Strowd Roses focuses giving on Chapel Hill, Carrboro

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service in Carrboro received $10,000 to support operations at its Food Pantry in Carrboro that each month provides 1,300 bags of groceries to people in need, and at its Community Kitchen in Chapel Hill that last year provided 60,000 meals to hungry individuals.

Reach Out And Read Carolinas got $1,500 to support a regional literacy summit its Triangle office hosted for coordinators at health clinics who prescribe books for young children visiting the clinics and for representatives of partner agencies that donate the books.

And the PTA Thrift Shop in Carrboro received $10,000 to assess the organizational needs of nonprofits that will be housed in YouthWorx on Main, a nonprofit collaborative the Thrift Shop is launching with Youth Forward for nonprofits serving youth.

Making all those grants was Strowd Roses, believed to be the only charitable foundation that makes grants only to nonprofits serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

With just over $7 million in assets managed by Fidelity Investments, the foundation has awarded over $5.1 million in grants to 292 nonprofits since it was formed in 2001.

Last year, it awarded 62 grants totaling $286,000.

“We intentionally give to a lot of organizations and spread the money around,” says Eileen Ferrell, the foundation’s part-time executive director.

Strowd Roses was created through the will of Irene Strowd, the widow of Fletcher Eugene Strowd, who retired in 1979 as a partner in the former Johnson, Strowd, Ward furniture store on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

The foundation also received proceeds from the estate of Gladis Harrison Adams, who was Irene Strowd’s sister, and from the sale of over 250 acres in Chatham County, now home to the residential subdivision Strowd Mountain, where Gene Strowd grew up.

In addition to awarding grants, the foundation pays about $38,000 a year to Witherspoon Rose Culture in Durham for upkeep of the Gene Strowd Community Rose Garden, a free public space at 120 South Estes Drive for events on property owned by the Town of Chapel Hill that contains over 350 bushes of 130 different varieties of roses. The space can be reserved for free for events.

Gene Strowd, who was president of the Chapel Hill Rose Society, proposed the idea for a community rose garden in 1987 and designed its layout working with the Rose Society and the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department

Grants to local groups range up to $10,000 and average about $7,000, with grants to support general welfare, education and literacy, and youth accounting for the biggest share of funding in 2016.

Each year, Strowd Roses also gives $33,000 to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation, which regrants the funds to support projects in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

“We look at them as being the experts on what the greatest needs are and what the greatest impact can be,” Ferrell says.

With 700 nonprofits in Orange County, including those in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Ferrell says, she is working to encourage more local giving overall, including giving by living individuals, who account for 71 percent of all charitable giving in the U.S.

“There’s a lot of need that still exists,” she says, “that we alone can’t address.”

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