Shawnee's own Avedis Foundation funds more than $4.3 million grants locally in 2021

·5 min read
The Rejuvenation Suite, a calming space for healthcare professionals at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital – Shawnee.
The Rejuvenation Suite, a calming space for healthcare professionals at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital – Shawnee.

Closing in on a decade, Shawnee's own Avedis Foundation continues to support the community with grant funds each year.

“Avedis funded more than $4.3 million in initiatives, grants and awards for the benefit of our community in 2021,” Avedis Board Chair Chuck Skillings said. “As we begin our 10th year as a foundation, it’s especially encouraging to report that, despite the pandemic, Avedis Foundation has remained steadfast in its mission to improve the quality of life for the communities we serve.”

Since being formed in 2012, the Shawnee-based foundation has granted more than $50 million in Pottawatomie County and its surrounding communities, focusing on areas of health and wellness, social services, arts and culture, civic and community initiatives and education.

With sponsorship from Avedis, Pottawatomie County became the first certified Blue Zones community in Oklahoma. The multi-year effort has engaged local restaurants, schools, faith-based organizations, grocery stores, worksites, policy-makers and residents of the community with measurable progress toward healthier outcomes for the county.

Also, the SUSTAIN Initiative, introduced in 2019, was created to assist local organizations to establish sustainability, defined as the organization’s ability to cover 100 percent of its operating expenses within 10 years. Since 2019, leaders from Community Market, Legacy Parenting Center, Community Renewal and South Central Industries have worked alongside dozens of members from the greater Shawnee area to create, test and pilot new business ideas for four nonprofits and four future Shawnee businesses. By the end of 2021, more than 150 community members had helped imagine new opportunities for participating organizations. Over time, the new businesses are projected to earn enough profit to cover their operational needs.

Highlights in 2021

  • The Foundation’s board of directors welcomed two new members in January. Tina K. Hanna, executive director for South Central Industries, and Marissa Lightsey, executive director of College and Career Readiness for the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

  • In March, 2021, Avedis released a proclamation of recognition for Pottawatomie County’s first responders to acknowledge the critical efforts of law enforcement personnel, firefighters, emergency operators and dispatchers, EMTs, search and rescue personnel and those who put others first to protect the community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Avedis also partnered with South Central Industries (SCI) to provide meals for the responders through SCI’s Special Kneads Eats and Treats food truck.

  • Avedis presented the Women’s Leadership Program in March, featuring leadership lessons and inspiring takeaways from soccer legend Abby Wambach, Emmy-nominated Randi Zuckerberg and several other notable presenters.

  • In May, Avedis Foundation unveiled the Rejuvenation Suite, a calming space for healthcare professionals at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital – Shawnee, donated by Avedis to provide a respite amid the demands of the pandemic. Avedis Foundation’s annual Health Week took place in May, featuring family-friendly events throughout Shawnee for all age groups.

  • More than 1,300 educators from Pottawatomie County school districts participated in the 2021 Celebrate Teachers event hosted by Avedis in August.

  • In the fall, Avedis announced the establishment of the Michelle Briggs “We’re Here for Good” Service Award, created as an annual recognition of an individual who has provided exemplary service to the community. The award takes its name from the foundation’s first president and CEO, Michelle Briggs, who led Avedis from its establishment in 2012 until her retirement in 2018. “We’re Here for Good” is the foundation’s signature statement, as Avedis supports public agencies, educational institutions, municipalities and other not-for profit organizations within Pottawatomie County and the surrounding communities of Seminole, Meeker, Chandler, Prague and Little Axe.

  • In October and November, Avedis partnered with the Community Market of Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma State Department of Health and local organizations to facilitate vaccinations throughout Pottawatomie and Seminole counties as part of its “Don’t Wait. Vaccinate.” campaign.

Grants awarded

Avedis awarded more than $2 million in grants in 2021. Local recipients receiving some of the funds from Avedis were:

  • Bethel Public Schools to provide a new pavilion for Bethel High School’s Leadership Square project.

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma to expand one-to-one mentoring for local children.

  • Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency to assist local nonprofits with research, preparation and submission of grant applications.

  • City of Shawnee Senior Recreation Center to enhance fitness programming and equipment.

  • City of Tecumseh to fund Phase 2 of the Slick Humphrey Park Walking Trail.

  • Community Market of Pottawatomie County to support its network of services for local residents who are facing food insecurity.

  • Community Renewal of Pottawatomie County to support revitalized, connected and caring neighborhood communities throughout Pottawatomie County.

  • Gateway to Prevention and Recovery, Inc. to expand community-based behavioral health services for individuals and families.

  • Infant Crisis Services to provide funding for BabyMobile site visits.

  • Junior Achievement of Oklahoma for curriculum support of digital financial literacy platforms in Pottawatomie Schools.

  • Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art to support and expand educational programming.

  • Mabel Bassett Correctional Facility to help fund its R.I.S.E. training and job placement program.

  • Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute to provide program scholarships for Shawnee-area students and educators.

  • Partners In Caring to expand health and mental health services to the school districts of Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties.

  • Project: SAFE to provide critical services for those in need.

  • SSM Health St. Anthony Foundation/Shawnee Compassion Fund to provide essential items and resources for continued healing to patients who are discharged from their hospital stay due to COVID-19.

  • Salvation Army Shawnee Boys and Girls Club to support local after-school programs that promote good character, healthy lifestyles and academic success.

  • Shawnee Bridges out of Poverty to support educational programming and programs aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty.

  • Shawnee Community Foundation to install the state’s first Adaptive Kayak Launch at Shawnee Twin Lakes, to provide improved accessibility for individuals with limited mobility.

  • Shawnee YMCA to expand services and community outreach programs.

  • South Central Industries, Inc. to sponsor SCI’s annual Day of Thanksgiving Feast to honor the work of nonprofit leaders and volunteers.

For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at

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This article originally appeared on The Shawnee News-Star: Shawnee's Avedis Foundation funds more than $4.3M grants in 2021

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