Arlington Tomorrow Foundation Celebrates Five Years

When Green Oaks School in Arlington opened 12 years ago, four students signed up.

Today, enrollment at the school for students with Down syndrome and similar developmental delays has soared to 55 students, with more on a wait list.

“We are jam packed,” said Jean Jewell, director of the school. “We have no room to grow.”

With financial assistance from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation (ATF) and other non-profits, Green Oaks School will move this summer to a new, bigger site, which will allow it to reach more students.

Green Oaks is among the more than 200 recipients of ATF grants since the foundation was created  five years ago.  Since its inception, the foundation has donated nearly $7 million to charitable organizations and City-managed projects throughout Arlington.

Projects have included providing dental care for low-income residents, repairing sidewalks and adding street lights in neighborhoods, contributing to literacy programs, and helping economically disadvantaged residents with rent and utility assistance.

“Organizations throughout our community are committed to making Arlington a better place to live, learn, work and play,” said Carolyn Mentesana, Arlington Tomorrow Foundation executive director. “Through our grants, the foundation has the opportunity to work alongside these groups and provide them with the financial resources to help them succeed in their efforts improve the quality of life of our community.”

The foundation is unique entity among area cities. Established by City Council in 2007, the foundation manages a permanent charitable endowment created by a significant portion of revenues from natural gas wells on city-owned properties.

Local groups say the foundation has been instrumental in their success.

The foundation provided $75,000 to help build Levitt Pavilion in downtown Arlington and an additional $105,000 to support concerts.

“The Arlington Tomorrow Foundation is one of the best things our city has done,” said Patti Diou, executive director of the Levitt. “It is such an incredible asset for the entire city and for the arts.”

One of the biggest recipients of the foundation’s grants is the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which has received $1.9 million.

The money has underwritten program costs associated with providing some 1,500 low and moderate-income Arlington children the opportunity to attend summer camps.  The foundation also provided $100,000 to help build the Randol Mill Barrier Free Playground, the city’s first designated recreation facility exclusively designed to accommodate children with physical and mental disabilities.

“We hear again and again from families who say they never would have been able to provide these opportunities for their families without our help,” said Matt Young, assistant director of the department. “And we are able to better serve the community with the additional resources provided by Arlington Tomorrow Foundation’s grants.”

At Green Oaks School, the $30,000 grant from the foundation will help meet the growing needs of Arlington families and their loved one living with Down syndrome.

“It’s wonderful that the City of Arlington gives back to the community this way,” Jewell said. “This makes me proud to be in Arlington.”

By Sarah Bahari