Somerset County nonprofits receive more than $65K in grants

November 15, 2018

A backpack feeding program that began earlier this month for elementary students in the Berlin Brothersvalley School District was awarded $2,500 from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies during its fall 2018 grant awards, which were announced Wednesday from a first-grade classroom in the Conemaugh Valley Elementary School in Johnstown.

The Berlin program was one of 26 Somerset County nonprofit initiatives to receive funding totaling $65,247 from the foundation for the fall 2018 grant distribution cycle. A total of 84 projects, totaling $225,642, were funded in Bedford, Cambria, Indiana and Somerset counties.

Cathy Berkebile, food service director at Berlin Brothersvalley, attended the grant presentation as a member of the backpack program committee, an independent group of community volunteers who spent the last year organizing food donations and volunteers to get the program ready to launch this school year.

“We knew there was a need, so we were trying to put all the pieces together to make it work,” Berkebile said. “What this will do for our backpack program is it will provide our elementary students with a weekend meal for breakfast and lunch, twice a month through the rest of the school year.”

There are 58 elementary students participating in the backpack program, Berkebile said. The children received their first backpack meals on Nov. 2, with food donated by the Berlin Food Pantry. Another distribution is scheduled for this Friday. Eligibility is based on income, and parents must sign an approval form before a child is added to the list.

The school district assists the group by allowing members of the Leo Club — a student service organization at the high school — to pack the meals during their lunchtime meetings, and by allowing program volunteers to distribute the meals in the elementary gymnasium at the end of the school day. Backpack program committee member Penny Deem worked with Pamela Tokar-Ickes, the foundation’s director of Somerset County endowments, to prepare a grant application for consideration by the foundation, Berkebile said. The committee also asked Berlin residents and churches for donations of food and volunteers to help distribute the meals each month.

“We’re starting out slow,” Berkebile said. “We hope to increase our numbers in the future. We appreciate everybody’s help trying to get this started.” In addition to the Berlin backpack program, the 25 other Somerset County projects to receive funding are as follows:

American Red Cross, PA Mountains chapter: $2,837 for disaster relief; Art Expression: $824 for its Musical pARTners program; Borough of Stoystown: $1,500 to build an ADA-compliant ramp; Boys & Girls Club of Somerset County: $500 for its Music to Build Friendship program; Camp Cadet of Somerset County: $5,000 for its camp experience project; Caitlin’s Smiles: $500 to expand its Bag of Smiles project; Dressed: $1,500 for its Suited Up project; First Christian Church, Somerset: $2,500 for its backpack program; Historical Society of Somerset County: $4,930 for its Wi-Fi communications project; J. B. Schrock Community Park: $4,000 for a lighting project; Meyersdale Public Library: $2,200 for heritage newspaper preservation; Next Step Center: $3,000 for its General Assistance Program; Rockwood Veterans Memorial & Community Park: $3,300 for a community park project; Sipesville Volunteer Fire Co.: $2,000 for kitchen equipment; Somerset Area Ambulance Association: $1,000 to update its crew’s quarters; Somerset Area Food Pantry: $3,000 for its 2018 holiday dinner project; Somerset County Foundation for Higher Education: $1,000 for its Clarion University, Somerset RN essential equipment project and $2,000 for early college scholarships; Somerset County Mobile Food Bank: $5,000 for feeding our neighbors; The Learning Lamp: $1,400 to continue the Cougar Connections program in the North Star School District; The Salvation Army, Somerset: $5,256 for utility assistance in the county; Turkeyfoot Valley Area School District: $500 for folk music for students and the community; Vietnam-Korean Memorial Fund, $1,000 for its war memorial project; Windber Area Community Kitchen: $3,000 for feeding our friends; and the Windber Public Library, $5,000 for its Books for You project.

An additional $57,340 in grants was awarded to 20 nonprofit programs that benefit residents of multiple counties, including: the Children’s Aid Home of Somerset: $2,000 for its foster family recruitment program; Conemaugh Township School District Fund: $1,560 for adult computer classes; New Day: $3,000 for its after-school programs in Johnstown and Windber; Springs Historical Society of Casselman Valley: $3,000 for its Maple: A Sweet Journey project; Salvation Army Dental Center: $6,700 for its Johnstown Dental Center, which provides dental care to local uninsured and underinsured residents; and Twin Lakes Center: $2,000 for its Recovery to Work program.

Applications for the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies’ 2019 spring grant round must be submitted online, no later than the last Friday in January, to be considered for funding. More information about the grant process and the application form are available at the foundation’s website, cfalleghenies.org/grants/.

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