“For me personally, I care about our communities getting the attention and visibility they deserve. I want them to be seen, and I want the Panhandle to keep attracting people moving here.
When they come, I want them to find a welcoming community with a great quality of life, and we work hard to make that happen.”
The Amarillo Area Foundation (AAF) has a big mission: As the only non-profit community foundation serving the 400,000 citizens of the Texas Panhandle, it oversees a variety of initiatives, programs, grants, and more, all with the goal of making the Texas Panhandle a great place to live, work, and play.
I recently spoke with Sarah Griffin, the Grants Program Officer for the Amarillo Area Foundation, to learn a little about their mission and some of the good work they have done.
“The Amarillo Area Foundation serves the residents of twenty six counties,” Griffin started to say, and then I cut her off.
“Did you say twenty six counties?”
She laughed and nodded in the affirmative. “That’s right, we serve twenty six counties. Not every town is the same, and they don’t all have the same needs. We work to ensure we’re supporting all our communities, and making the Panhandle a great place to live.”
“One of the things that has been great is our THRIVE Program,” Griffin told me.
With a belief that Amarillo and the Panhandle succeed when its citizens do, the THRIVE Program is known as a “last dollar” scholarship. For area students who want to go to Amarillo College, THRIVE will make up the difference for students after all other scholarships, grants, etc., are applied to their education needs.
“I’m most proud of how AAF stepped up during the pandemic and opened the Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund with a focus on COVID 19 relief,” Griffin continued. “The AAF raised over $800,000 for this Covid relief initiative that was responsive to the needs of our community – from food insecurities, healthcare support and PPE needs, to childcare for essential workers and mental health services.”
Griffin said she also enjoys the Cooperative Grants Program sphere and all the ways the AAF external grant programs benefit and support the rural communities of the Texas Panhandle.
“I love working with the external grant advisory committees as they consider funding opportunities that benefit their local communities,” she said.
One of those external grant advisory committees relates to Pattern Energy’s Panhandle Wind facility. The Panhandle Wind Community Benefits Program contributed an initial $1.5 million to the Amarillo Area Foundation in 2015 to establish the Panhandle Wind Education Fund Endowment and the Panhandle Wind Civic Fund Endowment.
For the first ten years of operations, the Panhandle Wind facility donates an additional $150,000/year to the Panhandle Wind Civic and Education Funds to support the residents of Carson County via grants to charitable causes. An advisory committee of Carson County residents review the grant applications.
In the 2021 funding cycle, the Panhandle Wind Civic Fund supported the purchase of a first responder vehicle for the Skellytown Area Volunteer Firefighters-EMS and the purchase of MICU capabilities for ambulances used by the White Deer Volunteer EMS. Other causes included the City of Panhandle’s Community Storm Shelter and covid relief for the local food pantry and senior center.
Examples of grants awarded by the Panhandle Wind Education Fund included smart boards and updated lighting for Panhandle ISD schools and contributions to the White Deer ISD Family and Consumer Sciences Program.
Local organizations can learn how to apply for grants on the Amarillo Area Foundation’s webpage about the Panhandle Wind Community Benefits Program.
The two funds distribute about $75,000 each, every year, and the community is appreciative.
“Without our partners like Pattern Energy, we couldn’t do the work we do helping the community,” said Griffin.
As we neared the end of our time together, I asked Sarah Griffin what she was most excited about for the future.
“For me personally, I care about our communities getting the attention and visibility they deserve,” she said. “I want them to be seen, and I want the Panhandle to keep attracting people moving here. When they come, I want them to find a welcoming community with a great quality of life, and we work hard to make that happen. But if I were to say what I am most excited about as a whole, it is The Panhandle Gives program spearheaded by our AAF Donor Services.”
“The Panhandle Gives is augmented through the AAF Amplification Fund that helps increase fundraising for participating Texas Panhandle nonprofits during November ‘Giving Tuesday.’ When local and rural nonprofit support organizations are successful, the entire Texas Panhandle benefits,” concluded Griffin.