The Avedis Foundation has had a very productive five years in the area; evidence of its existence is plain to see all over the county — as well as some spaces outside of it.

The foundation’s mission is to improve the health, wellness and quality of life for the people of Pottawatomie County and its surrounding communities — and that it's been doing for a handful of years now.

To date, the foundation has awarded hundreds of grants — totaling more than $19 million — to neighboring communities and programs, offering a boost over the usual hurdles of time restraints and tight budgets.

“Some days I get to play Santa, but we’re not giving a hand out, we’re giving a hand up,” Avedis President Michelle Briggs said. “We try to invest strategically throughout the county. We’re very careful about how we allocate our funds.”

She said the foundation has been pleased to contribute to so many exciting projects and initiatives in Pottawatomie County.

“After working with communities to identify needs, Avedis has initiated strategic partnerships and targeted investments throughout Pottawatomie County to promote real and lasting change,” Briggs said.

In short, the foundation has aided several area schools, city projects, nonprofits and social service organizations.

City of Shawnee projects

Shawnee City Manager Justin Erickson said Avedis has helped to substantially increase the quality of life for citizens of Shawnee and Pottawatomie County.

“They have specifically helped the city with the Shawnee Splash Aquatic Center, Splash Pad at Boy Scout Park, the Bryan Street Trail, the Expo Conference Center, and our ongoing sidewalk projects (5-year master plan and ODOT grant match),” he said. “In addition, they've assisted Shawnee Public Schools and led the effort to establish Community Renewal, Community Market of Pottawatomie County and Blue Zones, among many other efforts. These initiatives further help our community be a better place to live, work, raise a family, and attract visitors and economic investment.”

More on the list

Some other big projects to be noted are Neighboring 101, Family Promise, Community Renewal, Community Market of Pottawatomie County, the Blue Zones Project and Shawnee Middle School Avedis Park.

Some others include:

• Tecumseh Police Department, in honor of fallen Officer Justin Terney, to form the Tecumseh Police Foundation; an additional grant matched contributions made within the first year;

• The Pottawatomie County Education Initiative, established to support the academic progress of local students;

• Pioneer Library System, in partnership with the Pottawatomie County Health Department, to provide books to children;

• Legacy Parenting, to help families to become stronger and healthier through education, resources, and mentoring;

• Infant Crisis Center, to expand mobile services to Pottawatomie County;

• Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, to offer educational opportunities for local educators and youth.

Passing the baton

Briggs has announced retirement plans the end of June; Dr. Kathy Laster has been chosen to fill the position, beginning July 1.

Also, Avedis has a new headquarters under construction at 1500 E. Independence in Shawnee.

For more information about Avedis, currently at 3903 N. Harrison, call (405) 273-4055 or visit avedisfoundation.org.