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Hawks Foundation kicks off 2010 grant cycle

A state-wide organization, with an operation in Henry County, is seeking a share in an annual, $50,000 Atlanta Hawks Foundation grant aimed at helping non-profit groups working in the areas of health and wellness, education, and recreation.

The Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy was successful in securing $10,000 last year for its work in improving the education of youngsters in Henry and other communities.

This year, the Hawks Foundation will accept grant applications through March 31.

Shauna von Hanstein, operations director for the Ferst Foundation in Georgia, oversees 70 teams the organization has amassed since its inception in 1999. She said the $10,000 education grant awarded to her group by the Hawks Foundation last year, was a "critical" element in assisting children's development.

"We're trying to provide the tools for Georgia families with young children, so that the children can become excited about books and master the fundamental skills of pre-reading," von Hanstein said.

The Ferst Foundation began sending books to children in 2000, in Morgan County, Ga. According to von Hanstein, the organization's goal is to eventually have a chapter in each of the state's 159 counties.

She said her foundation works consistently to secure grants for its local teams, including the one in Henry. The Hawks grant, according to von Hanstein, helps the Ferst Foundation's leaders support and strengthen its affiliates.

"We don't want the local teams to pay for us, so we raise funds from different foundations for our operating expenses, so we can be there for those local teams," she said.

Ailey Penningroth, vice president of corporate communications, administration and community development for the Hawks Foundation, said the education grant will go to "a non-profit organization that uses innovative methods and programs to educate Georgia youths."

Penningroth added that the Ferst Foundation received the grant last year, in part, due to similarities between its mission, and that of the National Basketball Association's Read to Achieve program. "The Ferst Foundation is a great way to reach more students, to encourage them and help develop their love of learning," Penningroth said.

Mike Griffin, chairman of the Ferst Foundation for Henry County, said his group benefited "indirectly" in 2009 from the money awarded by the Hawks Foundation. According to him, the Henry chapter primarily raises its own money for local efforts.

"The main thing we do locally is fund-raise, to send books to local preschoolers," said Griffin.

The Hawks Foundation issued a press statement Friday, regarding its 2010 grant program. According to the statement, the Health & Wellness Grant will be given to a non-profit organization that is "helping children to develop an active lifestyle or healthy eating habits.

"The Recreation grant will be awarded to a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging youths in athletics and other physical fitness activities."