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John Kritser

What an exciting time to be a student in Amarillo

“What an exciting time to be a student in Amarillo!”  That quote from Mr. John Kritser sums up the thoughts of many after touring Amarillo ISD’s AmTech Career Academy.  Mr. Kritser was so impressed that he chose to open an endowed fund at Amarillo Area Foundation to “help students pay for fees and expenses incurred at AmTech but that are not reimbursed by the State.” 

Jay Barrett, Principal of AmTech Career Academy, stated, “We are so appreciative of Mr. Kritser’s support because it means more than just paying for equipment or providing scholarships; it means that he sees with clarity of vision how AmTech Career Academy is changing the landscape of workforce development in our region for generations to come.” 

As the owner of Yellowhouse Machinery, Mr. Kritser is especially excited about the students in the School of Architecture, Construction, and Manufacturing.  Even so, he values all students that have chosen to pursue a trade outside the normal curriculum.  As Principal Barrett says, “By supporting us with the endowment, Mr. Kritser comes alongside us to share this journey toward success for all our young professionals at AmTech.” 

Amarillo Area Foundation is honored that Mr. Kritser chose to partner with us to establish his fund for the benefit of the Texas Panhandle’s greatest resource – our young people.  Thank you, Mr. Kritser, for setting a worthy example of community philanthropy!

Envisioning the Future

A new strategic planning process

In 2018, the AAF Board of Directors embarked on a new strategic planning process to envision the future work of the Amarillo Area Foundation. During this process, AAF’s strategic planning committee observed key opportunities to strengthen the organization’s work and fulfill its mission as the only community foundation serving residents of the Texas Panhandle. ​

Economic Opportunity, Health, and Education

The goals underlying this shift in strategic direction included tackling big, systemic issues affecting residents and the region, and evaluating the effectiveness of our giving and programs. As a result of several meetings and discussions, the AAF Board of Directors decided to focus the organization’s work in three key areas: economic opportunity, health, and education.

Since 2019, AAF staff have engaged in work to operationalize this vision and new strategic direction.


The generosity of area donors allows the Amarillo Area Foundation to engage in these programs.


Developing and implementing initiatives and programs to address individual and community needs.


To maximize our positive impact on the region, we strive to increase quality of life in the Texas Panhandle.

Economic Opportunity

Amarillo Area Foundation

The Texas Panhandle has a diverse population with varied needs, but the data shows that almost every community could have improved economic opportunities with more equitable access to childcare and high-speed internet. There is also substantial evidence that quality of life aspects of a community, like arts and culture, can help communities stay vibrant.

Arts and Culture

The Issue

Why are arts and culture important to economic opportunity in our area?

  • Rural counties that are home to performing arts organizations experienced population growth three times faster and higher household incomes than rural counties lacking performing arts organizations.   
  • Two out of three rural businesses report that arts and entertainment are important to attracting and retaining workers.   
  • Creative sector initiatives add value when integrated with economic development, workforce development, community development, and other state and local policies and practices.

Source: The National Governor’s Association, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Assembly of State Arts Agencies joint study (“The Creative Sector: A Proven Economic Catalyst for Rural America”, 2019) 

The Strategy

(accepted by the Harrington Foundation 5/4/2021)

  • Allocate $300,000 of the Economic Opportunity grant funds to performing and visual arts organizations (historic preservation and historical museums can submit in the Unique and Urgent cycle). Though we may choose to segment a portion of the funds for endowment matching in the future, it is recommended to wait until at least 2022 due to the pandemic’s impact on arts organizations.  This amount and the process will be reanalyzed for 2022.
  • Funding priorities will be arts and cultural organizations in the 26 counties for operational, programmatic, marketing, and capital expenses. A simplified application process will allow for smaller requests and smaller organizations.
  • Funding recommendations will be made to the Board by a subcommittee composed of members from the Amarillo and the Canadian Cultural District Advisory Committees. An AAF staff member will serve as an advisor (non-voting).
  • A Field of Interest fund will be established to enhance fundraising opportunities. 
Inaugural Arts & Culture Grant Cycle (2021)

13 organizations submitted applications

5 located in Amarillo, 6 rural orgs, 2 regional

3 organizations are first time applicants

3 applications are collaborations

with other arts entities

6 are for operational funding

$7,500 – $50,000

Requested range


Total Amount requested


Amount recommended for funding

Child Care

The Economy’s ‘Invisible’ Driver
Overall Economic Impact in Texas:

How Childcare Impacts Texas Businesses

  • Texas loses an estimated $1.80 billion annually in tax revenue due to childcare issues.
  • Absences and employee turnover cost Texas employers an estimated $7.59 billion per year.
  • Approximately 7% of parents voluntarily left a job due to childcare issues.

How Childcare Impacts Texas Parents

  • Percentage of parents who experienced employment changes due to childcare, by income group: 44% Low Income, 25% High Income, 32% Overall Average.
  • Average total cost per month for childcare per household, by income group: $433 Low Income, $789 High Income, $611 Overall Average.
  • 9% of parents nationally and 11% of Texas parents reported childcare issues are causing significant disruptions to their employment. The parents in our survey reported much higher rates (30%) of childcare issues significantly impacting their employment or the employment of someone in their family.

Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, “Untapped Potential in TX: How Childcare Impacts Texas’s Workforce, Productivity, and State Economy”, 2021

Overall Economic Impact in the Texas Panhandle

Texas Panhandle

  • 20 of the 26 Texas Panhandle counties contain at least one zip code that is a “childcare desert”. (A zip code is a “childcare desert” if the number of children under age 6 with working parents is three times greater than the licensed capacity of childcare providers in the area.)
  • This includes at least parts of Dumas, Borger, Dalhart, Perryton, Pampa, Amarillo, Canyon, Hereford, Clarendon, and Friona.

Source: Children at Risk Childcare Desert Dashboard


Connected Community Ecosystem

Source: 2018 Rural Broadband; A Texas Tour (Connected Nation)

Digital Equity

  • Access to affordable and reliable broadband
  • Access to internet-enabled devices
  • Access to digital literacy training
  • Access to technical support
  • Improved data collection and analysis
  • Grants to local communities
  • Public-private partnerships to advance digital inclusion


Amarillo Area Foundation

The Texas Panhandle is home to nearly 82,000 public schooled K-12 students. These students attend public schools in 61 different school districts across 26 counties, making the Texas Panhandle a diverse and vibrant place for education.

3rd Grade Literacy

AAF is committed to supporting education in the region and is focused on early literacy and ensuring more students are accessing and enrolling in higher education after high school. Literacy is a foundational skill necessary for success later in life. Literacy is a necessity for students as they progress through school, and is also fundemental to a student’s future and career, including living a healthy and vibrant life. As a strategic focus for the Amarillo Area Foundation, we are committed to helping improve literacy rates in the region alongside nonprofits, partners, and school districts. Only 43% of third-grade students in the Texas Panhandle are reading on grade level which lags the State of Texas’ rate of 45%. We see an opportunity to improve literacy in the region, and thereby, improve education outcomes for students.

3rd-Grade Reading/ELA, Meets Grade Level

Region 16 vs. State of Texas

Region 16


State of Texas

3rd Grade Literacy By Race/Ethnicity

Literacy proficiency looks different across student populations in the Texas Panhandle. As the demographics of the region change, AAF is committed to investing in all students to ensure a strong future and workforce for the Texas Panhandle.

2018 White


2019 White


2018 Asian


2019 Asian


2018 Hispanic


2019 Hispanic


2018 Black


2019 Black



Amarillo Area Foundation

The Texas Panhandle is fortunate to be the home of high-quality healthcare, though the pandemic did highlight two areas of opportunity for better well-being: mental health and food insecurity. By focusing on these two areas, the Foundation hopes to improve health outcomes for many generations.

Mental Health

supporting & partnering with organizations

By the numbers

  • 1 in 5 American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year.
  • 57% of adults experiencing a mental illness did not review mental health services in the past year. (MMHPI)
  • High school students with depression are more than 2x more likely to drop out than their peers. ( NAMI)
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, 75% by 24. ( NAMI)
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 10-34. 


Adults with Mental health conditions


Youth with Mental health conditions


can be treated in a primary care setting

Coming out of the Pandemic

  • Underlying indicators of depression are more than three times higher than the pre-pandemic baseline, affecting more than one-fifth of Americans.

  • The number of people seriously considering suicide has doubled, and the rate of pediatric emergency room visits for suicide is now double pre-pandemic levels, with the greatest increases seen among adolescent girls.

  • A major contributor to this mental health crisis is that we do not detect and treat mental health needs until eight to ten years after symptoms emerge if at all. Instead, we wait until suffering becomes visibly obvious, too often in the form of a crisis.

Source: Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute

What does this mean for the Foundation?

Looking to support and partner with organizations that are addressing mental health by:

  • improving access and early detection to include those in our most rural and underserved areas
  • reducing stigma
  • expanding use of telehealth
  • increasing mental health workforce and collaborative care

Food Insecurity

Beyond the food

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life, and also points out that, “It is important to know that hunger and food insecurity are closely related, but distinct, concepts. Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household.

“Food insecurity describes a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life. Food insecurity is one way we can measure and assess the risk of hunger.”
-Feeding America

Primary cause of food insecurity is low income

Poverty and food insecurity are social determinates of health and are associated with some of the most serious and costly health problems in the nation.

Food insecure and low income are vulnerable to poor nutrition and obesity due to additional risk factors:

  • Lack of access to healthy affordable foods
  • Cycles of food deprivation and overeating
  • High levels of stress, anxiety, depression
  • Fewer opportunities of physical activity
  • Greater marketing of obesity-promoting products
  • Limited access to health care

Household food insecurity is a strong predictor of higher healthcare utilization and increased healthcare cost

  • This translates to $77.5 billion in excess annual healthcare expenses nationally.
Seniors on a fixed income often must make difficult decisions between paying for food and critical healthcare.
Seniors with Food Insecurity may experience a number of challenges:

    • Food running out
    • Skipping meals
    • Choosing between food and medicine
    • Postponing medical care
    • Poor health outcomes
    • Higher health care use and costs
      Source: FRACS Hunger and Health series
Food insecurity increases the risk for chronic health conditions:

  • Increased risk for negative mental health impacts
  • Inadequate intake of nutrients
  • Total healthcare costs increase steadily with increased severity of household food insecurity

1 in 8 Texans are food insecure


Households with seniors in Texas face food insecurity


Looking to support and partner with organizations addressing food insecurity by:

Increasing access to health foods especially in underserved areas to include rural and designated food deserts.
Those working in collaboration and taking a coordinated approach to address food insecurity.