The entrance to the Avedis Foundation.
Avedis Foundation is sharing highlights of its grants, initiatives, and partnerships from 2022, the year which marked the Foundation’s 10th anniversary. Since being formed in 2012, the Shawnee-based foundation has granted more than $58 million in Pottawatomie County and its surrounding communities, focusing on areas of health and wellness, social services, arts and culture, civic and community initiatives, and education.
Board Chair Mike Warwick stated, “Avedis funded nearly $4 million in initiatives, grants and awards for our community in 2022 as part of the Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for the communities we serve.”
Highlights from 2022
Foundation Marks 10 Years of Service to Pottawatomie County
Avedis Foundation celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022, marking the milestone by hosting community events and producing a series of spotlight videos to document both the Foundation’s history and its focus areas. (Spotlight videos may be accessed at www.avedisfoundation.org)
“We kicked off our 10th anniversary year-long celebration by producing a series of videos that beautifully capture who Avedis is and the scope of our work,” stated Avedis Foundation president and CEO Dr. Kathy Laster. “In addition to an in-depth retrospective called ‘The Avedis Story: We’re Here for Good,’ we created an entire library of videos that highlight the impactful work that many of our community’s nonprofit organizations do every day to benefit those they serve,” Laster continued.
In June, the Foundation hosted a gala to salute its founding board members, past and present board members, and past and present staff.
In October, Avedis hosted a community celebration to wrap up its anniversary festivities. “We wanted a way to showcase and celebrate the organizations who represent the front lines of service and their dedication to that service,” added Audrey Seeliger, External Relations and Special Events director for Avedis. “Those organizations and individuals are the inspiration for everything we do as a foundation,” Seeliger concluded.
South Central Industries Receives Major Grant
Avedis awarded a grant of $500,000 to South Central Industries (SCI) in 2022 for the organization’s “Better Together: A Community Revitalization Initiative.”
SCI has been pivotal in Pottawatomie, Seminole and Lincoln counties in meeting the needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) through staff-intensive vocational and residential programming. “Better Together: A Community Revitalization Initiative” aims to provide resources and opportunities for affordable IDD housing and increased vocational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, a population that has been disproportionately affected by the economic upheaval caused by COVID-19.
Avedis Awards Grant for 3D Breast Imaging Machine
Recognizing the growing need to serve more women who must drive longer distances for breast care services, SSM St. Anthony Hospital – Shawnee Breast Care Center began an expansion and relocation to a new, stand-alone private clinic location.
Avedis Foundation awarded a grant of $465,650 for the purchase of an additional 3D mammography machine, which nearly doubled the Center’s service capacity to 14,000 appointments annually.
Avedis Grants Nearly $767K for New Amphitheater
Shawnee City Commissioners accepted an Avedis grant of nearly $767,000 in June, 2022 for the construction of a stage and amphitheater at Woodland Veterans Park, creating an important asset for Shawnee’s historical downtown area, and replacing the park’s dilapidated band shell that was removed in 2015.
“The City of Shawnee and Avedis have partnered on community projects for nearly a decade,” the City noted in its meeting agenda. “In that time, Avedis has awarded over $3.2 million in grant support to the City of Shawnee for an array of quality-of-life projects.”
Foundation Recognizes Inaugural Recipient of Service Award
The inaugural Michelle Briggs ‘We’re Here for Good’ Service Award, which recognizes an individual who has provided exemplary service to the community, was presented to Jeff Madison in February, 2022, following a public nomination process. Named for the Foundation’s first president and CEO, Michelle Briggs, who led Avedis from its establishment in 2012 until her retirement in 2018, the award included a $5,000 discretionary grant to a local nonprofit, designated by Madison, who selected Mission Shawnee, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “educate and equip individuals through mentoring relationships rooted in the love of Christ.”
Foundation Names New Board Chair; Welcomes New Board Members
The Foundation’s board of directors named Michael P. Warwick board chair in March, 2022, and welcomed two new board members last year: Nick Atwood and Jeff Madison. Warwick, a local attorney, has been a member of the Avedis Foundation board since the Foundation’s inception in 2012. Before taking the reins as board chair, Warwick served on the Governance committee, Audit committee, Finance committee, Compensation committee, and as the board secretary.
Shawnee native Nick Atwood grew up in Shawnee, graduating from Shawnee High School in 1997. He earned a bachelor of science degree from St. Mary’s University in 2001, before receiving a Juris Doctor from Oklahoma City University School of Law in 2008. Atwood is an attorney and partner at Ritchie Rock & Atwood.
Retired Army Colonel Jeff Madison was born and raised in Oklahoma. He is a 1985 graduate of Harrah High School and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from East Central University in 1989. In 1997, he earned a master of business administration from Syracuse University. His service in the U.S. Army spanned 25 years from 1990-2015. In 2014, while still serving on active duty, Madison was selected to become the first owner/operator of Chick-Fil-A Shawnee, leading approximately 60 team members.
Warwick observed, “Many of the Foundation’s achievements are rooted in its dedicated board of directors. Knowing that Nick and Jeff bring a strong commitment to serving our community through the Avedis board, we’re even more optimistic about the Foundation’s future.”
Blue Zones Project®Pottawatomie County becomes POGO
With its emphasis on well-being and community collaboration, Blue Zones Project® was identified by Avedis Foundation in 2017 as a natural fit for investment, expanding the Foundation’s ongoing support of a healthier environment. Powered by volunteer leaders and underwritten by Avedis’ sponsorship, Shawnee became Oklahoma’s first certified Blue Zones® Community in 2020, engaging local restaurants, schools, faith-based organizations, grocery stores, worksites, and policymakers who have made tangible well-being and environmental improvements, drawing on some 200 research-based practices.
Last spring, Avedis Foundation and Blue Zones Project® Pottawatomie County began engaging key stakeholders by forming a wellness coalition of community leaders, representatives from area nonprofits and other stakeholders, to serve as advisors in creating a sustainability plan to help Blue Zones Project® Pottawatomie County to expand its service area with a more local focus.
In October, 2022, Blue Zones Project® Pottawatomie County announced a new brand identity, introducing the well-being improvement initiative as Pottawatomie Go, or “Pogo.”
“By expanding our platform and service area as a program of Avedis Foundation, Pogo can continue the transformative work of Blue Zones Project Pottawatomie County,” noted John Bobb-Semple, Pogo Executive Director.
Foundation Continues Support of Signature Projects
Avedis Speaker Series
In February, 2022, Avedis Foundation welcomed Wes Moore, a New York Times best-selling author, combat veteran, former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation and the newly elected governor of Maryland as part of the Foundation’s Speaker Series.
Moore grew up in Baltimore and the Bronx, where he was raised by a single mother following the death of his father. Despite childhood challenges, he graduated Phi Theta Kappa from Valley Forge Military College in 1998 and Phi Theta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in 2001. He earned an MLitt in International Relations from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in 2004. Moore then served as a captain and paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, including combat deployment to Afghanistan. He later served as a White House Fellow to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. In November, 2022, Moore was elected governor of Maryland.Health Week ’22
Avedis Foundation presented its annual Health Week, May 21-27, 2022, in Shawnee, featuring family-friendly events throughout Shawnee for all age groups. The week’s activities promoted healthy habits and active lifestyles.
Among the featured highlights of the week were healthy cooking demonstrations, water safety classes for parents and caretakers, National Healthy Kids Day at The Y, Senior Health and Fitness Day, and the popular Neon Dance Party at Splash.
The week wrapped up with a special presentation by R. Murali Krishna, MD, DLFAPA, a well-respected senior psychiatrist in Oklahoma City who shared his insights on cultivating mind/brain skills to promote resilience for today’s stressful life.
Health Week ’22 represented a partnership with Shawnee Parks and Recreation, Shawnee Senior Recreation Center, Blue Zones Project®, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, SSM Health – Shawnee, Shawnee Animal Shelter, and the Shawnee YMCA.
Celebrate Teachers ’22
Avedis Foundation hosted its annual “Celebrate Teachers” in August, welcoming more than 1,800 educators from Pottawatomie County and neighboring school districts of Seminole, Prague, Meeker, Chandler and Little Axe. The one-day professional development event brings together public school teachers, support staff and administrators within the Avedis service area as part of the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to recognize, inspire and motivate educators through a countywide education initiative.
The 2022 event began at Firelake Arena with a presentation by keynote speaker Dr. Manny Scott, whose story is told, in part, in the 2007 hit movie, Freedom Writers. During his remarks, Dr. Scott recounted the struggles of his childhood, describing himself as feeling hopeless, angry, and lost. It was an English teacher, Erin Gruwell, whose influence changed the trajectory of Scott’s life: he became the first in his family to graduate from high school, attend college and, ultimately, to earn a Ph.D.
“Dr. Scott’s story underscores the significant, positive influence that a committed teacher brings into the classroom every day,” stated Dr. Kathy Laster. “The ‘Celebrate Teachers’ event takes its name from the gratitude we feel for our educators’ dedication to their profession, to their students, and to society as a whole,” Laster concluded.
Introduced by Avedis Foundation in 2019, the SUSTAIN Initiative is a program of Impact City, founded to create a thriving ecosystem for social innovators. Work in Shawnee is led by Impact City founder and serial entrepreneur, Salah Boukadoum, and tenured nonprofit fund raiser and CEO Jennifer Ware.
In June, 2022, the SUSTAIN Initiative celebrated the successful completion of its three-year program designed to help nonprofit organizations shift their revenue model from dependency on grants to sustainable earned income.
Since 2019, leaders from for four nonprofits, Community Market, Community Renewal, Legacy Parenting Center, and South Central Industries have worked alongside dozens of members from the greater Shawnee area to create, test and pilot new business ideas for four future Shawnee businesses:
Community Market of Pottawatomie County – Common Cookery is a shared commercial kitchen. Open daily, the kitchen will serve entrepreneurs, food trucks, and local nonprofits. It will also incubate new local food businesses.
Community Renewal of Pottawatomie County – Envest enables renters to share in the value of the home they live in – helping individuals to build assets and communities to strengthen neighborhoods. The business also offers an opportunity to spread Community Renewal’s mission across the country.
Legacy Parenting Center – Laynie’s Treehouse is a 3,200 square-foot indoor climbing, play, and adventure center set to expand to 6,000+ square feet in 2023. The facility offers opportunities for discovery, education, and family time – geared to build stronger, healthier families.
South Central Industries – Welcome Home is a real estate development service specializing in housing and program facilities for nonprofits and municipalities. The business brings expertise in tax credits and other specialized financial tools.
Other Local Grants:
Avedis Foundation awarded grants to several local organizations in 2022, including:
Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency to provide a community grant writer who assists local nonprofits with research, preparation and submission of grant applications.
City of Chandler for Safe and Healthy Routes to Schools and Community Phase II.
Community Market of Pottawatomie County to support its network of services for local residents who are facing food insecurity.
Community Renewal of Pottawatomie County to support revitalized, connected and caring neighborhood communities throughout Pottawatomie County.
Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma to help boost recruitment efforts and provide tools needed for a successful program.
Infant Crisis Services to provide funding for BabyMobile site visits in Pottawatomie and Seminole counties.
Junior Achievement of Oklahoma for curriculum support of digital financial literacy platforms in Pottawatomie Schools.
Legacy Parenting Center for the expansion of the Center’s “Earn While You Learn” Parent Education program.
Meals On Wheels of Norman to extend meal delivery services to an underserved population of seniors in Little Axe.
Mission Shawnee to support facility renovations.
NewView Oklahoma to support essential services for low-vision individuals in Pottawatomie County and surrounding area.
Nonprofit Leadership Institute to provide resource grants (nonprofit “tool kits”) for 11 area nonprofit organizations.
Oklahoma Arts Institute to provide program scholarships for Shawnee-area students and educators.
Oklahoma Baptist University to increase the number of fully certified teachers in classrooms across Pottawatomie county.
Pioneer Library System Foundation to support its health and nutrition program for Native Americans.
Project: SAFE to provide critical services for those in need.
Salvation Army Shawnee Boys and Girls Club to support local after-school programs that promote good character, healthy lifestyles and academic success.
Salvation Army Shawnee Emergency Shelter to help provide emergency shelter for individuals and families in need.
Shawnee Bridges out of Poverty to support educational programming and programs aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty.
Town of Meeker to support Safe Routes to Schools.
Avedis Foundation is a private foundation with 501(c)3, nonprofit status, established in June, 2012. As one of Oklahoma’s larger foundations, Avedis was established to invest in the county through grants that support projects and benefit nonprofit organizations within the foundation’s granting area.
The name “Avedis” means “one who brings glad tidings,” or “the bearer of good news,” a significance intrinsic to the foundation’s mission, “to measurably improve the health, wellness and quality of life for the people of Pottawatomie County and its surrounding communities.” To underscore the relevance of the name and the foundation’s role as a benefactor to the community, Avedis Foundation can also be recognized by its signature statement, “We’re here for good.”
The Avedis Foundation’s office is at 1500 E. Independence in Shawnee.
Learn more about Avedis Foundation and view spotlight videos at www.avedisfoundation.org.
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