Belk Foundation Establishes Endowment to Benefit The Blue Ridge Parkway

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WINSTON-SALEM - The Belk Foundation, historically focused on education and consistent with its mission to support deserving educational, religious, cultural, social, and human services causes and organizations "for the up-building of mankind," has made a $100,000 contribution to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation for Parks as Classrooms.

Parks as Classrooms is the largest educational outreach program operated by a national park in the country. More than 35,000 children a year are exposed to the history, traditions, and natural treasures of the Blue Ridge Parkway through lessons delivered by park rangers. "One of the goals of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is to get more children out enjoying the Parkway, to experience first hand the added value our national parks provide," states Houck Medford, Executive Director. "This gift from the Belk Foundation will help us to reach more children. More than 5,000 visit the Parkway through Parks as Classrooms each year, but we want to increase the opportunities for more children. The Belk Foundation has demonstrated their commitment through this generous gift."

"Students enjoy up close and instructive engagement with all kinds of Appalachian resources-natural, cultural, and historic. As their sense of wonder is nurtured, these children develop a meaningful sense of place that helps them better understand and appreciate the heritage of the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains and our national parks. Leaders in the National Park Service believe that outreach to children who live near the Parkway creates an ideal synergy of public education and preservation." says Medford.

Phil Francis, superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, remarks that this gift is a great example to others, both individual and corporate. "The Blue Ridge Parkway will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2010. Our focus is on preserving and enhancing our park over the next 75 years. Parks as Classrooms fosters future park stewardship and that is a great gift indeed."

The John M. Belk Memorial Fund was created in 1928 upon the death of Dr. John M. Belk, brother of William Henry Belk and co-founder of the Belk department store organization, and remains committed to fulfilling the philanthropic vision of its founders to be an effective means of expressing the Belk family's values.

The Blue Ridge Parkway winds for almost 500 miles along the crest of six Appalachian mountain ranges in North Carolina and Virginia, traversing four national forests and six major rivers. It is a conservation corridor protecting more than 81,000 acres of rare plants and wildlife, unequalled scenic beauty, vibrant Appalachian traditions and historically rich cultures.

The mission of the Belk Foundation is to support deserving educational, religious, cultural, social, health and human services causes and organizations located in markets served by Belk department stores. The Belk Foundation is a family foundation committed to fulfilling the philanthropic vision of its founders to encourage and support causes aimed at the "up-building of mankind." The grants it awards are a public expression of the Belk family's values of stewardship, community involvement and planned giving. For more information about The Belk Foundation, contact Paul Wyche, Foundation trustee (704) 426-8404, or Susan Blount, foundation administrator (704) 426-8396.