News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 16, 2011

Community Foundation celebrates 20 years

Nonprofit organizations vie for prize money at expo

TERRE HAUTE — Two decades of service were celebrated amid supporters as the Wabash Valley Community Foundation gave back to those who give.

More than 40 nonprofits from Clay, Sullivan and Vigo counties packed Hulman Center on Thursday evening for the foundation’s 20th anniversary “Community Expo.” Agencies hosted display booths to explain their services as more than 550 guests participated in a ballot process, voting for their favorite group. Winners split $20,000 in contributions toward their agencies’ endowment funds.

The 14th & Chestnut Community Center came out on top of the selection process, winning first place and $7,000 toward its endowment.

Earlier in the evening, executive director Pastor Bill Felts said he’d done his best to bring supporters for the event.

“We tried,” he said while distributing literature explaining the center’s services.

Earlier in the summer the center announced closure of programming was possible due to financial shortfalls. Since that time though, Felts said a number of area donors have committed to regular assistance.

“It’s much better. Things have leveled off for us,” he said, adding the center is hosting more than 60 children each day in its Kingdom Kids After School Program.

In addition to the youth programming, the center operates a Grumbling Tummies Cafe for neighborhood children, as well as Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard Food Pantry and the Kids Clothes Closet.

Beth Tevlin, executive director of the Wabash Valley Community Foundation, said the Expo gave local groups a chance to shine.

“Tonight is very exciting,” she said while some participants mingled about the booths and others ate dinner in the arena. Nonprofits assisted by the foundation range in substance from arts to education, health care to business. Established in 1991, the foundation currently boasts $32,346,136 in total assets, distributing $1,209,783 in grants during 2010. “It’s very broad-based,” she said of the group’s assisted.

Tying for third place and a $2,000 gift was the multi-faceted Clay Community Schools CAPE Endowment program. Coordinator Mary Yelton explained the group works to improve reading skills, communication skills and employment opportunities for residents and their children. In addition to its work through the Cumberland Academy, an alternative school in Clay County, the group also maintains the LEAAP Center and hosts GED classes.

“For the children to be successful, we have to educate the parents,” she said, explaining the organization combines daycare and parenting classes with GED course work, merging “family literacy” programs with educational opportunities for all ages.

Tara Elmore did her part volunteering on behalf of the Community Theatre of Terre Haute, dressed as “Anne Boleyn,” a wife of England’s King Henry VIII and a character in William Shakespeare’s play named for the monarch.

“Any time we’re allowed to get into costume, we do,” she laughed.

A member of the local theatre since 2002, the Indiana State University graduate noted this year marks the group’s 85th birthday. The theatre is currently performing Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” this weekend. “If you ever wanted to volunteer we could find a place for you,” she said, describing the group as welcoming to players and crew of all experience levels.

Marsha Conner volunteered that evening on behalf of Mental Health America of Vigo County, offering a slide-show on her laptop computer of the new permanent housing program units being built locally.

“It’s going to be wonderful,” she said of 30 new units organizers hope will assist in the battle against homelessness among the mentally ill. “We do a lot of things.”

The group also provides educational programming to area fourth-graders about substance abuse, as well as hosting suicide prevention programs.

“Mental health is one of those things we all share,” she said.

Regardless of whether her agency won any of the endowment awards or not, Conner said all the groups in attendance were deserving. The ill effects of the economy have hit nonprofits hard, she said, and most are making do the best they can.

Still, “this is what makes a community great,” she said. “All of these groups working to make it better.”

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.

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