03/08/10 — Groups will get $250,000 in grants

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Groups will get $250,000 in grants

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 8, 2010 1:46 PM

Smart Choices for Youth will distribute $250,000 worth of grants to organizations that impact communities in Wayne, Wilson, Sampson and Edgecombe counties.

This is the first time in its 20-year history that Smart Choices has been in a position to fund faith-based and community organizations, said Daryl Woodard, executive director. The federal money was awarded through a CCF -- Compassion Capital Fund -- demonstration grant, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"They were doing this because of the economy and because of the needs in the community," Woodard explained. "People don't know that the 1st Congressional District is one of the poorest in the nation. ... If unemployment is at around 10 percent nationwide, within the pockets that we're talking about, we could be talking about double that."

Back in December, Smart Choices solicited applications for the grants, which ranged from $5,000 to $15,000 each. "Operation R.E.A.C.H." focused on building up faith-based and community organizations in the four counties, with an emphasis on addressing such issues as at-risk children, homelessness and the elderly.

It was a competitive process, Woodard said. Only organizations that had not previously received federal money were eligible.

"We had 50 applications, and only half of those were funded," he said. "We had grant readers go over them (and recipients) were determined by the areas they were going to address."

In these economic times, it is helpful to receive monetary support. And for Smart Choices, which provides mentoring programs for at-risk youths, it is rewarding to be in a position to partner with others, he said.

Even more important than the dollar amount, however, is where the federal funding will be targeted.

"These monies are not for direct services," Woodard said. "For example, if they don't have a Web site, it'll be used for Web site development, equipment and things of that nature so that they can strengthen the organization -- brochures and business cards."

For many fledgling organizations, particularly non-profits, budgets are prioritized around covering the most essential things. If they had an additional $5,000-10,000, Woodard said, they could get a few extras.

Among the most valuable outcomes of the grant funding, Woodard said, is the training that can be offered.

"Smart Choices will provide training to assist them in applying for grants and also strengthen the infrastructure within the organizations, so that we can address the issues that are needed in Wayne County," he said. The effort will take place from now until March 2011, he added.

Each applicant brought a different approach to the table, Woodard said, but all will address some vital needs in the communities they serve.

"The Mental Health Association of Wayne County, for example -- that's not the Mental Health department -- what they're trying to do, and this is the first time receiving federal funds, is to address mental health issues more of a countywide nature," he said. "They proposed a literacy program and also to help undergird some of the things from a county and grassroots effort, about what they're doing. ... They're targeting at-risk and high-risk youth, violence prevention for those struggling with addiction, elder services and people with special needs."

Another recipient, Pedia-tric Play Therapy, is an organization that works with families of special needs children, particularly autistic, through the concept of play.

"And The Legacy House in the Mount Olive area has been in existence but now will use those dollars to strengthen Web site development, deal with at-risk youth," Woodard said. "That's the southern end of the county so we're covering the whole county with these grants."

Subgrants were also awarded in Wayne County to Academic Abundance Inc., BLINC Outreach, Inc., Excel-N-Life, Inc., Ladies of Grace, Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, Philadelphia Community Church Spirit & Life Ministries & Outreach Inc. and Wayne Charitable Partnership.