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Making a difference in our area

There have been several events recently held throughout the region that help to show that there are many good things happening.

One happened on Nov. 19, when the Community Foundation for the Upper Ohio Valley held its donor appreciation luncheon. The annual event, which was held in Wilson Lodge at Oglebay Resort, is held during Community Foundation Week, which helps to raise awareness about the role foundations play in their communities.

That’s especially important in our region. According to Susie Nelson, the executive director of the foundation that serves Jefferson and Belmont counties in Ohio as well as Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Tyler and Wetzel counties in West Virginia, the support of area residents makes the foundation work.

“We wouldn’t be able to give more than $2 million every year in grants and scholarship if it weren’t for the people in this room and the people who came before the people in this room who set up funds to support the Ohio Valley,” she told the several hundred supporters who were on hand that day.

“Community foundations impact lives, solve problems and improve futures,” Nelson added. “As many residents grapple with limited resources and a growing need for services, we are more determined than ever to bring tour community partners together to find innovative and effective solutions for some of our most challenging economic problems.”

She explained that in the 2015 fiscal year, the foundation had made 514 grants, totaling more than $2 million in grants and scholarships. Last spring, the foundation hosted the second-annual Amazing Raise Ohio Valley, a 24-hour online giving event that raised $426,000 for local nonprofits. Plans are under way for the third-annual event, which is scheduled for May 3.

Founded in 1972, the foundation has assets of more than $34 million and works to enhance life in the region in many different ways.

“Whatever your passion, the community foundation can help you fund it,” Nelson said.

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If you have questions about the impact the Franciscan University of Steubenville has on our region, you only had to participate in two events held in the Gentile Gallery on campus in the last two weeks.

The first was the International Student Luncheon on Nov. 30. The annual event, held by the university’s board of advisers and the student life international student office, helps to welcome the students to the community. This year’s roster of international students totals 27, and they come from 14 different countries, with the majority coming from Canada. Other countries represented include Gibraltar, Mexico, Luxembourg, India, Nicaragua, Honduras, Nigeria, Brazil, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Uganda, England and Hong Kong. Ten of the students are new to the campus, and 19 are undergraduates.

The reasons they were attracted to study in Eastern Ohio are numerous. Some are following in the footsteps of a brother or a sister. Others, like Victor Pires of Brazil, made the decision to bring his wife and two children to Steubenville to build on their faith.

Education, even higher education, in Brazil is poor, said Pires, who had studied business there. He said that a Marxist ideology has taken over nearly everything in his country, and his concern with that led him to Franciscan University.

“I wanted to find a place where I could study theology with people who believed what they teach,” he explained.

International students bring a diversity to the campus, said university officials, including Juliana Deluca Daugherty, the school’s director of student development and international student services.

Their time at the university allows them to learn about our region and our nation, and it allows area residents who have the chance to meet them learn about different cultures and perspectives.

The university also recognized several people for their contributions to the community and the school during the 66th-annual Founders’ Association Dinner. The dinner offered a chance to recognize recipients of the Founders’ Award, including Theresa (Rocco) DiPiero, the late Norma Donahue, Mary Kay Lacke and the Rev. Richard Davis, TOR. Also honored were the Founders’ Scholars, the Rose M. DeFede Women’s Guild Scholars and the winner of the Dr. Patricia Fletcher Scholarship.

It’s a tradition that goes back to Dec. 7, 1949, just three years after the then-College of Steubenville was established. The Rev. Dan Egan, TOR, the school’s president, saw the dinner as a way to help bring the college and civic communities together. That first dinner, by the way, was held in the Fort Steuben Hotel. The Founders’ Award was established in 1978.

Each of the people who accepted awards last Saturday said they were honored and humbled to have been selected. The words Davis shared after accepting his award seemed to put the evening into proper perspective. Davis served the university in many capacities, in the classroom as a teacher, in the community relations office and in the friary. In 2013, he became minister provincial for the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus of the Third Order Regular Franciscans and serves as the chairman of the board of trustees for Franciscan University and the University of St. Francis.

He described his time at the university as “one of the best assignments I was blessed to serve in.”

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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