The pandemic and subsequent shut-down certainly made 2020 a challenging year for all of us, but one good thing about the Texas Panhandle is that crisis and tough times are when our region comes together to shine. In March of 2020, the Foundation quickly saw the needs of our nonprofit partners. The Amarillo Area Foundation (AAF) and The Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation Boards of Directors acted swiftly, activating the Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund (PDRF) and allocating $200,000 for distribution.
within days, aaf funded
food security programs & CHildcare
for first responders and essential employees. Individuals and businesses joined the efforts with additional funding support. AAF staff were receiving the requests and sending the dollars out in the same week. People were sharing the message. Our media stations ran PSAs, and Lamar Outdoor gave us digital billboard space. Neighbors helping neighbors!
Two unique grants went to two of our rural hospitals, Moore County Hospital Foundation and Hemphill County Hospital District. Both received funding for ventilators, which was one of the primary needs to save the lives of critically ill COVID-19 patients.
In an effort to get more people directly involved in the PDRF,
the Neighbors Helping Neighbors 9-night virtual concert series was born.
Nine diverse local musical artists agreed to play a one-hour concert live on their Facebook pages. These nine nights were successful not only because donors stepped up and helped AAF raise over $8,000, but more importantly because they created a renewed sense of community between artists that missed their audiences and people who were stuck at home.
There were ten PDRF grant cycles in 2020 with over $810,615 distributed to 53 organizations across the Texas Panhandle. 100% of the gifts went to support residents of the Texas Panhandle. Sixty-two percent of the funds went to emergency food grants, totaling $324,000! Next was medical equipment/PPE at 21% or $121,000.
A lifetime of Generosity
Louise and Gene Rahll
Louise and Gene Rahll believe that the future of Dalhart is resting on the shoulders of its young people. And they want to make sure that Dalhart ISD students have every opportunity for a bright and promising future through post-secondary education.
The 24,000 square foot Frank Phillips College Rahll Campus opened in April 2018 because of an initial gift of $4 million from Louise and Gene. The campus offers Associate Degrees in a number of fields as well as Certificates of Completion in trade programs that lead to living-wage jobs. In 2020, the Rahlls took their vision of education one step further by establishing a $1.5 million endowed fund at Amarillo Area Foundation to help pay all tuition and fees in perpetuity for qualified students that graduate from Dalhart High School and attend Frank Phillips College Rahll Campus. Dalhart ISD, the Economic Development Corporation, and local businesses and individuals are partnering with Frank Phillips College and Amarillo Area Foundation to raise the remainder of the funds that will provide up to 60-credit hours of education at the Rahll Campus.
As a native of Dalhart, Louise’s parents understood the value of a college education. Like her five older sisters, Louise received a college degree, graduating from Loretto Heights College in Denver. All the while, Gene was at the family farm in Pennsylvania, milking cows and working in the fields all day, then playing in a jazz band at night! His knowledge of machines led him to enter the equipment rental business that eventually brought him to the Texas Panhandle. He met Louise in church in Dalhart almost 60 years ago and they have been together ever since!
As mayor of Dalhart for 16 years, Gene used his skills to bring the residents of Dalhart together to make improvements to their community. He was instrumental in bringing one of the world’s largest dairies to the Dalhart area. But it is Louise and Gene’s passion to help people that has made the biggest difference in Dalhart. The Rahlls know that an educated workforce equals economic development. Educating the youth of Dalhart has become one of their priorities. In establishing the Louise and Gene Rahll Endowed Fund for the Future of Dalhart, they are ensuring the students, their families, and the entire community becomes more economically stable and successful.
In 2020, the word equity was
at the forefront of conversations across our nation.
It is a term that carries significance, made even more so by events that have increased our focus on race relations and principles of fairness and justice in our country.
Amarillo Area Foundation’s mission is to improve quality of life for residents of the Texas Panhandle – all residents, regardless of their race or ethnicity. In the wake of recent events, the Foundation reached out to the leadership of our local NAACP Branch to begin a conversation about racial equity in our area.
Several specific opportunities surfaced:
- Funding is needed for local leaders from communities of color to advance in leadership and professional development skills.
- Maintaining a high priority for scholarships for students in communities of color.
- Programs for children in communities of color to keep them active and focused on learning, especially during summer months.
- Increased education and training in technology for communities of color.
- Funding for individuals or groups to legally address suffering from potential discrimination.