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Foundation awards ceremony is tonight

SIBLEY, Iowa -- Twenty-seven organizations will receive a hand up on their projects tonight, when the Community Foundation of Osceola County hosts its annual awards ceremony at 5 p.m. in the Sibley Senior Center.

The foundation is awarding $88,427 in grants from Endow Iowa Program funds it received this year. The program distributes the state's gambling proceeds to counties without a gaming facility.

Foundation board member Mike Earll called the foundation the county's "best kept secret," saying the grants would benefit the county's roughly 7,000 residents.

"This has been a real plus to help nonprofit groups and individuals trying to improve things within Osceola County," he said. "It's helped people to think beyond the box of what actually could be out there."

The foundation received a total of $129,090 from the state, 30 percent of which is used for administrative costs or placed in a permanent endowment in Des Moines. The remainder is distributed to individuals or groups spearheading charitable projects in the county -- this year 32 organizations applied for the grants, which are capped at $3,500.

One recipient was the Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA, which Earll advises. The group received $3,500 for development of a five-acre campground near Hawkeye Point, Iowa's highest point.

"The FFA chapter has been working to develop this area as a welcome area for Iowa. I'm amazed by how many people stop by," he explained. The group already has purchased a tree lot from the Iowa Department of Transportation and will work this summer to install a water and electric supply, roads and lots for campers.

"Our hope is to have it set up so by the month of June we can start having campers come in," he said, though the bathrooms completion may take a little longer. The FFA has also received donations from veterans' associations, the High Pointers Club of Colorado and private individuals to develop Hawkeye Point.

"The big idea is not only to push Hawkeye Point, but also inform them of other places in Osceola County that people can visit," Earll added.

The foundation, now in its fifth year, has given out more than $320,000 in grants to date. The overall amount distributed has increased: in the organization's first year, it awarded $43,248 in grants for 14 projects.

"It is our hope that ... people with money to give would know their resources go to good projects," said Kirk Grau, director of the Osceola County Economic Development Office. "I'm amazed at the quality of projects we receive."

Projects include the Sibley Prairie View Corridor's landscaping of the "Welcome to Sibley" south sign and building a cedar arch over the sandbox at Bright Beginnings to protect the children.

Also receiving grants tonight are Tracy House Museum, De Boer Grocery, Ocheyedan Fire Department, Melvin Fire Department, McCallum Museum, Ocheyedan Park Committee, Ashton Fire Department, American Legion Post-Melvin, Ocheyedan Public Library, Sibley Park Board, Ashton American Legion Post, Ashton Public Library, Harris Area Economic Development, Westerners 4-H Club, Melvin Area Economic Development, Senior Activity Center-Ocheyedan, Osceola County Ambulance, Osceola County Pheasants Forever, Osceola Community Health Services, Osceola County Livestock Show, Sibley Public Library, Sibley Senior Center/Dinner Date, Hawkeye Point Foundation, and the Sibley Chamber of Commerce.