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Centre Foundation awards $100,000 grant to ACRES Project

STATE COLLEGE – On Thursday, Centre Foundation awarded the 2019 Centre Inspires grant to ACRES Project at their annual dinner. The $100,000 grant will support the development of a community aquaponics greenhouse that aims to provide employment and workplace readiness skills for adults with autism, while fostering diverse, multigenerational community connections and opportunities for lifelong learning.

Founded in 2014, ACRES Project (Adults Creating Residential & Employment Solutions) is committed to growing community and a sense of belonging for adults with autism. “Thank you to Centre Foundation for believing in our project,” said Bella Bregar, executive director at ACRES. “We want the greenhouse to be filled with people, plants, and produce – a place where everyone has a seat at the table.”

Since 2014, Centre Foundation’s Centre Inspires program has invested nearly $600,000 in the county to fund innovative projects that create change through community engagement. Previously supported projects include Strawberry Fields’ Good Day Cafe and Discovery Space’s community makerspace, The Rivet.

At the dinner, Centre Foundation recognized local philanthropists Blake and Linda Gall as this year’s recipients of the Oak Tree Award. The award recognizes an individual or couple who has made a significant impact in the community through their work with Centre Foundation.

“Blake and Linda have been supporters of Centre Foundation for many years,” said Executive Director Molly Kunkel. “We are thrilled to highlight and honor their impact.”

Blake and Linda’s involvement with the Foundation began with their first gift in 1994. Since then, Blake has served on the Board for a total of sixteen years, providing invaluable support as a member of the Investment Committee. During this time, Centre Foundation endowments have grown from just under $10 million in 2003 to nearly $53 million today. Blake and Linda have additionally served on the boards of numerous local organizations, including the Bob Perks Fund, Mount Nittany Conservancy, Centre County United Way, and many more.

Blake and Linda have furthered their impact by establishing several endowment funds at Centre Foundation. These funds support the work of several organizations and projects, including Discovery Space, the Central Pennsylvania Arts Festival, and the newly installed Centre County StoryWalks at Autumnwood Park in Ferguson Township and Tri-Municipal Park in Centre Hall.

As a way to thank the community and to honor past and future Oak Tree Award recipients, Blake and Linda announced the opening of their newest fund, the Oak Tree Fund, with a $50,000 gift to Centre Foundation.

Distributions from this fund will support innovative projects that meet current needs and create a transformative effect in the community.

Centre Foundation also announced Anne Ard as the inaugural recipient of the Mimi Barash Coppersmith Women in Leadership Award, which recognizes women in our community who have made a significant impact through their leadership. Anne has served as the Executive Director of Centre Safe since 1997 and has held roles in a number of state, local, and university advisory boards, including the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. She writes a monthly column, Healthy Relationships, which appears in the Centre Daily Times.

“There is no leader who does it alone,” said Anne. “The work that we do is hard and it requires the support of our families, the staff and volunteers that do the work, and the community as a whole. We are blessed at Centre Safe to have that.”

The award is supported by the Mimi Barash Coppersmith Women in Leadership Fund, which was created in 2017 by Barbara Palmer to honor her longtime friend Mimi, when Mimi received the Oak Tree Award. In honor of this year’s awardee, the fund will provide a $2,500 grant to Centre Safe.

More than 230 community members attended the dinner at The Nittany Lion Inn to celebrate a year of vibrant philanthropy in Centre County.

For more information, please visit Centre-Foundation.org or contact Molly Kunkel (molly@centre-foundation.org | 814-237-6229).

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