Foundation Plans Grants To Address Needs Study

By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Community Foundation of Charles County plans to award grants in the spring based on a comprehensive study of the county's needs.

The foundation is starting small, with six grants of $2,000 each, but the money represents the first concrete step toward addressing the priorities outlined in the report last year.

That report, the Priority Needs Assessment for Charles County, focuses on arts, education, environment, health, youth issues and "general community improvement." The foundation will award the grants in May to groups that address one or more of those issues.

"The whole idea was to base our grant program on something, to have a well-defined purpose of the grants," said Gretchen Heinz Hardman, the foundation's executive director. "The grant program unfolded nicely behind the needs assessment."

The report stemmed from a public-private partnership involving the county government, the foundation and United Way. Hardman said that although Charles has strong social-services programs compared with similar-size counties, the role nonprofit groups play is extremely important.

"The report would serve not only as a tool for the partner organizations to use in their philanthropic activities, but also as a valuable resource to the entire community, influencing development decisions . . . and encouraging conversation and dialogue among citizens to bring about community change," the document states.

Hardman said she is confident the grant winners will address problems resulting from the economic downturn. The county has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the state, and community organizations have been overwhelmed with people needing help.

Waldorf has been hit hard by foreclosures, and a growing number of people face eviction, hunger or lack of health care. The Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Committee, the region's only nonprofit group dedicated to housing issues, was forced to hire a third counselor in the fall to help deal with the number of people in need.

"The county has all the same needs when the economy goes down, but on a much greater scale," Hardman said.

She acknowledged that $2,000 will not last long for organizations dealing with such issues, but said that the grant fund is expected to grow. The money was raised at the group's Potomac Wildlife Art Show and Auction last year.

Grant applications are available on the foundation's Web site, at http://www.charlescommunityfoundation.org. The deadline for applications is March 2.


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