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Economics students at University of Mary Washington get firsthand lesson in philanthropy.
By KELLY HANNON
An economics class at the University of Mary Washington has awarded $5,000 grants to two nonprofit groups.
The Fredericksburg Regional Boys & Girls Club and Rappahannock Refuge Inc./Hope House, a women's shelter, each accepted a $5,000 check yesterday from university students.
The undergraduates were enrolled in a new course at UMW, the Economics of Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector.
Thanks to seed money from Fredericksburg resident Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire Warren Buffett, and her Sunshine Lady Foundation, the 28 students got an unusually realistic feel for their subject this semester. They got to give away $10,000.
Buffett has started similar philanthropy and nonprofit management classes at the University of Virginia and Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. She hopes to launch another one soon at Cornell University.
Students were allowed to divide the money however they wished among area nonprofits.
The class broke into two groups to tackle tasks such as developing a mission statement, creating an application form and advertising the grant.
Twenty Fredericksburg-area nonprofit groups applied, said Robert Rycroft, the UMW economics professor who taught the course.
Buffett, whose foundation often assists victims of domestic violence, said she was pleased with the students' selections.
"There is no better investment than helping boys and girls, or helping women get back on their feet," Buffett said.
Junior Suzanne Davey, an economics major, said the winning groups were picked because their proposals closely matched the class mission statement, which called for innovative, sustainable programs.
"We wanted to support something that was a new program, that was something different," Davey said.
The Boys & Girls Club will use the grant for Career Launch, a program for teens 13 to 18. Two eight-week sessions will give students a peek at potential careers, said Forrest Parker, executive director of local Boys & Girls Club.
It will begin in 2006, he said.
At Hope House, the money will be put toward a computer lab for the shelter's residents.
About 90 percent of the women who stay at Hope House do not have computer skills, said Pam Garrett, executive director at Hope House.
"In this day and age, in order to work, you have to have computer skills," she said.
For Davey, the class may have inspired a career path.
"I learned so much about nonprofit organization I was so impressed I've been sort of thinking about going into nonprofits, especially grant-making and grant-writing," she said.
This year's Economics of Philanthropy course was so popular, Rycroft had to turn students away. They'll have another chance. It's being offered again in fall 2006.
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