When Lorton residents Marcy Mager and husband David Lunter’s daughter Michell Merhige was killed in 2009, they wanted to establish a scholarship in her honor but knew handling the financial logistics would be tricky.
“Michell was a very generous person, with her time and talents,” Mager said. “She was a businesswoman, worked for orphanages and the youth ministry at her church.”
Mager and Lunter adopted Merhige at 14. She had been homeless, lived in orphanages herself and foster homes.
Four years ago, Mager and Lunter connected with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, a philanthropy organization that helps connect donors around the region with the community. In Fiscal Year 2015, the Foundation awarded $4.2 million in grants to local nonprofit organizations, faith groups and schools, and $215,000 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors.
“They were a vehicle for us establishing this scholarship,” Mager said, which is now awarded to one graduating Fairfax County senior each year. With the Foundation administering the scholarship funds, it allows Mager and her husband to focus on collecting money and organizing the selection committee.
Though not necessarily a requirement, they tend to look for a senior who’s overcome obstacles, who may have been orphaned or spent time in foster homes like their daughter. Or it may be a student who has to work to help support their family.
Mager and Lunter joined other donors and members of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia March 15 at the Capital Grille in McLean to celebrate the Foundation’s Community Investment Fund grantees.
With the biggest cycle of the year, the Foundation awarded $380,418 to 36 organizations around Northern Virginia. The categories for nonprofits included Child, Youth Development and Education; Health, Mental Health and Aging; Poverty Relief; and Military Personnel and Their Families.
The 36 grantees were chosen from a field of 119 applications by committees filled with community experts in each field that were set up by the Community Foundation.
“These represent our most critical needs,” said Community Foundation of Northern Virginia president and CEO Eileen Ellsworth, of Oakton.
Representatives from one grantee from each category said a few words about their nonprofit and the significance of the grant.
Ernie Spycher is Northern Virginia program manager of Serving Together, Mental Health Association of Montgomery County, which provides mental health and other services and resource information for military veterans and their families.
“The Community Foundation is more than a funder, they’re a partner,” Spycher said. “They help provide connections. It’s an amazing feeling, to know we have that support.”
For the full list of all 36 local nonprofits that were awarded 2016 Community Investment Grants, visit www.cfnova.org/our-programs/community-investment-funds/2016-awardees.
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