Capitol Hill Foundation Gives Away Millionth Dollar

Posted December 12, 2003 at 2:34pm

For the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, the season’s magic number contained a lot of zeros — six to be precise.

The foundation recently marked a significant milestone in its genesis, giving away its millionth dollar in November, with plans to give away about $70,000 more this spring.

Each year, the foundation doles out more than $100,000 in spring and fall grants to support worthy Hill-based projects — with the average award usually about $1,500.

Among its significant allocations this past cycle was $26,000 for various projects at the Capitol Hill Cluster School — which consists of the Peabody, Watkins and Stuart-Hobson campuses — including funds for new dictionaries, arts programs and even a Wright Brothers centennial celebration. The group also gave $7,500 to Trees for Capitol Hill to plant a tree in honor of Barbara Held, the first recipient of the foundation’s Capitol Hill Community Achievement Award, at Ninth Street and North Carolina Avenue Southeast, and to perform maintenance at many of the so-called “triangle parks” on the Hill.

And its efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Last month, the foundation’s Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project — an initiative to collect and preserve the oral histories of former and current residents — was honored with a Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.

Nicky Cymrot, the foundation’s president, said its success has much to do with its stewardship of incoming funds.

“Every penny is given out in grants. We do not take one dollar out for administrative expenses,” Cymrot said.

Over the years, Cymrot estimated the foundation has dispensed monies to more than 150 groups, with its largest single donation of $15,000 going to the Old Naval Hospital Foundation to encourage efforts to establish the Hill Center — which would feature both the Southeast Branch Library and space for community activities — at the hospital, said Cymrot, who is also the president of the Old Naval Hospital Foundation.

Since its inception in 1989 as the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals Foundation (as a way for the eponymous merchant’s association to raise money for community projects) under the direction of Cymrot’s husband, Steve, the foundation has gone through a few name changes. In 1996, the name was changed to CHAMPS Community Foundation, before eventually taking on its current appellation this past May.

“The only reason we changed it was because of the marketing situation,” Cymrot said, adding that the foundation wanted to clarify that it was “not just a business effort, but involved all members of the community.”

Still, she noted that there is crossover between the foundation’s 22-member all-volunteer board of directors and CHAMPS’ board.

After the first of the year, the foundation’s Web site —www.capitolhillcommunityfoundation.org — should be up and running, said Cymrot.

For information on how to apply for funds, contact Grants Chairwoman Stephanie Deutsch at (202) 547-8624.