Chapters Play Key Role In Grant Program Launched By Carolinas Foundation

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A teen shelter is the first recipient of a grant program launched by the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation aimed at helping small community-based charities and aid organizations that might otherwise be overlooked by large aid groups.

Carolinas Credit Union Foundation (CCUF) started the Micro-Community Grant Program after several years of funding for the Victory Junction Gang Camp, an effort that had provided a large amount of cash for seriously ill children in the Carolinas. CCUF Executive Director Steve Elam said Micro-Community grants will be from $500 to $10,000 and targeted at organizations that don't have a grant writer and usually fly under the radar of the normal grant application process.

Providence Home will use the first $10,000 grant to repair damage from Hurricane Ophelia after the storm brushed by the Tar Heel State in September 2005. Part of the roof was torn off, which let rainwater into the house, damaging two of the three rooms kids sleep in. Providence Home was closed and forced to send the kids back home.

The goal is to help the communities where local CU chapters are located. Elam said local CUs will select potential grant candidates, finalize the selection, and then send the award back to the chapter, which then presents the award to the organization. Elam said the new program is expected to bring in $400,000 in 2006, all of it donated by CCUF credit unions in North and South Carolina. He noted local CUs will get the credit for the grants, but will also need to allocate the time and effort.

"It will not work without the credit unions," he said. "The chapter will present the project and get all the press."

CCUF's Micro-Grant program focuses on organizations that have consistent and effective management, goals and objectives; a demonstrated ability to respond to a specific group's needs; and which demonstrate the ability to use the awarded grant money in one year.

The CCUF program doesn't approve grants for individuals, endowment campaigns, political or denominational programs, or groups asking for funds to pay for salaries, administrative costs or to wipe out debt.

Elam said Providence Home was chosen as the first grant recipient based on their history of service and that it's so well known in the local community. "It takes a huge commitment to do what they're doing," he explained. "They were friendly, open and honest in what they are doing."

Since 1997, Providence Home, in North Carolina's Lower Cape Fear coastal plain, has taken in more than 200 teenagers in crisis and housed them until their personal lives became stable again. Providence Home is located in the former home of Dr. J. Arthur Dosher, a local physician well known in the area for helping the community and founding his own hospital in the late 1930s, which is still part of the Southport community. Executive Director Warren Mortley said kids come to the home due to any crisis, whether homeless, from state custody, substance abuse or physical and mental abuse of any kind. Boys and girls from age 10 to 17 live two to a room with adult supervision always on site.

"Dr. Dosher healed physical wounds. We heal psychological and emotional wounds," Mortley said.

CCUF Board Member Maurice Smith is also president of Local Government FCU and hails from the Southport area. Smith said Providence Home is well known in the community with local teens passing the word among themselves about it being a safe haven. Smith said CCUF had a long history of helping well deserving, but large, organizations and it was time to look closer to home.

"This seems to be more in line with what credit unions should be doing," Smith said. "It's a call to action to credit unions in the state to go out and find more people to help."

At the start of December, the roof repair had been completed and Providence Home staff was set to repair the damaged interior rooms and preparing to take in any teen in the area. In its nearly 10-year run of aiding troubled teenagers, Providence Home had never closed a single day. Mortley called Local Government FCU and CCUF an "angel that was sent to us."

"That was our darkest hour. Then the sun came out. The sun is the credit union," Mortley said.

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