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City funds lift social service groups

For members of the Hillsboro City Council, December is truly a season of gift-giving and holiday cheer, because December is the month council members get to award a series of grants to a number of public service organizations. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Representatives of about two dozen local social service providers gathered at the Hillsboro Civic Center Dec. 3 to formally accept funds from the citys Community Services Grant Program.

On Dec. 3, councilors welcomed representatives from 25 nonprofit service organizations and formally provided them with grants ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 to help further their work in the community.

The types of programs and activities that qualify for the city’s “Community Services Grant Program” include mental and physical health services, child care, drug and alcohol abuse, vocational rehabilitation, aging, housing and family support.

The grant program was created in 1996 to provide support to local social service agencies as a way to help build a better community by improving the mental or physical well-being of Hillsboro’s citizens. To be eligible, organizations must be nonprofit social service agencies serving Hillsboro residents.

The money for the grants comes from the city’s general fund and is subject to budget approval each year. The city provided $65,000 for distribution for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Darell Lumaco, chairman of the city’s finance committee, said there were several considerations involved in the committee’s grant recommendations.

“Funding decisions are based on many factors, including the number of Hillsboro residents served by each organization and the need for a specific program,” Lumaco said. “More specifically, we evaluate the amount of money that is requested, the overall budget of the applying organization, their other sources of revenue, and, if the organization’s request were to be partially funded, could the program still proceed?”

“Grant applications are reviewed and objectively scored by the finance committee, which makes the initial award recommendations that are then taken to the full City Council for approval,” added Patrick Preston, the city’s public affairs manager.

Representatives of the organizations receiving the city’s grants said the program is having a substantial impact.

Christy Scattarella, executive director and founder of the Shadow Project, said even a relatively small infusion of cash makes a big difference in her organization’s efforts.

“The program costs about $150 per student per year, and let me tell you, that $2,000 is significant. The $2,000 goes a long way,” said Scattarella.

The Shadow Project provides resources such as professional development and classroom materials for special education teachers working in kindergarten through eighth-grade classes. The Shadow Project’s objective is to help put at-risk kids — generally students with learning disabilities such as autism and attention deficit disorder — on a path to graduate from high school.

“We provide training and educational development support for special education teachers to implement programs to incentivize students who are disengaged,” Scattarella explained.

Scattarella said the city’s grant also lends emotional support for her organization’s goals.

“It shows the city has a belief that these children can be just as successful as anyone,” said Scattarella. “The city has supported us for several years. It makes such a difference for our kids.”

Although the Shadow Project is based in Portland, it serves approximately 100 children at two elementary schools in Hillsboro: Mooberry Elementary School and Eastwood Elementary School.

“I believe this is the third year we’ve received support it’s really been phenomenal for us,” Scattarella said. “The city should be applauded for this program. It’s wonderful.”

Another beneficiary of the Community Services Grant Program is Hillsboro-based Voices Set Free, an organization that assists families in Hillsboro and around Washington County.

“We provide mental health services for people in Hillsboro and in Washington County, as well as drug and alcohol recovery and re-entry services and support with domestic violence issues,” explained Louise Bauschard, executive director and founder of Voices Set Free.

The money awarded to Voices Set Free will be used to cover staffing costs for those who assist those the nonprofit seeks to assist.

This is the first year the agency has won a grant from the city of Hillsboro, and Bauschard said she was overjoyed to receive the city’s support.

“In our little budget, $2,000 does make a big difference,” Bauschard said. “We didn’t even know about this program until recently. It was a steep mountain to get our name in the hat, and it was very exciting for us when the call came in. It is recognition for our efforts.”

The Dougy Center, which provides grief support programs for families who’ve lost family members and for children who have lost a parent, also benefited from the city’s program.

“The majority of our funding comes from relatively small grants,” said Donna Schuurman, executive director of the Dougy Center. “We’re not funded by the government or the county; it’s all contributions. So $2,000 is still a lot of money for us.”

Schuurman said the Dougy Center, which is based in Portland, opened a facility in Hillsboro in 2008 and since then has served about 400 people in the Hillsboro area.

“A lot of families wouldn’t or couldn’t make the drive to southeast Portland,” she said.

Schuurman said she appreciates the contributions from the city.

“To have the community’s support is very gratifying,” she said. “Death is going to touch everyone, and children are going to be affected.”

Lumaco said the efforts of the various nonprofits help boosts the entire community, and the city will continue to assist local service organizations as much as the city’s budget allows.

“We all recognize there are significant needs in our community, and we appreciate every organization that works to assist our residents,” Lumaco said. “While we cannot completely fund all requests, it is gratifying to help as many Hillsboro residents as possible to get the assistance they need.”

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