Let me begin my message by thanking you for your enthusiastic support and for your generous contributions. This past year has been a good one for the Foundation. Thanks to a booming stock market and your donations we were again able to increase our support for both the educational programs and our scholarships. As an example in 2007, we contributed $4,000 to fund Forestry Internships at four 4-H Centers. This year we are contributing $16,000 to the Centers. That is a fourfold increase.
The Foundation has recently completed its 59th year of supporting forestry and forest products education in the Commonwealth. It all started when Paul Mellon of Upperville challenged a group of Virginia’s forestry and industrial leaders to match his $25,000 donation. It took them five years to raise that amount but when they did, the Foundation was off and running. Victor W. Stewart, our first president, led the way by endowing the first scholarship which now sends $6,000 to support deserving students at Virginia Tech. Donor designated scholarships are the greatest expenditure of the Foundation. They are known as General Fund and Stuermann. These scholarships provide some seventy percent of the scholarships awarded by Tech’s College of Natural Resources and the Environment.
The Foundation has also taken on new educational programs like SAF’s “Teaching Trees, Teaching Teachers” This Program is designed to give teachers “factual and credible information about Virginia’s hardwood forest” and a number of forest management techniques are reviewed. For years Project Learning Tree has been supported, in fact it is our biggest educational outlay. PLT is an environmental educational program designed for teachers and other leaders working with youth from kindergarten through grade 12. In 2016, 560 educators attended PLT training events in Virginia. The events consist of day-long workshops offered at schools and other public centers and allows teachers to relate to natural resource professionals who can act as “experts” in their field of expertise. Other educational programs supported by the Foundation include: Awards and Recognition for 4-H Forestry and the Holiday Lake Forestry Camp.
We at the Foundation think the future offers a number of challenges and opportunities for forest resource education. Virginia is becoming more urban and our citizens need to be made aware of the importance of the forestry and forest products industry. Together, they contribute substantially to our economy ($21 billion annually per the Virginia Department of Forestry’s website) and they also provide a number of environmental benefits including carbon sequestration.
Therefore our efforts going forward need to be directed to expanding state-wide youth (PreK-12) educational programs that promote sustainable forests for the environmental, social and economic benefits of all Virginians.
If you are aware of a program that might benefit from the VFEF support, contact us at 804-278-8733. Thank you.