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Members of the Ashton Fire Department (from left) Steve Winter, John Corbett, Tom Hatting and Sean Prins accept a check from the Osceola Community Foundation Tuesday night at the annual awards banquet. The department will use the money to purchase a reach and rescue pole. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

Osceola group gives $82K in grants

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Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

SIBLEY, Iowa -- More than $82,700 in grants were awarded to nonprofit groups in Osceola County Wednesday night during the Community Foundation of Osceola County's special distribution event. This is the eighth time the foundation, established in 2005, has awarded funds.

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This year, 27 groups will share in the money, receiving grants ranging from $1,066 to $3,500, to use in support of human services, arts and culture, health and recreation, economic well-being, youth development and education.

"It's a little bit more than last year," said Kirk Grau, executive director of the Osceola County Economic Development Corp., and board liaison to the Community Foundation of Osceola County. "It really depends on the economy and how many people go and gamble."

Osceola County was the recipient of more than $86,000 this year -- its share of the one half of one percent of the state's gross gambling receipts provided to non-gambling counties. Iowa's House File 2032 states that 75 percent of the funds shared with counties are to be awarded through grants to charitable organizations for educational, civic and public purposes. The remaining 25 percent must be placed in a permanent county endowment fund to be invested, with earnings distributed over time.

This year, the foundation received 35 requests for funding, and with the little extra they received from the state, they were able to award one more grant than they did last year.

"We went as far as we could until we ran out of money," Grau said. "Eight folks will have to at least wait until next year."

Organizations had to complete an application for a foundation grant, and members of the foundation board scored those applications to determine which projects would be funded.

Among the recipients is the Melvin Area Economic Development Corporation, awarded a $3,500 grant to paint a mural on the side of an old grocery store on Melvin's main street.

Jack Benz, of the Melvin State Bank, said the bank owned the building and supported the mural idea. It will be the second mural in the community -- the first was completed a few years ago on the side of the old bank building.

"It's something to dress up the downtown on vacant buildings," Benz said, adding that the painting, which will depict a grocery store scene, will be painted this year.

In the past, foundation grants have helped fund a park on Main Street and seasonal banners for the community.

"We always look for reasons for grants," Benz said.

Jill Berkland, president of the Westerners 4-H Club, accepted a $3,500 grant on behalf of the club to complete a platform viewing project at Hawkeye Point, the highest point in Iowa.

The handicap-accessible platform will be constructed 10 to 12 feet off the ground, and surround an existing silo on the site.

"We wanted to do it so you could view all of Osceola County from the highest point in Iowa, and see over the top of the corn (fields)," Berkland said.

The 4-H club will work with the Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA Chapter to complete the project, which will also include a concrete slab under the platform for placement of picnic tables. The work will be done this spring.

"The grant will cover the entire project, except for the labor," Berkland said.

Fire departments in Ashton and May City each received $3,500 grants. In May City, the money will be used to refurbish an old pumper into a tanker, while in Ashton, the money will go toward the purchase of a reach and rescue pole for water, ice and mud rescues. The Sibley Ambulance will use its $3,500 grant to purchase an auto pulse cardiac support pump.

Community improvement projects account for a lot of the grant requests. In Ashton, the economic development corporation plans to use its $3,500 grant to rehabilitate the local post office, while the Ashton Betterment Committee will spend its $3,500 grant on seating near playground equipment and the addition of trash receptacles. The Osceola County Recreational Trails group will receive $3,500 to create an 8-foot-wide, concrete bike trail.

Other grant recipients include:

• $3,500 to the S-O FFA Chapter to build a bathroom and shower facility at Hawkeye Point campground;

• $3,500 to the Osceola County Sheriff's office for purchase of a new K-9;

• $3,500 to the Ashton American Legion Post to replace a commercial air conditioner;

• $3,500 to the Ocheyedan Senior Activity Center to upgrade lighting in the facility;

• $3,500 to the Osceola County Conservation Board for construction of an observation deck at Willow Creek;

• $3,500 to S-O Early Childhood Development for musical experimenting and exploring area on the playground;

• $3,500 to the McCallum Museum to scrape, prime & paint the museum and caulk and re-nail siding;

• $3,500 to the Osceola County Youth Advancement Committee to host a series of youth Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) camps and workshops;

• $3,500 to Osceola County Extension to hire someone to work with groups on Community Calendar items;

• $3,500 to the S-O Band Boosters to purchase string instruments for the high school band;

• $3,500 to Ashton Community Emergency Services to purchase a power cot;

• $3,500 to the Ashton Avenue of Flags for flagpole sockets around the city park, five poles and flags;

• $3,500 to the Sibley Golf Course to update the kitchen;

• $3,500 to the Sibley Prairie View Corridor to install underground wiring at signs for lighting displays;

• $3,500 to Pheasants Forever to purchase a VICON broadcast seeder/culti-packer & side rake;

• $2,465 to the Sibley Senior Center to install an automatic door;

• $1,500 to the Sibley Chamber of Commerce to purchase pedestals to display local artwork downtown;

• $1,350 to Bright Beginnings to purchase equipment for physical activity and a vacuum cleaner; and

• $1,066.67 to Osceola Community Health Services to purchase a generator to power a portable LED sign.

"These projects probably would not have gone forward without the foresight of our state legislators establishing the Endow Iowa program," said Grau. "These are the kinds of good projects that are actually being done with these resource dollars."

By establishing a foundation in Osceola County, Grau said the hope is that it generates interest among people who may want to give a philanthropic gift to the foundation to "continue what we're doing."

To date, the foundation has awarded more than $500,000 to Osceola County organizations.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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