UMW Philanthropy Class Awards Grants to Three Area Nonprofit Groups

Students enrolled in a philanthropy course at the University of Mary Washington have awarded a total of $10,000 to Habitat for Humanity-Middlesex, Rappahannock Goodwill Industries and the Bragg Hill Family Life Center.

Class representatives Gretchen Houser, Michelle Alexander and Meredith Flynn announced the awards at a check presentation on Tuesday, November 30 at the university’s Jepson Alumni Executive Center. The presentation culminated the semester-long Economics of Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector course taught by Professor of Economics Robert Rycroft.

“When making our final selections we really focused upon our class mission statement to choose which applications we wanted to receive the grant money,” said Houser. “Each of these applicants exemplifies qualities that are covered in our mission statement because they work to help people with particular needs and all seem to be sustainable.”

The grants were funded by Doris Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Foundation, which provided $10,000 to the class to award how it saw fit. This year, the class of 22 students, called the University of Mary Washington Philanthropic Society, reviewed 52 applications.

UMW President Richard V. Hurley commended the class for its efforts. “The skills developed in this class and the compassion you have exhibited will be forever a part of who you are,” Hurley said. “Whether you decide to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector or are deciding which charities to support through your personal donations—this course has changed how you view life and how you make decisions.”

Habitat for Humanity-Middlesex, located near the Chesapeake Bay on the Middle Peninsula, has been awarded $4,100 for its Habitat for Youth Program, which teaches home building and repair skills to youth by working on homes for the poor.

“With this grant, we will engage these at-risk students to help us build and outfit a new building as part of the Cryer Center,” said Greg Chambers, vice president for Habitat for Humanity-Middlesex.
“This new facility will serve as a focal point for further youth-involved community service projects, such as building sheds and panelized wall sections for future Habitat homes. This generous grant will allow us to accelerate development of this facility and both serve at-risk students and Habitat partner families. We also expect that this program will provide a potential career path and training for students in the construction and contracting trades.”

Rappahannock Goodwill Industries received $2,500 to purchase and install an All-Access Workstation in its Fredericksburg Job Center. The station will help provide computer access to training and services for clients seeking gainful employment.

“This computer work station will afford technology access to individuals with sensory, mobility and cognitive disabilities,” said Megan Bergen, mission services director for Rappahannock Goodwill Industries. “Historically, these individuals had very limited exposure to these tools. The grant will not only fund the specialized computer components, but also represent future collaborations with other area agencies involved in improving the economic health of people with disabilities in our community.”

The Bragg Hill Family Life Center was rewarded $3,400 to partially fund the center’s after-school tutoring program and to enable the center to purchase additional teaching tools and materials.

“It is a joy to know that Bragg Hill Family Life Center is one of this year’s recipients of the UMW Philanthropy class grant,” said Dana Heffernan, volunteer coordinator for the center. “As the Rev. Joseph Henderson, executive director, states ‘it is never a waste of time to invest in a child.’ Students in our after-school program receive help with homework, and are encouraged to read with volunteers. Twice a week, they are given a nutritional snack and hot meal. The award will help us to continue our efforts to provide a safe haven for students after school and support our youth.”

The philanthropy course, in its sixth year at UMW, is one of 15 similar courses created by Buffett at colleges across the country. Students experience the foundations of philanthropy by creating an organization, reviewing funding applicants and determining who should receive assistance.

Last year students in the philanthropy course awarded $10,000 to the Thurman Brisben Center to help fund a program furnishing start-up supplies to families from the center and providing mentors to assist the families to ensure success in maintaining their homes. The Rappahannock United Way also received funding to purchase equipment to provide free tax preparation services to underprivileged people, as well as improve financial literacy.

Past recipients also include the National Housing Trust/Enterprise Preservation Corporation, the Fredericksburg Counseling Services, Inc., Homes for America: Heritage Park Academic Achievement Program, Rebuilding Together, Rappahannock Refuge Inc. /Hope House and the Fredericksburg Regional Boys and Girls Club.

The Sunshine Lady Foundation is a private, family-run foundation funded by Buffett, sister of billionaire Warren Buffett. The organization invests in groups and programs dedicated to providing opportunities for the advancement of education, well-being and new life choices for disadvantaged people with special empathy for the working poor and families in crisis. More information about the foundation is available at

For more information about the philanthropy course at the University of Mary Washington, contact Rycroft at (540) 654-1500 or