In 1997, an alumnus of The Hill School (PA) established a fund to seed programs that would benefit the school’s Pottstown community while also providing engagement opportunities for students and faculty. Named Hobart’s Run, this collaborative neighborhood-improvement initiative was initially launched to create a clean, safe, and inclusive community; strengthen Pottstown residential development; and generate positive, sustainable commercial and retail development.
Recently, The Hill School Board of Trustees voted to pursue 501(c)(3) status for Hobart’s Run so that it could engage in real estate development activities and apply for government and foundation funding only available to nonprofit organizations. In addition, the school has set a goal to raise at least $5 million to endow and underwrite Hobart’s Run initiatives that will help the preliminarily designated area as well as all of Pottstown. In April, Hobart’s Run hosted a Pottstown Investors Conference, which kicked off with a keynote address by Governor Tom Wolf, a Hill School alumnus, and included panel discussions and a trolley tour of Pottstown.
The board and Hill School staff members have studied how anchor institutions in communities similar to Pottstown have successfully worked to contribute to their towns’ overall improvement. For example, Franklin & Marshall College and Lancaster General Hospital have played significant roles in revitalizing Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
While recognizing that there are significant, realistic differences between the economic impact of a relatively small boarding school and that of larger colleges and health systems, the school still hopes to be a catalyst for the community.
“The board’s recent vote to create a 501(c)(3), as well as to form a board-level committee dedicated to Hobart’s Run, is a strong indication of its commitment to this transformative project,” says Twila Fisher, the school’s manager of community and economic development. “It has become evident that the primary goals of Hobart’s Run will be most effectively realized through the establishment of a separate entity, which will allow increased eligibility for state and federal grants.”