Community Foundation awards more than $300K in city grants
by Daniel Gaddy
Nov 22, 2013 | 2806 views |  0 comments | 137 137 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Twenty nonprofit groups received more than $300,000 in grants from the city of Anniston Thursday — but members of the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama wrote the checks.

In all, the foundation awarded $526,342 in grants Thursday during a breakfast reception at First United Methodist Church in Anniston.

“We could not have made this possible without the generosity of the people in this community and the not-for-profits that help the people of this community; we’re pleased to be able to do that,” said Eula Tatman, vice president for grants, scholarships and initiatives for the foundation.

The Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama holds about $35 million in 150 charitable funds and awards about $1 million in grants each year to groups in a nine-county area in northeastern Alabama.

This is the first year the foundation has administered grants on behalf of the city of Anniston.

The awards are part of an agreement the foundation reached with the City Council in May, in which the foundation administers grants to the 20 nonprofits the city normally supports. The city pays the group 5 percent of the total appropriations to go toward administrative costs of doling out the money, while another 5 percent of the total is earmarked for an endowment to fund grants in the future.

Council members say the new agreement with the foundation makes the application process fair and objective.

“We did this to take the politics out of the funding mechanism,” Mayor Vaughn Stewart said during a council meeting Thursday.

Tommie Goggans, chairman of the board of trustees for the Community Foundation, said the foundation appoints a Community Investment Committee that thoroughly reviews applications.

Martha Vandervoort is executive director of Interfaith Ministries of Calhoun County, a nonprofit group that received $20,000 from the city via the foundation. She said Interfaith provides people living under the poverty line with services such as utility and rent assistance.

Vandervoort stressed that the money given to her group by the city will go only to Anniston residents.

Vandervoort said the new application process was good, but more tedious than previous years.

For example, she said, the foundation requires nonprofits to undergo training to comply with the Standards of Excellence Institute, which provides guidelines for aspects such as financial transparency and fundraising practices.

At a council meeting Thursday, Tatman said a few nonprofits that normally receive funds from the city chose not to go through the new application process with the Community Foundation.

Vandervoort said she believes that ultimately, the new application process ensures the money will be spent in the best way.

“We have all got to be good stewards of what we have,” she said.

Vandervoort said, however, that she misses addressing the council to tell them about Interfaith Ministries’ work.

She said the average client of Interfaith receives about $150 in services, so the money from the city could help more than 100 local residents. More important than the money, she said, is knowing that the city and the foundation endorse the work of Interfaith’s staff.

Wonder Osborne, executive director of the Public Education Foundation of Anniston, said the new application process also relies more on technology than in the past, with many of the documents in the application process submitted electronically.

“It’s different, but hey, that’s the way of the world,” she said.

The Public Education Foundation received a $65,000 grant for operating expenses from the city of Anniston. The group also received a $4,700 grant from the Community Foundation to go toward a program for Anniston High School students interested in becoming teachers.

“We’re so thankful for what they do for us,” she said, referring to the city and the Community Foundation.

Goggans said the application process went well this year, and foundation officials look forward to continuing the agreement with the city.

Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_Star.

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