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WISH awards four grants to community nonprofits, Shepherd learning projects

ISSUED: 21 August 2018
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Women Investing in Shepherd (WISH), a women’s giving circle sponsored by the Shepherd University Foundation, awarded four grants totaling $115,000 collectively to two community nonprofits and two Shepherd learning projects. Community nonprofits CASA of the Eastern Panhandle and Good Samaritan Free Clinic and Shepherd’s Tabler Farm and Catherine Weltzheimer house restoration were given the awards on August 19 during a ceremony at Erma Ora Byrd Hall. The event was sponsored by alumni John Wolff of Bronfman Rothschild Wealth Advisors and his wife, Lisa Wolff.

CASA of the Eastern Panhandle utilizes highly trained, compassionate volunteers to fill the void in the child welfare system. Currently, CASA has 34 actively assigned advocates serving 124 children on 54 cases, which leaves 227 without a volunteer. The WISH grant award will ensure that every child referred to CASA will be monitored despite an actual advocate not being available by funding an administrative assistant position.

“Here at CASA of the Eastern Panhandle, our goal is to make sure that no child removed from their home due to abuse and/or neglect navigates the judicial and foster care systems alone,” said Vicki Barnard, executive director. “The sad fact remains that more than 200 kids are not matched and unfortunately travel the system without that one special individual. WISH funds will provide an additional part-time position for two years dedicated to this cause, ensuring a real difference in the lives of the kids we serve.”

The Good Samaritan Free Clinic Good Samaritan Smiles program will use its WISH grant to provide 1,000 community residents with free dental care during a two-day, 45-unit mobile dental clinic in August 2019. This project will allow low income residents of the Eastern Panhandle the opportunity to receive immediate dental care on site. Dental care assistance requests are received at a high volume, yet those in critical need must go to either the free dental clinic in Winchester, Virginia, or the WVU Dental School in Morgantown.

“We still have a great need for dental charity care in the Eastern Panhandle, and this will provide care to some of the people in our communities to receive what they have needed for a long time,” said Cosby Potter-Davis, director of the Good Samaritan Free Clinic. “This is a huge project, and we are honored that WISH members saw the need and are doing something about it.”

Headed by Dr. Jeffrey Groff, an associate professor and chair of the Shepherd University Institute of Environmental and Physical Sciences (IEPS), the Tabler Farm initiative was the recipient of one of the 2018 Shepherd learning project grants. Tabler Farm, a 158-acre parcel of land owned by the university, has seen limited use since its purchase in 1991. Several initiatives developed by IEPS, including sustainable food production, drone-led data acquisition, and a high-tech pollinator research program, all require electric power and internet access that is not yet in place. Among other things, the WISH grant will be used to install a 2.1 kW off-grid solar electric system and cellular LTE-based Wi-Fi at the farm.

“The WISH grant will allow our team to launch teaching, research, and outreach activities at Tabler Farm,” Groff said. “It will help fund a high tunnel greenhouse for sustainable vegetable production, the installation of a solar power system, the purchase of aerial drones for remote sensing applications, and the founding of an apiary for honey bee research.”

Through the final Shepherd learning project WISH grant, the Catherine Weltzheimer house restoration will create a historic and public history lab and classroom for students and community members. The sole survivor of a row of similar vernacular houses that once lined Shepherdstown’s High Street, the Weltzheimer house will provide an excellent hands-on learning opportunity for historic preservation majors and public history majors. It will also allow the university to educate the community, especially property owners, to ensure the preservation and interpretation of Shepherdstown’s historic structures. Although some funds have previously been obtained to stabilize and restore the house’s structure, the WISH grant funds will assist in completing the full renovation project.

“We deeply appreciate the generosity of WISH in funding our efforts to restore and interpret the Catherine Weltzheimer house,” said Dr. Keith Alexander, who is leading the project efforts along with fellow history department colleague Dr. Julia Sandy. “We can’t wait to get started on the next phase of the project.”

More than 100 WISH members and guests were on hand to celebrate the grant awardees, including WISH member Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, Shepherd president.

“Like most of you, I was fascinated to review the ballot and read through the summaries of each outstanding program,” said President Hendrix, who praised the finalists for addressing important issues and needs and providing creative and effective solutions. “WISH is providing new opportunities for positive changes through informed philanthropy.”

WISH is a women’s giving circle created by Women for Shepherd University and sponsored by the Shepherd University Foundation. WISH inspires, educates, and develops the potential of women’s philanthropy through high-impact grant-making. Members combine their $500 annual contribution, which is then divided into two grant pools—one for Shepherd learning programs and one for community nonprofits. A one woman, one vote process determines the grant recipients in each category. Membership for 2018 is being accepted until December 31.

To learn more about becoming a member of WISH or about the organization, visit or contact Meg Peterson at 304-876-5021 or

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