POTSDAM — John and Dorotha VanNess cared deeply for the Potsdam area. A legacy fund honoring their commitment to the community lives on with a trio of new grant awards impacting the area this year.

The John and Dorotha VanNess Family Fund of the Northern New York Community Foundation recently approved $10,000 in grant support for three nonprofit organizations that deliver arts, culture, and youth-based programs. The family legacy fund is a permanent, grantmaking fund that will forever support programs, activities, and initiatives that support the general welfare of the Potsdam community. Mr. and Mrs. VanNess’s daughter, Susan J. Sewall, established the fund at the Community Foundation in 2018 as a lasting tribute to her parents’ civic mindedness.

“The example of what Mrs. Sewall created to honor her parents, while also make a lasting difference in a community they loved together, is inspiring and lasting,” said Max DelSignore, Community Foundation assistant director. “It is a meaningful way to ensure the Potsdam area is supported forever. These three grants are an excellent reflection of enriching the quality of life in a community.”

This year’s grant recipients are:

St. Lawrence County Arts Council — $5,000 to support the organization’s North Country Arts Festival, which is designed to bring multidisciplinary arts experiences to the county. Many events are planned to take place in the Potsdam area as a hub for the festival.

North Country Children’s Museum — $3,000 for an annual, multicultural program series for children and families. Funding will purchase supplies and materials for a dozen, one-hour programs and workshops, as well as professional training for museum staff.

Boy Scouts of America, Longhouse Council — $2,000 will help establish one Cub Scout and one Scouts BSA unit in the Potsdam area. This award will serve as scholarship support to build enrollment and participation in the program, secure volunteers and purchase necessary materials.

Mrs. Sewall established this family fund as part of her charitable legacy plans. Following Mrs. Sewall’s sudden passing in 2017, the VanNess Family Fund was created to recognize the family’s long-standing commitment to the betterment of the greater Potsdam area. She believed that strong, healthy, quality-of-life enhanced communities help provide the backdrop from which many other aspects of community vibrancy and development can occur.

Nonprofits serving the Potsdam area are encouraged to review grant application requirements for the VanNess Family Fund of the Community Foundation. Focus areas include, but are not limited to: Health and wellness, arts and culture, economic development, education, recreational programs, community revitalization and beautification, strategic planning and research, other quality-of-life projects, and opportunities.

Applications for 2021 grant funding from the VanNess Family Fund will be made available later this summer with an Oct. 22 proposal deadline. Contact Kraig Everard, director of stewardship and programs, 315-782-7110, or kraig@nnycf.org, to learn more.

John S. VanNess was active in Potsdam government and served as village mayor from 1955 to 1961. He also held leadership positions with the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce, Potsdam Rotary Club and was a trustee at Paul Smith’s College. Dorotha (Ticknor) VanNess began teaching at Potsdam High School in 1939 and later joined her husband in the management of Sunshine Stores. She served as president of the Canton-Potsdam Hospital Guild and was an active member of Potsdam United Methodist Church.

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