CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Katie Mayes wouldn't be able to make her Liberty University tuition payments if it weren't for the scholarship she's earned for the past three years.
President Paul Gilmore said the Capital City Striders youth track and field team wouldn't exist today without the multiple grants it has received over the past 20 years.
The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation is celebrating 50 years of managing charitable funds to improve the quality of life for people in the community, said President and Chief Executive Officer Becky Ceperley.
In the philanthropy business since 1962, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation has distributed $135 million to its six-county region that includes Kanawha, Putnam, Clay, Fayette, Lincoln and Boone counties.
"We are celebrating 50 wonderful years and want to thank the people who have kept it going for what they have done," Ceperley said. "Every day, we see the need in the community. So we know our work isn't done, but you do need to stop and say, 'Look at what we have accomplished.'"
Mayes, a Liberty junior and Charleston native, said the $2,500 Robert D. Ashworth Scholarship helps her pay for tuition and housing. Without the scholarship, she wouldn't have been able to attend college, she said.
The foundation has about 100 scholarship funds in its statewide scholarship program. West Virginia college students receive more than $800,000 in scholarships a year from the foundation, Ceperley said.
In some cases, donors set guidelines for the recipient -- the student has to attend Marshall University or West Virginia University or major in a specific field -- but that's not always the case. Sometimes, the scholarship is based on financial need, and others don't have a preference at all.
The foundation also has about 500 charitable funds, Ceperley said. The funds benefit 200 nonprofits in the group's six regions, allowing the foundation to invest the money that's donated back into the community, she said. It takes $10,000 to start a charitable fund.
Ceperley said donors are not all wealthy individuals. Donating to a nonprofit through a will is a way to leave a legacy.
"A lot of the donors have worked hard and saved their money and they want to give back to the community," she said. "It proves how strong of a commitment they have to the community. They want to make sure the community stays strong and they're very generous with their money."
The Capital City Striders, a nonprofit organization that is a club member of USA Track and Field, as well as the Amateur Athletic Union, has received 10 grants worth about $50,000, Gilmore said. While track and field isn't an expensive sport, he said, there are costs associated with it -- traveling across the country to compete -- that the group can't always afford.
About 50 percent of the 4- to 18-year-old athletes -- who use the University of Charleston's stadium at Laidley Field -- come from economically disadvantaged families on fixed incomes, Gilmore said.
Because of the foundation's grants, the group has numerous success stories of student athletes who have been the first person in their family to attend and graduate from college, he said.
"For programs that don't really have true revenue streams, the community foundation is a great resource to maintain programs in the community that have a positive impact on the citizens," Gilmore said. "We wouldn't have 30 years to talk about if we weren't getting some assistance from the foundation."