachers finding innovative ways to engage their students. They awarded their first $500 grant to Shawsville Elementary School’s Read with Me program in 1997.

Over twenty years later, Steve and Rosemary’s grant-making has evolved with their interests and the changing needs of the region. They continue to read  applications submitted through the Foundation’s Responsive Grant Program,  and they support projects that make education both accessible and transformative for students from all walks of life. In 2019, they are supporting a $5,000 grant to New River Community College’s Great Expectations Program, which helps young people navigate the transition from the foster care system to college and the workforce through mentorship and life-skills training.

Gerus and Blieszner said, “Everything starts out small, so it was appropriate that our first grant was to a first grade class at Shawsville Elementary School. Things change, we’re still passionate in our support for education, and we’re happy to help older students achieve their grown-up dreams”.