Watering the seeds: Shallow Ford Foundation eyes future opportunities in Clemmons, Lewisville

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 18, 2024

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By Chandler Inions

CLEMMONS — Gardens do not tend themselves; they require attentive care and nurturing.

Clemmons and Lewisville are lucky to have a gardening crew in the Shallow Ford Foundation that is as energetic and engaging as the communities it endeavors to serve.

The Shallow Ford Foundation currently stewards about $18 million in assets, which it uses to advance cultural, education, human service and other philanthropic pursuits throughout the area. The foundation is 20 years old and, in the past few years, has really ramped up various outlets for cultural engagement.

That annual outreach is made possible through the endowed funds, which President and CEO Sandi Scannelli said are often left as a living legacy for perpetuity. 

“If a person wants to remember someone or if they want to give back to the community, they can make a charitable contribution to set up a fund in their name, which is like an account, and we invest the dollars,” Scannelli said. “Then, every year a percentage of those earnings are distributed in the community in the form of programs, grants and scholarships. By distributing only a portion of the investment earnings, the dollars last forever.”

“It’s a great way to create permanent resources that help a community become or maintain its vibrancy.”

As Scannelli pointed out, a lot of the things that philanthropy helps make possible are not things that you would be able to readily do any other way.

“It can be scholarships or grants to nonprofit organizations for programs and services,” Scannelli said. “It can also be for arts and culture.”

One of the growing ways that the Shallow Ford Foundation advances community interests is through its scholarships and academic partnerships.

Program Officer Greg Keener indicated that the foundation helped organize 18 scholarships this year.

“They vary in dollar amount, criteria and schools,” Keener said. “All the criterion are set up by the donor. The donor will come to us and say they would like to set up a scholarship for whatever may be their goal or passion. That could be adult students going into the health fields, high school students participating in music programs, specific colleges or high schools, or student athletes. We work with the donor to set up those parameters.

“We take care of all the back-end and front-end work. We put together a review team. We promote the scholarships to the high schools or colleges. We receive the applications and manage the whole process. We always select our scholarship awardees through a committee … a committee of community members, people connected with the school, and always one of our board members.”

Much like the other outreach arms of the foundation, Scannelli pointed out how the scholarships often honor someone’s legacy.

“A lot of times, there is someone or something being remembered,” she said. “Although, in the case of the Salem Glen Scholarship, a neighborhood came together to create a scholarship. The neighborhood also provides a mentor to the recipient of that scholarship. The scholarships are all a little bit different. It amounts to people who want to invest in students and their futures.

“Scholarships contribute to the community’s vibrancy a little differently. It helps schools and students to know that the community cares and wants to invest in them.’

Keener adds, “The student and the donor may never meet in person. Still, I ensure that the student knows they are receiving this scholarship thanks to a generous individual or group. If the scholarship is made in honor or remembrance of someone, I want the student receiving the award to understand who that person was and why the donor established it.”

Scholarships are one engagement method, but another is the grants that the foundation provides with opportunities for resources, programs and services to find their way into the Lewisville and Clemmons communities.

“We also award grants every year to nonprofit organizations that are serving the community,” Scannelli said. “We don’t have a lot of nonprofits based here in Clemmons and Lewisville. It is a limited number, but oftentimes, nonprofits bring services to the community. We want to make sure that as our community grows, so do programs that serve residents.

Keener added, “Each year, we conduct a competitive grant process not dissimilar to scholarships. Just like with the scholarships, we have criteria and put together review teams to review the applications.

Backing community efforts is a big part of what the Shallow Ford Foundation aims to do, but it is also dedicated to enlivening the area through fun and interactive programs from its residents.

“We entered into arts and culture because reports are showing that Clemmons and Lewisville are growing, getting older, and have more folk moving in,” Scannelli said. “There really has not been a whole lot of arts and culture in the area, partially because there was not a venue.”

Around that time, which was 2021, the Mary Alice Warren Community Center in Lewisville opened up.

“We looked at that gorgeous facility and said, ‘Wow, our communities have a venue,'” Scannelli said “We worked with the town of Lewisville and said, ‘This is fabulous. How about when you open the facility, we will offer grants to organizations that will bring in programming to the center?'”

The grant awards for the center started drawing in programs like the Winston-Salem Symphony and the Salem Swing Band brought swing dancing lessons and events.

“If you want to have a community, you have to have a way of bringing people together to create that sense of community,” Scannelli said. “You can have a building, but what happens in that building really sets the stage for the community. To give you an example, the holiday swing dance that they did there had 200 people. These grants were our first step into arts and culture and the Shallow Ford Foundation combined with a venue provides these opportunities.

“Most of the organizations that come into the Mary Alice Warren Community Center bring programs that have been traditionally only offered in Winston-Salem, which is fine if you are accustomed and comfortable driving into Winston-Salem. However, as the population ages, they are less likely to want to do that,” Scannelli said. “Most recently, we have partnered with the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County. They provided a grant to help while we build a  fund so that we can always offer grants for those programs. We are now working together to bring the arts and cultural programs to Lewisville.

To that point, Keener mentioned that as they reviewed the grant followup reports, a story surfaced that confirmed their expectations.

“The Winston-Salem Symphony comes to mind,” Keener said. “An anecdote in the grant report was that one of their patrons who drives all the way to Winston-Salem was just thrilled to see something in Lewisville because that is where she lives. That gave the symphony a new touch point. Not only are they gaining new audiences, they are serving current ones that live out here.”

With this knowledge, the foundation’s staff turned their attention to Clemmons.

“We have long been advocating for a community center in Clemmons,” Scannelli said. “A couple of years ago, we went to the village and said let’s figure out a way to make this happen. Fast forward, we just thought, we have to figure out how to do more in Clemmons.”

That led to the idea of the Bingham Arts Series at the Historic Broyhill building.

“The Historic Broyhill was wonderful in creating an outdoor platform/stage plus the large indoor room to offer an arts series this year. We’ll be doing more,” Scannelli said. “Around Christmas time, we held a Christmas concert that was terrific, well attended and both the performers and those attending said let’s do this again.

“The next event was the juried art show and sale in partnership with the Muddy River Art Association. It had 43 artists and more than 65 pieces of art being judged. Nineteen tables were set up with artists bringing in their best pieces for a sale.”

Communication and Design Associate Mick Bowman said the art show and sale provided a great avenue for local artists to platform their work.

“One artist sold $400 of her work,” Bowman said. “She was super excited about that. The artists were so grateful about being able to come and sell their work. A lot of the artists were a part of the association.

Much like their community, the artists were eclectic, diverse and excited.

The artists are all friends and so sweet,” Bowman said. “It means a lot to them to be able to show their art to the community, to have that platform, and for it to be right here.”

Constructing those platforms is what the Shallow Ford Foundation set out to do all those years ago.

“It is our role as a community foundation to look at needs, gaps and opportunities and figure out how can we help?” Scannelli said. “How can we resource the community and pull the community together?”

Keener added, “’Pull together’ is a phrase that I love about our work … We thought of the arts show concept, walked through the Historic Broyhill hallways, and saw that Muddy River Arts provides art in the building, and said, ‘Could we have a juried art show down the hall?’ The next steps was then connecting all the right people.”

Behind the art series is Donna Bingham Merriman. The Bingham Arts Series is made possible by a fund established by her parents, Thad and Mary Bingham.

“We contacted Donna and said, ‘You know, we have this idea to have an art series and test the waters to see if there is an appetite for the arts in Clemmons,'” Scannelli said. “Her parent’s fund was set up to serve the community and we asked what she thought about using that fund to underwrite the arts series — and in her parents’ name?”

“She said, ‘I love that idea,’ and got a little teary because she knew her parents would have loved it. She thought it would be a great way to honor them.”

The final event of this year’s series will be the Salem Community Orchestra on June 9.

“Each one has been growing in attendance and participation,” Scannelli said. “They are all a little bit different, and Donna has said to the crowd at each event, we are going to do this again.”

Only time will tell which next flowers will blossom in the carefully tended gardens of Lewisville and Clemmons.