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Community Foundation of Osceola County awards grants

Recipients include communities, organizations.

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Sibley-Ocheyedan High School is working to complete the creation of a STEM classroom for students of all grades to work on design and exploration of the sciences. (Special to The Globe)

SIBLEY, Iowa — More than two dozen organizations, including several communities, were awarded grants in December by the Community Foundation of Osceola County.

The foundation was able to distribute $104,429.62 to 29 different recipients, though a traditional grant ceremony was postponed due to the ongoing pandemic. Instead, there is hope for a celebration this summer.

Stephanie Neppl, executive director of the Osceola County Economic Development Commission, said the foundation was able to fully fund 23 applications, and partially fund another six.

While the number of applications was down this year from last — 30 compared to 43 — Neppl said funding was also down about $20,000.

“I expected a lot bigger hit, especially with the casinos closed for a couple of months,” Neppl said.

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To make up for the revenue shortfall, the foundation’s board authorized taking some money out of the permanent endowment to be able to fund more projects.

STEM classroom created

Among the recipients is the Sibley-Ocheyedan Science Club, which was awarded $4,600 for the second and final phase of a STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) classroom in the high school. The club received a grant last year as well and, according to teacher Mike Wedge, it received several matching grants from community groups and businesses to convert a former science lab into a STEM classroom.

“We want it to become an immersion room,” Wedge said, adding that the space is meant to foster creativity.

With anticipated completion later this month, the classroom has new shelving and charging stations thanks to students in the cabinet-making class. The shelves and stations will support 18 Lego robot kits already purchased.

“We took out the tables and chairs and put in a couple of Lego robot arenas,” Wedge said. The CFOC grant will fund mobile tables and flexible seating. “The room is set up so kids can work on a project and put it in a storage area until they have class again.”

The classroom is intended for use by all grade levels at Sibley-Ocheyedan, including elementary students who attend quarterly STEM camps. Osceola County 4-H and the Sibley Public Library will also be invited to use the space for STEM programming.

“It’s just exciting to see the kids come into a totally different kind of a room and to do the building and designing we want them to do,” said Wedge, noting the classroom is the culmination of 10 years of discussion.

The school district is still awaiting word on another grant which, if received, will be used to purchase drones, K’Nex and resources to teach electricity and magnetism.

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Ashton Library improvements funded

The Ashton Public Library used its $4,038 CFOC grant to purchase more shelving, as well as a 75-inch smart TV, according to library director Tim Christiansen. The TV was purchased at the request of community residents who wanted to view funerals and concerts online without having to travel. The idea came about because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to offer the viewing screen as a way to help the community so we can share the different activities that they might not be able to attend in person,” Christiansen said, adding that the TV can be hooked up to a computer or other devices. “The kids think they want to bring their Xboxes to try it out.”

As the only place in town with a 5G network, the library will promote the large screen for gatherings, such as training for the fire department or use by community groups.

“Maybe down the road we can have movie night at the library,” Christiansen said. “We wanted to provide something to the community that would be educational, beneficial and we need some reuniting after we get this (COVID-19) under control.”

Past CFOC grants have freed the library up to use its allotted money for other improvements, such as the 5G network and wi-fi. Previous grants funded upgrades to the library’s HVAC system and new shelving.

New Beginnings receives $5,000 grant

The New Beginnings Thrift Store in Sibley will use its CFOC grant to pay for new store signage, wiring, wall shelving and fascia repair. The nonprofit secondhand thrift store, owned by Osceola Regional Health Center, is operated by more than 20 community volunteers. The money generated from sales funds Bright Beginnings daycare in Sibley to help reduce childcare costs for parents, while also providing items at economical prices for local families.

“The store supports Osceola Regional Health Center’s mission in that it impacts local families,” shared Osceola Regional Health Center Maintenance Supervisor and New Beginnings Manager Allynn Jacobsma. “We’re truly grateful for the financial support from the Community Foundation of Osceola County for these projects so we can continue impactful work. As a non-profit, any help we receive from the community is in turn shared with other local citizens of Sibley, which is both effective and meaningful.”

The maintenance team at Osceola Regional Health Center has plans to start on these projects early this year.

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Ocheyedan cemetery restores monuments

An ongoing project of the Ocheyedan Township Cemetery received a $2,500 grant to fund repairs of old headstones within the cemetery, which was established in 1885.

Connie Schuster said the headstones back then were not set on concrete foundations and, as a result, some have begun to lean or come loose from their base. Repairs are made to headstones when relatives of the deceased cannot be located.

“Usually the relatives take care of their own (family) stones,” Schuster said. “For those we can’t find relatives for, we use the grant money to put in a new foundation and reset the stone.”

The ongoing project has received about half a dozen CFOC grants, she said, adding that it’s a continual work in progress.

“It’s so rewarding — so satisfying,” Schuster said of the work. “It makes the cemetery look so much nicer.”

Without the CFOC grants, she said it would be very difficult to make the repairs.

“It’s a township cemetery, which survives on county funding,” Schuster said. “(The grants are) very needed — it helps us a lot.”

Additional award recipients

Recipients of $5,000 grants and projects include:

Melvin Fire Department, replace gear; Sibley Ambulance, purchase a Power Pro cot loading system; DeBoer Museum, Ashton, phase 1 museum grounds renovation; McCallum Museum/Brunson Heritage House, Sibley, painting project; Tracy House, Ocheyedan, restoration of Tracy Museum and flagpole installation; Bright Beginnings, Sibley, classroom flooring; Osceola Regional Health Center, purchase patient beds; City of Harris, phase 3 of Marshall’s building project; Melvin American Legion Post 470, veteran recognition and tribute; Osceola County Fair Board, food stand project; Sibley VFW Post 7373, new siding and gutters; and the Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA Chapter, appliance updates.

Additional grant recipients include the Melvin American Legion Auxiliary, $4,780 for landscaping in front of Legion building; Ocheyedan Public Library, $3,991 for Atiruum Automated System; Ocheyedan Economic Dev. Corp., $3,000 for appliances at Ocheyedan Town Hall; Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, $2,500 for Watchguard Body/Camera System; Osceola County Conservation, $2,407.50 for interpretive panels at Willow Creek; Sibley Public Library, $2,200 for Making Smart Connections to Link the Community; Sibley Betterment, $1,750 for downtown planters; Sibley Parks and Rec, $1,696.43 to replace garbage receptacles in parks; Melvin Area Economic Development, $1,610.69 for 12 Main Street banners; S-O Band Boosters, $1,466 for S-O Concert Band attire; Elderbridge Agency on Aging, $1,390 for emergency shelf stable meals; Iowa College Access Network (ICAN), $1,000 for educator and student support during/post COVID-19; and the Sibley Chamber of Commerce, $500 for Sibley Chamber branded items.

Since the Community Foundation of Osceola County was established 16 years ago, more than $1.3 million has been awarded as 402 grants to fund a wide variety of projects in the county.

The CFOC is an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, which provides grant-making guidance and administrative support.

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The Sibley-Ocheyedan Science Club was one of 29 grant recipients to be awarded funding by the Community Foundation of Osceola County. (Special to The Globe)

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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