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United Way awarded $10,000 Harvest grant for Bridges Out of Poverty

From left are Sheryl Agee, impact officer and team leader at the foundation, Board of Directors President Dru Ingram and United Way Executive Director Philip Wenkstern

MARTINSVILLE – The United Way of Henry County and Martinsville is rolling out a six-month pilot of the Bridges Out of Poverty program Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting-By World with help from The Harvest Foundation.

Harvest awarded United Way a Pick Up the Pace! grant of $10,000 to pilot the implementation of Getting Ahead facilitation in the community. This program is a specific, evidence-based program that will equip those living in poverty with knowledge and tools to be successful. Combined with existing services, United Way looks to use the Bridges Out of Poverty “Getting Ahead” program as a path to living wage jobs and sustainability for these individuals.

“We are excited to partner with United Way and other agencies to come together as a community and help residents who are struggling with economic challenges and barriers in their lives,” said Sheryl Agee, impact officer and team leader at The Harvest Foundation. “Often, programs are developed with a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality without taking time to get real input from the individuals for whom services are being developed. This pilot will allow United Way an opportunity to determine what is needed and what is working, as they continue to develop an effective Bridges Out of Poverty system for our community.”

The first cohort of approximately eight to 12 participants of the 16-week Getting Ahead session will take place this year. This session will focus on educating participants about the challenges to economic progress, connecting them to local resources, and identifying gaps in existing community programs. United Way will evaluate the impact of Getting Ahead training on the cohort group, as well as gaps and challenges, and determine best practices in moving forward with the program on a larger scale.

“We are truly grateful for the funding provided by the Harvest Foundation,” said United Way Executive Director Philip Wenkstern. “This grant will serve as a catalyst that advances the impact that Bridges out of Poverty will have in our community. Not only will this funding directly impact the lives of residents in our community, it also will provide the United Way with the opportunity to improve the structure and delivery of programs centered around Bridges out of Poverty.”

To date, more than 280 individuals in Martinsville-Henry County have attended Bridges Out of Poverty presentations. Funding partners in the Bridges Out of Poverty program include Carter Bank and Trust, Martinsville Area Community Foundation, and the E3 Initiative. Other partners include The Community Dream Center, Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge, Department of Social Services, Grace Network, Piedmont Community Services, STEP, Inc., the MHC Assistance Network, and local faith-based organizations. Patrick Henry Community College and New College Institute are providing space for training opportunities.

To find out more about the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville, call (276) 638-3946 or visit

The Harvest Foundation’s Pick Up the Pace! grants program is a competitive, small grants program designed to engage people and organizations in sparking innovative ideas, collaborations and change in Martinsville and Henry County. These six-month grants for up to $10,000 are available for application year-round. To find out more, visit or call (276) 632-3329.

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