The Utica National Group Foundation Fund at The Community Foundation was created in 2014 with a $1 million gift marking Utica Mutual Insurance Company’s centennial.
Bernard Turi, Utica National Insurance Group senior vice president, chairs the fund’s screening committee, a nine-person employee group whose members serve six-year terms and help decide which organizations receive grants. In addition to reviewing grants with the committee, he is responsible for engaging and meeting with community partners, organizing meetings, discussing funding opportunities and working with Community Foundation staff to implement meaningful grants.
“Utica National Insurance Group takes great pride in the philanthropic work being done for our local community,” said Turi. “The company feels an obligation to contribute to the community in which we operate to help those who are less fortunate—a way to give back to a place that has given so much to us.”
The Utica National Group Foundation Fund focuses its grantmaking on issues relating to poverty, education and helping youth and their families.
“Family is of utmost importance—we like to see the family unit kept together,” said Turi. “Therefore, any services we can support that promote education and embrace the family core, we like to get behind.”
One organization that Utica National believes fulfills this important mission has been the Johnson Park Center—specifically the Head, Hand & Heart Family Enrichment Program. In 2015, the fund’s first grant assisted Johnson Park Center in launching the program, which serves children ages 3 to 5, providing opportunities to learn using interactive technology, engage with other kids and develop skills to become school-ready.
“The Head, Hand & Heart Program is special because it’s successful and is impacting youth in a positive way,” said Turi. “The fundamental work being done by the program helps make
up for the disadvantages that some kids face educationally.”
Hope House is another agency that the fund’s committee members believe is doing critical work in the community.
“Hope House is another example of great change—seeing positive things happen on a grander scale than they have in the past.”
Turi believes that The Community Foundation is well-positioned to assist Utica National in putting money in the right hands, for the right programs. As an area resident and Utica National employee for more than 30 years, Turi is enthusiastic about the changes that have already happened in our community, along with the changes that are to come.
“I think our society would have far greater issues if these nonprofits weren’t around to address the major challenges—their work is invaluable.”