The Monroe County Council awarded $151,220 in grants to local nonprofit organizations Aug. 23 in honor of late county council member Sophia Travis, who served as a county councilmember from 2004 to 2008. The council gives out Sophia Travis Community Service Grants each year, with the amount awarded this year marking an 11.5% increase from last year.
In 2008, Monroe County established this fund to support various community projects. Nonprofit organizations fill out an application where they explain their project proposal and specify which grant they wish to receive.
County councilmember Cheryl Munson and her five-person committee, which includes three county council members and two community members, developed recommendations during their meeting Aug. 23 on which nonprofits should become grant recipients.
“We have so many needs here in Monroe,” Munson said. “We have diverse nonprofit organizations that try to meet the needs of our community. I view our nonprofits as our partners to help those needs.”
Related: [Monroe County organizations offer support, services and mentoring for children, young adult]
All of the grant funding comes from Monroe County taxpayers. With the county’s five percent budget increase this year, Munson said there is more grant funding than ever.
“We have great need for the community,"” Munson said. “We decided we really do need to step up and add more dollars to the fund.”
Munson, a personal friend of Travis, served on the grant committee for two years prior to becoming a council member. After Travis’ death, Munson remained on the committee — which was renamed to honor Travis’ legacy.
“I had served on this committee before I was a council member for two years, and I realized how important this was for our nonprofit organizations and wanted it to be better,” Munson said. “I was a personal friend of Sophia Travis and she was a great proponent of this program.”
County councilmember Jennifer Crossley is a member of the five-person grant selection committee and said the committee could not fulfill all applicant’s requests or else they would be $10,000 over budget.
Related: [Plans for affordable homes in northwest Bloomington hope to decrease the unhoused population]
“After the proposals were due, the committee came together to look at the applicants,” Crossley said. “What people wanted vs what we had was over budget. However, we were able to sit down and cut back what people requested and come to a healthy budget to meet everyone's needs.”
Receiving the second highest grant this year of $9,400, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington will use the grant to help get a new minibus for the Crestmont neighborhood, Resource Development Director Leslie Abshier said.
“We have a location in the Crestmont neighborhood where transportation is significantly harder and an issue for families,” Abshier said. “We take our kids on a lot of different field trips and at the end of the day we often have to drop kids off at home. Currently, our minibus is almost 30 years old, and the grant is going to provide what is left to fund a new minibus.”
Abshier said the grant selection committee awarded them money because they proposed a tangible way to benefit the community — something the committee looks for.
“One of our goals is to make sure we are serving every kid and every family that has a need,” Abshier said. “Accessibility is a big deal for us, that is why the Sophia Travis grant is so important. We try to pull down every barrier for people to use our service.”