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Foundation awards local grants

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Worthington Area Foundation board members and representatives of the organizations receiving the grants include (from left) Jason Vote, Bill Keitel, Bryan Hagen, Beverly Vajgrt, Connie Schmidt, Jim Nickel, Shelly Piper, Carol Scherff, Jacoba Nagel, Marcia Anton, Robert Demuth, Mark Shepherd, Gordon Orde, Chelsea DeRuyter, Sharon Johnson and Jane Turpin Moore.

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington Area Foundation presented checks Wednesday afternoon to seven local non-profits to help fund special projects in the community.

In all, $5,000 was awarded from the foundation's general endowment fund, according to board member Beve Vajgrt.

Despite the challenging year for its investments, the foundation "had a very successful fundraising drive," Vajgrt said, adding that the DeGroot family offered a match of up to $25,000 for all donations collected this year. Those donations made it possible to fund more than half of the requests made for financial assistance.

The seven agencies awarded grants on Wednesday received either all or a portion of the funds they requested.

"We like to give money to organizations that make Worthington unique or strengthen the community," said Vajgrt of the 12-member board that manages the foundation.

Among this year's recipients were: District 518's youth development service trip; the Lake Okabena Improvement Association's annual spring cleanup effort; Nobles County Historical Society's veteran uniform preservation project; the Dolly Parton Imagination Library book program; Nobles County Library's "Just 4 Guys" and "Just Gurlz" projects; the Historic Dayton House porch repair project; and the Cultural Awareness Organization-sponsored children's activities at the International Festival.

The Dayton House received the largest donation at $2,075 -- money that is greatly needed for repairs of the historic home's front steps.

Dayton House board member Jane Moore said the tongue-in-groove steps were quickly deteriorating and had rotted through in some areas. Because of their historical design, having them replaced was rather pricey, she added.

"We're still in the process of building an endowment for the Dayton House so we have funds available for projects like this," Moore said.

Replacing the steps couldn't wait, however, because they posed a safety hazard, and that is why the Dayton House Board of Directors applied for Worthington Area Foundation grant dollars.

"It's absolutely vital to the project," Moore said. "We've been operating just barely in the black for the last couple of years."

Jacoba Nagel, president of the Nobles County Historical Society, said the $500 their agency received will be used to purchase preservations boxes for veteran uniforms that have been donated to the society over the years.

"I think it's important to save those uniforms," she said. "Many of them sacrificed their lives for the freedom we have today."

The Nobles County Library's "Just 4 Guys" and "Just Gurlz" programs are new and aimed at tweens and teens ages 12-14. The $500 grant will be used to purchase books and supplies for the monthly programs, according to library secretary Shelly Piper.

"Plans are to involve the kids in things that are important to them and show them how the library can give them important information," Piper said.

Already, two of the girls programs have been presented, and the grant dollars will help establish the program for the guys.

Lake Okabena Improvement Association's $500 grant will be used to purchase bags, reachers and snacks for the more than 100 volunteers who help clean up the shoreline and lake in the spring, according to LOIA treasurer Jason Vote.

Chelsea DeRuyter, an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow with District 518 and the Nobles County Integration Collaborative said the $500 grant District 518 received will help fund a Pay It Forward Tour planned for next June. The project will take 35 youths to Chicago, Ill., and complete a service project each day along the way.

"What we're trying to do is make it as affordable as possible for the kids, so we applied for a number of grants," DeRuyter said.

The Worthington Area Foundation grant is the first received for the Pay It Forward Tour.

The Worthington Area Foundation, established in 1991, has awarded more than $25,000 to fund worthwhile projects in the community since it partnered with the Southwest Initiative Fund in 2002.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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