Monday, October 12, 2009

Scholarship fund still launching dreams

On the Web site of the Charlotte Housing Authority Scholarship Fund there is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. It reads: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

Her words are appropriate on several levels:

Primarily for the hundreds of students who grew up in public housing and, wanting to find a better life, have used the scholarship fund to start them on their journeys.

And for the fund's founder, John Crawford, who believed that any child -- no matter where he or she grew up -- ought to have the chance to go to college. In 1983, Crawford, at the time head of the housing authority's youth services, began his fund that has doled out more than $2.5 million to send 450 students to college.

Last week, the fund held its annual breakfast -- its largest fundraiser of the year.

As usual, more than 325 people who care as much for Crawford as for the dreams his fund launch, filled a banquet room at the uptown Westin Hotel. They rented 45 tables and left behind $64,500 in donations, with 94 percent going to the fund.

At the breakfast, longtime board Chairman John Richards also announced that The Leon Levine Foundation had donated $500,000 to the scholarship fund over the five years. That money will be earmarked for "Levine Scholars" who have an interest in public service.

There were speeches from CHASF graduates, including Jerry Bowman, an emergency room physician. The keynote came from Richard "Stick" Williams (pictured above with Richards on the left and Crawford on the right), who grew up in public housing and is now president of the Duke Energy Foundation.

All in all, a good day for Crawford and his fund.

Yet Crawford in recent years has had the audacity to dream for more: He's wanted to build a $5 million endowment that annually would send 100 students to college.

Yes it was a good day for the fund last week, but the endowment is still shy about $1 million, largely because it has lost value in the recession.

"These students have a dream to graduate from public housing to become professionals in their community," Richards told the breakfast crowd. "The dream is more about seeing where they can go, than where they are now. We have the easier part of the equation, but nonetheless an important obligation to help fuel that dream with scholarships and support."

Richards is optimistic the endowment will be reached in two to three years.

"We're close, and we'll get there," he said. "We feel extremely fortunate in the midst of an economic downturn. We're enjoying a very good year thanks to the generosity of the many supporters of the scholarship fund."

Want to help? Send donations to the Charlotte Housing Authority Scholarship Fund, c/o Foundation for the Carolinas, 217 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC 28202. For more information, to donate, or to apply for a scholarship click here.


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