Local groups provide funding vehicle for projects

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Organizations provide long-term support of community, schools

If a community and everything in it that makes it work is valued, such as its schools, teachers and businesses, then some have set a clear example of just what can be accomplished when individuals work together to achieve a common goal to make its community better.

Those values were put in motion and put through the paces in 1992, when the PACE organization (Progress and Action Through Community Effort) was formed by a group of local individuals to assist with community betterment projects, laying the foundation for future organizations to build on.

"PACE is there to facilitate anyone in the community who wants to do a project that comes into the criteria of being a community betterment program," said Landon Fletcher, vice president and bank manager of First State Bank in Cassville. "The PACE board handles the funds and makes sure it's a qualified project, and it's a tax deduction for the individual or group. We act as a conduit for a lot of different groups around town. One of those is the Cassville Education Fund. Their board of directors and the PACE board are one-in-the same."

The CEF is a 501c3 non-profit that has a permanent endowment for funding educational needs that exceed the Cassville school district operating budget. Academic grants are awarded annually to educational programs from the fund.

It was started and is managed by the Cassville Community Foundation in 2009, in response to a challenge from the Harry Cooper Supply Company to locally raise $20,000 in order to receive a $10,000 matching grant.

"We exceeded our goal and the fund started with over $35,000," said Mary Cupps, chairwoman of CEF. "Several communities in the Ozarks established educational endowment funds in 2009 when CFO extended the initial challenge. Each community determines whether to start a fund and what types of programs or scholarships their fund will support. Monett and Aurora both have educational funds."

"CEF assists teachers with projects they want to do when they can't obtain funding form any other source," Fletcher said.

"This need is especially great considering the effect of the national economic crisis on public school funding," said Mary Cupps, CEF chairwoman.

Since its inception, more than $8,000 in grants have been awarded.

"In March or April, any Cassville teacher or group of teachers can apply for grants, although the programs funded must promote academic programs and enhance student learning and development," Cupps said. "The CEF committee reviews the applications and then makes a recommendation to the Cassville Community Foundation board. Grants are awarded in May at the teacher appreciation banquet in Cassville. We have awarded grants to all of the Cassville schools."

"The CEF participates with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which was founded in 2004, and has around 40 affiliates," Fletcher said.

According to Fletcher, The CCF, which acts as an umbrella organization and has about 14 different accounts, has around $100,000 in its fund.

"Some are scholarship funds, or a number of individuals who have their own scholarship funds set up," Fletcher said.

Anyone can apply for a grant by proposing a community betterment project to PACE, but they must first a qualified entity, Fletcher said, which just means they must be affiliated with someone the organization can legally give money to, like a church or school.

"The idea is to get as many of these funds going as you can so that there's always potential forever money there, and it's something the school can count on to provide for graduating seniors," he said. "We always encourage people who have a passion for something at the school, and one way to do that is to establish a fund. One of the primary reasons for setting it up is the tax deduction.

"They can either come to PACE and let us get it designated as a qualified project, or go through an entity. When the downtown betterment project got started, they used PACE initially to get things going, then got their own 501c3. Our grant process starts in June, July and August, then in September the board hears grant requests, then the board makes the grants in October."

Fletcher, who is a Cassville native, said he enjoys helping people and causes in his community.

"I grew up here, so I've got a dedicated commitment to the area," he said. "I hope to make Cassville a better place to live, and help the people here who need the help. I think if everyone does a little bit, it will make a big impact on everyone."

Recently, the CEF was selected as one of 20 funds (out of 60 that applied) to receive a $5,000 matching grant from CFO, and committee members are already on their way to hitting the May 3 deadline. To date, the Cassville Community Teachers Association, Security Bank of Southwest Missouri and the Soroptomist Club's have donated a total of $3,662 toward the goal.

"We are well on our way to meeting the May 3 deadline," Cupps said. "Even so, our goal is to take advantage of this opportunity to raise as much money as possible."

The CEF committee sponsors a variety of fundraising events, such as Trivia Night, a Homecoming luncheon, golf tournaments, poker run and school events. It was recently given a challenge by the CFO to raise $5,000 for a 1:1 matching grant. Members of the CEF board include Cupps, Mindi Artherton, Lisa Reid, Dove Haney, Skyler Beebe, Carolyn Bishop, Carolyn Bowen and Landon Fletcher.

Trivia Night has been our main fundraiser," Cupps said. "It's fun for everyone, not too much work for committee members, and fits in with the education theme. Last year, we also auctioned off a donated pickup truck to raise money for the fund."

For more information on obtaining grants, to make a donation to the CEF, scholarship or community project, or to get involved, people may call Fletcher at 417-847-6623.

"We have a volunteer committee that coordinates fundraising activities and grants," Cupps said.

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