Local groups seek grants

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Exeter students Kelsey Stringer and Kamerin Newman, along with their advisor and Exeter School Nurse Michelle Wiertsema, presented a proposal requesting grant funding to educate students and the community about distracted driving, during a Cassville Community Foundation meeting held each year to hear grant requests. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Community Foundation to award about $4,000 to $5,000 in funds

Each year, the Cassville Community Foundation holds a meeting to hear grant proposals from non-profit groups seeking funding to establish, or help provide continued support for local programs.

This year, the foundation, which is under the umbrella of the Progress and Effort through Community Action organization, heard about 10 grant proposals during the recent meeting.

"The purpose of the meeting is to give each of our non-profit groups that applies a chance to explain their grant requests and how they plan to spend the money," said Mike McCracken, Foundation president and president of Commerce Bank.

Typically, about $4,000 to $5,000 in funding is awarded to programs each year by the foundation to help support local community needs.

"That's what we're here for -- to raise money to help others in the future," McCracken said.

Two Exeter students, seniors Kelsey Stringer and Kamerin Newman, representing Exeter's Team Spirit Student Leadership program, were among grantees who pitched a proposal in front of about 20 board members and Foundation community volunteers for grant funds.

"We like having them provide a presentation in front of everyone, because we think it helps cultivate a sense of community, and helps educate us on all of each others' needs," McCracken said.

"We're asking for a fund to educate our students on the dangers of distracted driving," said Stringer, after sharing their presentation.

Currently, the students only have an annual operating budget of $250 to work with, Newman said. With adequate grant funds, the students, along with their advisor and school nurse Michelle Wiertsema who accompanied them, said they would be able to pay fees and hotel accommodating for professionals speakers to come to school to educate students, purchase two cars and provide a docudrama event and host special events to educate students and the community about the dangers of distracted driving.

"If you sit in the parking lot at school a few minutes, you'll see students driving by and [nearly all of them will] be on their phones," Newman said.

"We want to put out there that people can die from this," Stringer said. "So, we want to make an impact on students."

Cody Qualls, executive director of philanthropy for Mercy for the western region, also shared a proposal to support an existing program called Helping Hands, but asked to start a Cassville group. The program helps by offering transportation and prescription assistance.

"Say someone comes to the emergency room and they have no one to pick them up and no money for a cab," Qualls said. "The hospital has to call Monett, which is the closest city that offers a cab service, to come pick them up, and pay for the cab.

"We have partnerships where we can get people prescriptions through various plans, but it takes two to three weeks, so what are people [who need the prescriptions] going to do in the meantime? The program helps in the short-term until they can get a long-term solution."

Qualls emphasized that Mercy's mission is to take care of the poor, but sometimes, they need a little support in doing that.

"The bottom line is, if we have to pay for a cab or a prescription, we're going to do that to take care of the poor," he said. "But, we're asking for the foundation to help us in that role, because we provide so much charity that we also need support from the community from time-to-time to do that."

Local organizations can apply for Cassville Community Foundation grant funds from June 1 to Sept. 1.

"If you have an idea you think would benefit the community, you can apply," said Landon Fletcher, former Foundation president, current board member and president of First State Bank of Cassville.

Also requesting grant funds were the Bright Futures Program with the Cassville school district, Positive Behavior Support program with the Cassville Middle School, the Barry County Genealogical and Historical Society, the Cassville YMCA, Kornerstone Inc., Recovery Resources and the Cassville Fire Protection District.

With so many worthy needs in the community but limited funds, it can be difficult to decide who gets the grants.

"It's tough," McCracken said. "But, we bring in our community volunteers to help us with that decision. So we listen to the presentation, and everyone ranks them from 1-9, and then make a decision based on those rankings. So we ask for [their] input and all come together and make an educated decision."

"There are other foundations in town," Fletcher said. "There's the Crowder Foundation and Mercy Foundation. It's a community effort, and this foundation is just a piece of it."

The board will make its final decisions at its Oct. 25 meeting.

"Our board will go back over the requests at that time, review all the facts, and make some decisions on granting awards for this year," said McCracken, who assumed the position of president after being nominated by Fletcher in July.

Fletcher served in the position for approximately 10 years.

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