Through First Focus, we invite our team and the community to join forces around a key issue. This initiative helps clarify our own efforts—and encourages all of us to advocate for positive change.

Currently on the agenda

Addressing Systemic Racism

In response to a national surge of racist events, we didn’t want to simply make statements. We wanted to take meaningful action. Here’s what FCFP is doing:

Internal Assessment

We’ve taken a close look at ourselves (an ongoing work) by undergoing bias training as a staff. We also diversified our board by adding new voices.

Nonprofit Trainings

After experiencing the benefit to our own team, we decided to offer free bias training (led by a third party) to other area nonprofits.

Listening Sessions

We organize discussions for a cross-section of community members to talk about racism close to home—and what we can do about it.

Updated Application

Our grant application now requests diversity statements. Our funding decisions will prioritize organizations committed to equity.

Equity Academy

We identified 11 nonprofits poised to make a difference and invited them to participate in a free monthly seminar at FCFP.

Community Input

We created a task force of community members with the experience and passion to support our efforts.

Innovation Grant Challenge

Spark Tank

The First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania (FCFP) has an exciting opportunity to involve residents in philanthropy and community causes. FCFP has created an Innovation Grant Challenge called “Spark Tank,” designed to build and strengthen communities.    

With a current focus on systemic racism, First Focus and the “Spark Tank” are designed to encourage individuals with ideas on advancing or promoting racial equity. We want creative people with big ideas. People with dreams. People that have an idea to make our community better!

Spark Tank is a component of FCFP’s First Focus Project which leverages the Foundation’s leadership platform to address critical issues impacting the quality of life for all members of the community it serves.  

Spark Tank is FCFP’s take on the television show ‘Shark Tank’ and is designed to encourage the community to work towards a more equitable society by overcoming obstacles relating to race relations,” said Betty Gilmour, Director of Grantmaking. “If you have an idea, but never had the resources to put your idea into motion, now is your opportunity.

Innovation Grant Challenge

2024 Recipient

Pennsylvania College of Technology Foundation was awarded $25,000 through the Spark Tank grant program for “Lunch and Learns” facilitated by the Special Assistant to the President for Inclusion Transformation Dr. Nathaniel Woods, Jr.

In his application, Dr. Woods mentioned, “diversity training can sometimes lead to reduced diversity when the emphasis is overtly negative or punitive in its messaging, which leads to defensive responses, and feelings of guilt and shame. With these pitfalls in mind, the Lunch and Learn will introduce inclusion topics via the human experience.”  His idea is to host a series of Lunch and Learns to bring our community together for meaningful dialogue. Lunch and Learns are informal sessions where people gather over a meal to learn about a specific topic. These sessions will be designed to foster a relaxed and engaging learning environment, and they can be easily adapted to various topics and audiences. They will offer reading materials, and some will even have guest speakers. The idea was born from an event hosted by Dr. Woods during Williamsport’s Juneteenth Celebration in 2023.

The Spark Tank grant dollars will focus on sessions held off the Penn College campus, within the community. “Together, we can make a difference in our communities. By working together to drive inclusion and create an environment where everyone is valued, we can create a lasting impression that will ultimately benefit us all. Let’s work together to foster equity and ensure that our communities are truly educated on inclusive practical steps that can be taken, so that people recognize it and fight for it to be prevalent.” Says Dr. Woods, “A collective effort can bring about positive social change that will help build stronger relationships, better understanding, and a stronger workforce.”

Innovation Grant Challenge

2023 Recipients

Seventeen applications were received from community residents.  Members of the FCFP First Focus committee reviewed the submissions and invited finalists for an in-person presentation. Ultimately, FCFP selected three projects to invest up to $25,000 each. The projects were facilitated through local 501c3 nonprofit organizations, who FCFP identified as partners to help with implementation of the programs. 

The Spring 2023 Spark Tank recipients included:  

  • Tell YO Story – Diana DeVaughn and Melodie Carter-Shaw wanted to inspire more people of color to share their unique life experiences using creative arts through the project “Tell YO Story.” In partnership with the Community Theatre League (CTL), they challenged individuals to explore their creative gifts and talents through music, dance, acting, writing, and/or designing. The project launched on Friday, February 3, 2023, with Janeen Hammond who told her life experiences through her production of Journey: A One Women Show.  Young adults, age 15 and older, were invited to join bi-weekly sessions regarding formulating their story in their chosen artistic modality.  Participants crafted their story under the guidance and tutelage of theatrical instructors and performed quarterly productions that culminated into a grand production that happened November 3, 2023 at the CTL.
  • See My Color – Sisters Natalie Griffin and Givonna Griffin are on a mission to increase racial equity through exposure and acknowledgement of the differences that various cultures contain. See My Color will work with a production team at WVIA to create a social media series of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) sharing personal information/experiences relative to their race, ethnicity and culture. The Griffin’s are planning their interview schedule and will be invited to attend several community events throughout the year to connect with interested participants.
  • Links to Lycoming – Lycoming College seeks to strengthen Williamsport community connections for the diverse student population participating in their pre-semester orientation program which supports incoming students recruited through the College’s partnerships with several primarily urban national charter and community-based networks. In partnership with STEP, Inc., an AmeriCorps volunteer will coordinate community tours, cultural and recreational activities, and meetings with Lycoming County business, government, and faith leaders. The College will also launch a “Sponsor-a-Student” program where vetted local families will provide a home-away-from-home, offering a safe space for a student in need of familial support while attending Lycoming College.
Portrait of Jennifer Wilson

Hi, I’m Jen! First Focus is a top priority – contact me to learn more.

President & CEO

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We invite other voices

Reach out to us to share ideas and talk solutions.

We’re listening, and we want to help make this community a better—and fairer—place to live.