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Community Foundation awards grants to 10 nonprofit groups

Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum. Representatives from 10 local nonprofit organizations got a helping hand Thursday when the Newton Fund of The Community Foundation For Greater Atlanta handed out more than $20,000 in grants. Pictured are, left to right, back row, Hugh Waters, chairman of the Special Olympics Board; Tommy Hailey, director, Newton County Recreation Commission; Jack Vanderzwart, director of Willing Helpers Food Pantry; and Dennis Cheek, executive director of FaithWorks. On front row are Josephine Kelly, secretary of Friends of Newton Park Inc.; Bea Jackson, executive director of Washington Street Community Center; Kathie Smith, chair of the board of trustees for the Newton County Foundation for Excellence in Education; Laura Bertram, acting board chair for Newton Mentoring Inc; Jody Carver, service center director for the Salvation Army; Abigail Coggin, director of the Young Artists Program for Arts Association of Newton County; and Kendra Boone, acting board chair of FaithWorks.

Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum. Representatives from 10 local nonprofit organizations got a helping hand Thursday when the Newton Fund of The Community Foundation For Greater Atlanta handed out more than $20,000 in grants. Pictured are, left to right, back row, Hugh Waters, chairman of the Special Olympics Board; Tommy Hailey, director, Newton County Recreation Commission; Jack Vanderzwart, director of Willing Helpers Food Pantry; and Dennis Cheek, executive director of FaithWorks. On front row are Josephine Kelly, secretary of Friends of Newton Park Inc.; Bea Jackson, executive director of Washington Street Community Center; Kathie Smith, chair of the board of trustees for the Newton County Foundation for Excellence in Education; Laura Bertram, acting board chair for Newton Mentoring Inc; Jody Carver, service center director for the Salvation Army; Abigail Coggin, director of the Young Artists Program for Arts Association of Newton County; and Kendra Boone, acting board chair of FaithWorks.

COVINGTON -- In a time when every penny helps, 10 local nonprofit agencies got a financial boost Thursday morning when The Newton Fund of The Community Foundation For Greater Atlanta handed out more than $20,000 in grants at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning in downtown Covington.

A total of $18,000, consisting of funds raised locally and a match by the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, were handed out through the fund's competitive grants program. In addition, Tamara Richardson, former director of the Newton Fund, distributed $5,000 to five charities of her choice through an unrestricted gift to the Newton Fund from the Pat Patrick Foundation.

Typically, the foundation, started by the founder of the Newton Fund, donates $5,000 annually to go into the fund's general pool of funds. But this year, Patrick allowed Richardson to make the designations in honor of her work on behalf of the Newton Fund.

Grant recipients were:

* FaithWorks -- The organization that provides assistance to low-income residents for rent and utility payments was a recipient of both a competitive grant and Richardson's designated funds. "We're going to use this to pay our utility bills," Executive Director Dennis Cheek said.

* Washington Street Community Center -- The center, which offers about a dozen different programs for local students, including a popular after-school tutorial program, also received both grants. Executive Director Bea Jackson said the money will be used to pay operational costs and purchase teaching aids and materials for enrichment programs.

* Willing Helpers Food Pantry -- The food pantry is open several days a week a and helps 250 to 300 people per week. "This is truly a blessing to us from God," Director Jack Vanderzwart said. The grant will be used to pay utility and other operational expenses.

* Salvation Army -- The local branch of the organization has a thrift store, clothing closet, furniture bank and food pantry and provides assistance with mortgage and utility payments and prescriptions for people without medical insurance. The Salvation Army helps 50,000 people per year locally, Service Center Director Jody Carver said. The grant will be used toward its mortgage, rent and utilities assistance program as well as to help supply the food pantry, she said.

* Friends of Newton Park Inc. -- The organization is raising funds to establish a park with universal accessibility for children and adults, and those with special needs. The park will be located behind Newton County Library. The grant will be used to stabilize the chimney and foundation ruins of an old mansion on the site that will be a key element of the park, Board Secretary Josephine Kelly said.

* Newton County Special Olympics -- The organization helps both children and adults with special needs. The grant will be used for adult outreach programs, local program coordinator Pamela Dew said.

* Newton Mentoring Inc. -- The program pairs adult mentors with students one hour a week. Mentors go to local schools and spend one-on-one time with students. The grant will be used to pay operational expenses.

In addition to Washington Street Community Center and FaithWorks, Richardson chose three other organizations to receive $1,000.

"There's nothing like giving away other people's money," she joked.

Those organizations were:

* The Arts Association in Newton County -- Executive Director Buncie Lanners said that while art is not a high priority for giving in troubled economic times, the arts can break damaging cycles of behavior and teach children acceptance of people of other cultures, races and backgrounds. The money will help fund the Young Artists Programs.

* Miracle League of Newton County -- Richardson is a consultant for the newly formed agency that is working to raise funds for a baseball field to accommodate special needs children. The grant will help fund construction documents and architect fees, said Tommy Hailey, director of the Newton County Recreation Commission.

* Newton County Foundation for Excellence in Education -- The fledgling organization's mission is to support public education, in part by providing grants to teachers and students, said Kathie Smith, chair of the board of trustees.

Since it was formed 10 years ago, the Newton Fund has contributed more than $221,000 to 50 local non-profit agencies. Only four of the agencies that have received assistance are no longer in operation, a testament to the care in which agencies are selected, said Newton Fund Chair Barbara Morgan.

The fund also provides information to individuals and groups on local non-profits and allows them to establish their own funds benefiting organizations of their choice.

"People who have a lot and people who have a little can make a difference through planned giving," Morgan said.

During the past five years, more than $3 million has been donated to Newton County charities through such funds, according to Alicia Phillip, president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.