Community Spirit and Hometown Pride

In Tioga County, community spirit goes a long way. For a prime illustration, consider how some of the county’s human services agencies interweave their separate social safety nets to make a bigger, stronger one.

“People come to us for food and then they tell us they need a furnace. We’re able to make that happen through community partners,” says Laurie Ellis, community services director at Catholic Charities’ Tioga Outreach Center in Nichols, by way of example.

Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga, Tioga County Rural Ministry and the Open Door Mission have created a common intake application for all three organizations. Sharing information from those forms, they pool resources to provide help.

“Say we get someone who needs $900 in back rent,” says Sister Mary O’Brien, executive director at Tioga County Rural Ministry. “We’ll e-mail that data to the other organizations and say, ‘Can you help with this?’” Usually, no one organization can provide such a large sum, but each can provide $300, she says.

Staff from several Tioga County organizations hold regular meetings to strategize on solutions for people who need help. “Instead of putting a band aid on it—saying we’ll just pay the electric bill—we say, ‘How do we move this family out of this situation entirely?’” explains Dot Richter, executive director at the Community Care Network of Nichols (CCNN). “And then we all work together.”

The Community Foundation has made numerous grants to human services groups in Tioga County. For instance, the Taren Family Fund has given a total of $7,500 to the Tioga County Rural Ministry for its holiday food distribution program. Our Women’s Fund provided $1,500 to the ministry in 2012 to buy hygiene items for low-income women. One harsh winter, the Robert and Laura Jensen Fund provided $400 to help people in need pay for heat.

In recent years, the Community Foundation has awarded $30,000 in total to Catholic Charities Tioga Outreach Center through the Community Fund, $10,000 through our small grants program and $3,000 through the Women’s Fund. Those grants have helped to pay for food, personal care items, clean clothes and emergency financial assistance.

A $15,000 grant from the Foundation’s Dick and Marion Meltzer Fund in 2013 helped CCNN expand its services for elderly, disabled and chronically ill individuals into Tioga Center, Smithboro and Barton. Those services include friendly visits, phone calls, health information, problem solving and a transportation service staffed by volunteers.

CCNN hopes eventually to expand throughout the entire county. As it seeks funds to support its current operations and future growth, the organization has used data from the Foundation’s 2015 Regional Needs Assessment to make the case that its programs serve an urgent need, Richter says.

While many of our grants assist with basics such as food, clothing, heat and medical care, we also help to foster Tioga County’s community spirit through its cultural institutions. That’s the case, for example, with two grants from the Community Foundation Library Fund to the Waverly Free Library.

Waverly Little League Baseball photos honor the community and its long standing love of the game.
Photo: discovernys.com

In 2015, a $1,190 award supported an exhibit of photographs of the Waverly Little League from the 1940s and 50s. The grant helped the library digitize and display 320 historic photos, which portray construction of the field, business meetings, parades, games and more, all filled with familiar faces.

“Generations of people in our community have worked with the Little League program, played in the program, been on the board, watched their children and grandchildren go through it,” says Theresa Pipher, a volunteer grant writer for the library.

In 2016, the Library Fund provided $1,248 for the Historic Bio Snapshot Series, spotlighting business owners, community leaders, World War II veterans, a mother of nine and other local luminaries.

“This was driven by the desire to recognize prominent figures in our community who have been instrumental in building the community,” Pipher says. “These are the same people you see in church, you run into at the corner diner, you see at sporting events. Yet they’ve been pivotal figures in not only our community, but for many, on an international scale.”

Honoring notable neighbors, celebrating a shared past and helping others toward a better future—the people of Tioga County clearly understand the power that comes from working together.

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