The results from the Community Knights GIFT Grant funding to the Jones Magnet Middle Planetarium has had a direct impact on its reopening by supporting the necessary renovations to have it back in working order. Community Knights strives to ensure GIFT grant awardees are innovating and growing their programs. Their primary goal in fundraising efforts and grant awards are based on community collaboration. The GIFT program has a few simple, yet strict, requirements: All grants must directly benefit the citizens of the Virginia Peninsula of Hampton Roads; all awardees must be 501(c)(3) non-profits, public school organizations, or non-profits that the Community Knights’ Board deems a benefit to the Community, which demonstrate the ideals of Community Knights and show fiscal responsibility with the use of the grant.
The Jones Planetarium was built in the mid-1970’s, and for 20 years it was used frequently to give presentations to students and the general community. Sadly, due to budgetary restrictions, the Planetarium was closed in the mid-1990’s and fell into disrepair. From 2001 to 2015, efforts have been made to renovate the planetarium and reopen it to the public, but all expenses were being paid out of pocket by the Virginia Peninsula Astronomy/Stargazers (VPAS). In 2016, Jones joined the Community Knights GIFT program, and since then $8,800 in grants has gone towards renovating the Planetarium. So far, GIFT grants have been used to fund a number of essential renovations to planetarium components which had become overrun with mold or were otherwise unusable, such as the flooring, ceiling tiles, and chairs. This project is already having wonderful impacts on the school’s community, as well as the broader community on the peninsula.
- Teachers are working collaboratively to create a number of interdisciplinary projects which will utilize the planetarium,
- Students have been engaged in the renovation by creating artwork on built-in chalkboards and the walls, and
- The Virginia Peninsula Astronomers/Stargazers, a local amateur astronomy group, holds monthly community presentations in the planetarium which are free to the public.
Beyond what the money from GIFT grants directly went towards, having an influx of funding through the GIFT program inspired other organizations in the area to provide funds as well. Between funding through the GIFT grants and contributions from other groups, approximately $15,000 has been raised to renovate and maintain the Jones Planetarium so that it can be used by students and the community for many years to come.
Community Knights next round of grants will be issued this fall and they look forward to again supporting public school organizations and non-profits that are a benefit to our community.