The Ottumwa Courier

December 12, 2013

Bright Ideas grants will help local nonprofits

By LAURA CARRELL
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Many nonprofit organizations are doing amazing things in Ottumwa and the surrounding area, and the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation has recently helped several of them reach new goals.

ORLF has released the 16 new grants from the Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund, totaling $162,720. The grants range in amount from $3,000 to $30,000.

A major milestone was also reached this grant cycle, as in the three years of the Bright Ideas program, more than $1 million in grants have been awarded to area organizations.

"It's a neat thing to be involved in a responsive grant-making program," said Kelly Genners, director of community leadership and grant-making for the Foundation. "We can respond to programs (the nonprofit organizations) want us to fund. We can respond right away and get the funding in their hands."

There are 10 basic categories that Bright Ideas has provided grants for, including youth development, arts and culture, public safety and housing, just to name a few. Many are smaller groups, Genners said, who aren't asking for much money. They just need a little funding to launch their new ideas.

Applicants apply online for the grant, explaining the scope of their ideas and how they will impact the community. The board and a committee review them and decisions are made based on how the money will be used and how thought-out the organization's plans are.

Instead of just mailing a check, which would be too easy, Genners said, all of the grantees are brought to a meeting where they can all meet.

"We're a relatively small community," Genners said, "and you'd be surprised what people don't know about each other."

But the Foundation's involvement doesn't stop once the funds have been distributed. They remain available for assistance and advice.

"We can help with board filling, budget planning, anything they need," Genners explained. "We continue to make it better, listening to what they're saying they need help with. This is so important for small organizations who are trying to stretch every dollar they can."

And keeping in contact with grantees is a huge part of the Foundation's business plan. Genners says they are always receiving information about an organization's upcoming events and photographs of what they've accomplished.

"It's so rewarding to see what they're doing," she said.

At the end of the grant cycle, grantees provide the Foundation with a final report explaining how the grant money was used, what the program was able to accomplish and what the plans for the future are.

"It's easier to think about that at the front end (of the year) and think about how you're going to provide services for the community," Genners said. "And it's a way to sell their organization and show what they've accomplished."

The new grant cycle will open on Feb. 1, 2014. Applicants may apply online at www.orlf.org from Feb. 1-Feb. 28, 2014. Eligible applicants must be a 501(c)3 organization.

For more information about the Bright Ideas grants, contact Genners at kgenners@orlf.org.

New Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund recipients: Bridge View Center: $20,000 for LED theatrical lighting system Camp Wapello Preservation Group: $5,520 for new roof, rock, grading services and supplies to enhance rifle range Ecumenical Lord's Cupboard: $10,000 to purchase computer and food and hygiene items for holiday baskets Food Bank of Southern Iowa: $25,000 to purchase food and access state of Iowa match Hospice: $30,000 for Hospice House Residential Care Facility Indian Hills Community College Development Corp.: $3,000 for sponsorship of the 10th annual Diversity Conference at the college Latinas Latinos: $9,800 to support "Commitment to School Success" program Ottumwa Area Arts Council: $6,000 to purchase "Best of Show" sculpture Ottumwa Area Arts Council: $5,000 provided for sentry tree carving project in Ottumwa Cemetery Ottumwa Athletic Club: $8,000 to support Project Lead The Way industrial technology courses utilizing robotics kits Ottumwa High School Music Boosters: $5,000 for Ottumwa High School beginner orchestra equipment Ottumwa Public Library Foundation: $5,520 for digital film scanner Salvation Army: $8,700 to replace lighting and air conditioning at Salvation Army Thrift Store Tenco Industries: $10,000 to purchase a wheel chair-accessible van Wapello County McHaffey Opera House: $5,700 for restoration of paint and stenciling in Opera House