The Catawba Valley Community Foundation hosted the 29 2011 Unifour Foundation Endowment Fund grant recipients recently, presenting funds totaling $200,010 to support a wide variety of programs and causes in the Catawba Valley community it serves.

Organizations that received funds this year are varied, supporting a wide variety of important programs and serving a number of causes, including a food bank, a rape crisis center, a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter and other programs related to museum projects, child abuse awareness, AIDS testing, cultural arts education, children’s literacy, care for the elderly and more.

Helping Hands Clinic was one of the thankful recipients of a Unifour grant this year. The clinic provides free medical care and prescription medication to the uninsured of Caldwell County. Like many free clinics, demand is up considerably. The organization met the needs of 4600 patients in 2010, a 50% increase from 2009. Executive Director Lilly Skok Bunch expressed appreciation in a letter to the North Carolina Community Foundation: “With your [Unifour’s] support, Helping Hands Clinic will open an evening clinic this summer to serve patients who otherwise might turn to the emergency room for care,” she said. “You will have a huge impact on the uninsured in our community!”

This year’s generous grant totals follow a significant pattern of philanthropy that the Unifour Foundation Endowment Fund began many years ago.

The Unifour Foundation was established when the Hickory Merchants Association sold its local credit reporting company to a national company. The proceeds enabled the establishment of the Unifour Foundation, Inc. and for several years funds were managed and administered through a private foundation.

In 1999, the board of the Unifour Foundation, Inc. gifted funds to NCCF to establish an endowment – The Unifour Foundation Endowment Fund. This continually successful fund is a donor advised field of interest fund that promotes general welfare among citizens in the four counties that comprise the Unifour area: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba. 

The endowment has awarded more than $2.4 million in community grants since its inception in 1999. Grants have been broad-based, which was the intention incorporated into the original fund agreement. A wide array of initiatives are funded each year, including educational, human services, food banks, art, museums, free clinics, women’s issues, shelters, environmental projects, literacy and many more.

The variety of initiatives supported is part of what makes the Unifour Foundation Endowment Fund so vital to the community it serves, according to Leslie Stewart, NCCF regional development officer.

“All the grants are remarkable when taken as a whole,” Stewart said. “Grants supporting food banks and free clinics make an immediate impact. Grants to our cultural arts, education, and health and human services organizations build hope and joy in our communities. Unifour grants have made a tremendous impact on the region.”

The impact that Unifour has made on a collaborative initiative to better serve the elderly has been significant. PACE at Home is a new organization that was formed by four existing nonprofits that wanted to partner to improve the lives of elderly individuals. Local Adult Life Programs, Lutheran Services and Hospice Palliative Care began conversations about providing better service through collaboration. Ultimately their leadership decided to bring the national program PACE (Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) to the community. After Unifour granted the group money in 2010 for a feasibility study to ensure PACE would be successful in the region, Catawba Valley Medical Center came on as a fourth partner.

This year’s Unifour grant to PACE at Home is providing the organization the resources to help get the program up and running. PACE at Home will allow elderly who would prefer to remain in their homes the care and medical attention to do so. This is an alternative to nursing home care, allowing another option to consider when making important decisions about elder care.

The support of the Unifour fund has given PACE at Home the vital community support and encouragement it needs to be successful, according to Jane Rollins, program director. “The money is tremendous because PACE is a very expensive program to get started, but the support from Unifour means a tremendous amount as well,” she said. “It means that the community is behind us. We proudly tell people that we receive these grants.”

Thanks to Unifour’s continued commitment to the community, longstanding ─ as well as new organizations like PACE at Home ─ will continue to add to the quality of life for the citizens of Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties.


In the photo on the home page, from left to right, are: Nancy Fritz (Grants committee member), Lisë Swensson (Executive Director, Hickory Museum of Art) and Kathy Greathouse (Grants committee member).

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