By Olivia Overman
Having grown up in extreme poverty, founder Jameece Pinckney knew from a young age the hardship that some families go through. It was when she was awarded two scholarships, of $250 and $500, on senior night in 1989 that she knew one day she would pay it forward. The feeling she had realizing that somebody noticed her and cared about her welfare led her to decide that one day, “I want to reach back and pull others forward.” She has done just that. Established in 2014, The OPHELIA Foundation was founded with the sole principle of helping others in the community.
What’s In A Name?
A goal! The foundation was established with the goal of creating Opportunities to Provide Hope, Empower Lives, and Influence Advancement (OPHELIA) for those who might not otherwise have opportunities. There is a deeper meaning behind the name Ophelia, however.
“My husband, Gil, and I were amazed to discover that both his mother and my grandmother had been named Ophelia. It’s certainly not a common name,” said Pinckney. “But beyond that similarity, we also found that each of these strong women was the backbone of her family, holding things together during
often-difficult times. They offered our families hope by selflessly giving of themselves. Neither of them completed their secondary education, and both succumbed to diabetes.”
“We fight for educational and health causes as a way to bring exposure to the issues they battled during their lifetimes,” she said. “We know they’d both be proud of The OPHELIA Foundation and its initiatives to advance and empower those in need in our communities.”
Scholarships, Partnerships and More
For the past two years, the foundation has provided scholarships to college-bound high school seniors who may need a little assistance with college costs. “We hold an annual fundraiser each July to attract donors who will help support the program,” Pinckney said. The upcoming 2019 program will award two $1,000 scholarships, and Pinckney and her husband will also award a $1,000 scholarship they have personally donated. Awards will be presented in July, with the 2019 awardees and their families present. “This is
truly the highlight of the foundation’s year,” Pinckney said.
Donated funds are also used for purchasing backpacks, school supplies and reading materials for local schools throughout Maryland, DC and Virginia. The schools are appreciative when they receive backpacks filled with supplies for students whose families can’t afford to buy them. Melissa German, executive
director of Fauquier Community Child Care Inc. said “[The] gift of backpacks and school supplies means a great deal to us and allows us to continue using our resources to provide subsidized care to those in our community who are financially struggling to support their families.”
Giving back does not stop at school supplies and scholarships for students. In December 2018, the foundation donated holiday gifts to 40 foster care children. “This was our first involvement with
foster care, another area where our children are in great need,” Pinckney said.
Emma Marshall, community educator/recruiter at Fairfax County Department of Family Services, said, “The foundation provided beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts, which included everything the children requested. It was great to see the joy that comes to children when they get the special gifts they wish for. Children in foster care and adoption have a lot to wish for in their lives. While we can’t always fulfill all of their wishes, every little bit helps.”
More Goals, More Donations, More Hope
Celebrating five years of giving back in September 2019, the focus is now on a mission entitled OPHELIA’s PHEAST – an additional goal that focuses on Poverty, Health, Education, Arts, Sports and Technology in the community.
Having raised more than $33,000 and supported more than 310 youths so far, the foundation continues to work steadily to increase its donor base and the number of donations it receives. It continually receives support from businesses and people in the community who not only donate money but also time and goods.
As the foundation’s donor base increases along with the number of donations received, so too does the number of scholarships, supplies and programs that can be offered. “Whatever I can do through the foundation, however great or small, I want it to serve as a source of help and inspiration to others,” Pinckney said.
More information about the OPHELIA Foundation can be found at opheliafoundation.org.
Olivia Overman ([email protected]) is a freelance writer for both online and print organizations. She earned a M.A. in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, Washington, D.C.