Three local agencies receive the 1996 Robert S. Smith Award, established at Cornell by Tompkins County Trust Co.

Proposals of three local agencies have been chosen from among 25 applicants to receive the Robert S. Smith Award for community progress and innovation.

The three agencies receiving award funding for 1996 are: " Literacy Volunteers of Tompkins County -- for the development of software for the tutoring/learning needs of low-level readers or nonreaders. The software will have the potential of providing a safe and inviting environment in which learners can exercise their emerging skills.

  • Southside Community Center -- for a summer project coordinator for the Cornell Student Sustainable Farm. The farm, a student garden project, has developed a partnership with the Southside Community Center to distribute produce through a community-owned and-operated farm stand.
  • Department of Design and Environmental Analysis in Cornell's College of Human Ecology -- for using current research findings to design and model public-use kitchen and bathing facilities for Ithacare, a not-for-profit residential care facility for the elderly.

Established at Cornell University in 1994 through a grant of $100,000 by the Tompkins County Trust Co., the Robert S. Smith Award is named for the bank's former board of directors chairman, who is the W.I. Myers Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance at Cornell. The award is intended to generate program partnerships between the university and the citizens of Tompkins County.

The 1995 award recipients were the Women's Community Center, the Varna Volunteer Fire Company and Tompkins County 4-H, each of which completed a final project report as part of the program process.

The Women's Community Center reported it used its award to fund Cornell student Joanna Cohen helping to develop a Women's Economic Development Resource Center. Last summer, Cohen categorized and catalogued a list of resources possessed by the Women's Community Center; created two surveys to be completed by users of the proposed center to assess its effectiveness once it is operational; and created a flyer that outlines some basic economic resources available to women in the community. Cohen also arranged to have professorial sponsorship to continue her work on the project during the fall of 1995.

Cornell graduate student Allan L. Berger reported that he and the Varna Volunteer Fire Company used the Smith Award to help develop a pre-emergency plan for each address in the Varna Fire Protection District. The plan, which is an ongoing project, would allow responding fire department officials to know how to set up a water supply for extinguishing fires at each location and to plan for special situations they would encounter at the scene (such as narrow driveways or nearby buildings). The plan also contains information for use in emergency medical calls, such as suitable locations for landing a helicopter for hospital airlifts.

The 4-H Urban Outreach Program of Tompkins County, which operates after-school programs at the West Village Apartment complex in Ithaca, used the Smith Award to help implement a bi-weekly program called Academic Excellence-Enterprise Day. The program, implemented in the fall of 1995, blends homework mentoring and early work-force preparation skills for 25 young people, ages 9 to 13. "The recipient of the award, Cornell student Laura Larson, is doing an outstanding job of implementing the project," reported her immediate supervisors, Emily Robin and Susie Criswell.