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Foundation’s WISH awards three nonprofit, two Shepherd project grants for 2020

ISSUED: 22 October 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — WISH, a women’s giving circle sponsored by the Shepherd University Foundation, announced the awarding of five grants totaling $160,255 collectively to community nonprofits A Farm Less Ordinary, Catholic Charities, and WV Freshealthy Bucks, and Shepherd learning projects Chemistry Lab Revitalization and the School of Education Collaborative Technology Innovation initiative.

Community nonprofits

Receiving the first 2020 nonprofit grant is A Farm Less Ordinary, which provides employment opportunities for intellectually or developmentally disabled teens and older to work as “growers” at the farm located in Bluemont, Virginia. The farm was developed by owners and founders Maya Wechsler and Greg Masucci as a way to provide job experiences for their disabled son and others who find few job training or employment possibilities. The WISH grant of $29,835 will provide money displaced by COVID-19 that will allow for payroll throughout the growing season and continue operations through 2023 and beyond.

“The intellectual/developmental (ID/DD) disability community currently suffers from an unemployment rate of over 80 percent in the United States,” said Wechsler. “Thanks to this generous grant from WISH, A Farm Less Ordinary will employ adults with ID/DD as growers, working with them to develop good habits, social skills, and workplace behaviors that they will use in a variety of workplaces over the course of their lives. Thank you for helping us transform lives and give these people a stepping stone from school to employment.”

Catholic Charities is the second 2020 nonprofit recipient. This social services organization is run with a focus on inclusivity in regard to the clients they serve, particularly low-income individuals or those experiencing homelessness. The $29,835 WISH grant will allow the Martinsburg office to renovate a first floor space into an accessible laundry and shower facility. This will help alleviate demands for services, which have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Individuals and families who are living in poverty struggle to meet their basic needs, including doing laundry and taking a shower,” said Trina Bartlett, eastern regional director for Catholic Charities. “The Martinsburg office offers these services on the second floor, but they are not available to anyone who is unable to climb stairs due to physical disabilities or illness. The Catholic Charities staff is grateful that the WISH grant is providing funds to renovate our laundry and shower facilities so they are available to everyone regardless of physical limitations.”

WV Freshealthy Bucks/Physician’s Farmacy, the third nonprofit recipient, is a double value coupon program that allows U.S. Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to “double” their money if they shop at local farmer’s markets in Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, and Charles Town. The $29,835 WISH grant will be used to not only double the client’s SNAP allocation, but it will provide stipends for volunteer market managers and advertising and marketing dollars to reach more clients, help develop partnerships with underserved community organizations, and share healthy eating information in medical clinics, community centers, WIC offices, food banks, and local schools.

“We are in the early miles of the COVID marathon,” said Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, who serves as the director of the program. “Our poor nutritional health and food insecurity are making us vulnerable as a nation, especially in West Virginia. We are proud to partner with WISH to make it easier for families to eat healthy local foods while supporting our local farm economy simultaneously.”

Shepherd learning projects

The Shepherd University School of Education’s Collaborative Technology Innovations initiative is the first Shepherd Learning Project grant recipient for 2020. Headed by Dr. Jennifer Penland, the initiative will provide an updated space for student teachers to receive appropriate technology training for real world application, especially in a growing virtual teaching environment. The $30,375 WISH Shepherd Learning Project grant will be used to update the laboratory space through the purchase of Apple TVs, MacBooks, Chromebooks, Swivel Bundles, and iPads.

“There is no better instructional venue than to provide students with a collaborative space model in which they may practice such requirements between and among each other before exiting as highly marketable, certified teachers,” said Penland. “With this WISH grant, the School of Education will be able to accomplish this. We are so honored to have received this award.”

The final Shepherd Learning Project WISH grant, awarded to the Department of Chemistry in the amount of $35,375, will be used for a much-needed upgrade to the outdated lab equipment currently being used. Because technology, particularly instrumentation, changes at such a rapid pace, new state-of-the-art equipment is needed in the teaching labs to better prepare Shepherd students for direct entry into the workplace or graduate/professional school.

“The chemistry department is so grateful to WISH for this funding opportunity for student laboratory instruments which will be used to train future scientists now and for years to come,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Cole, department chair. “In chemistry, there is a gender gap between women and men, especially beyond the bachelor’s level where men earn around twice as many graduate degrees than women. I am excited that students will see the women of Shepherd investing in their education and hope it will inspire them to help fund the future.”

With these awards, the 279-member organization’s cumulative grants benefitting Shepherd University and the community totals $617,000 since 2015. Each year, the $500 contributions from each member are split between a Shepherd grant pool and nonprofit grant pool. Finalists are determined by an extensive proposal review process, and a one-woman/one-vote determines the grant recipients in each category. WISH membership for 2020 is being accepted until December 31.

To learn more about becoming a member of WISH or about the organization, visit or contact  Meg Peterson, Shepherd University Foundation director of donor relations, at 304-876-5021,

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