Tuesday’s 14th opening of a community checkbook — Hood River Lions Foundation annual grants — distributed a total of $48,912 in gifts.
At the Lions’ luncheon at Hood River Elks, representatives of six nonprofits and four government agencies received checks from Tom Yates, Foundation president, with a vigorous warm-up in the form of a dance performance by the Phoenix Theatre troupe from Hood River Valley High School, who thanked the Lions for their 2012 grant to help with their uniforms.
The grants are drawn from an anonymous donation made to the Foundation in 1999 by a benefactor who asked the Lions to see the money was spent “to make Hood River a better place to live.”
The largest 2013 grant goes to Opportunity Connections in Pine Grove: $12,000 to redo a floor area that is currently unsafe for the mobility-impaired clients who work and train in the space. OC provides workplace training and sheltered workshops in Pine Grove and The Dalles for people with disabilities and other challenges to employment.
“It got to the point where we could not serve some of the people because of concerns over safety,” said Rita Rathkey, executive director. The new flooring will not only make it safer, but also give the organization greater flexibility in work schedules and training operations.
The smallest grant might have had the largest impact: $2,000 to Hood River First Book, which gives books to needy families.
“Without this grant we would have folded,” Kym Zanmiller told the Lions.
Here are the other recipients of Lions Foundation grants:
Hood River Police Department — $7,590 to purchase a traffic safety awareness and abatement device — a reader board that tells drivers how fast they are going, and the trailer to transport it. The device will be displayed in areas such as school zones to alert drivers to their actual speed. Police Chief Neal Holste said the displays have been proven to reduce speeds.
“This is truly helpful. We had approached corporations about making donations, but no luck, and while we had it in our budgets it was always one of the earliest things to get cut.” Holste said he hopes to have the device deployed by mid-2014.
Hood River County Christmas Project — $6,000 to purchase Christmas toys for children whose families are enrolled in the annual food-and-toy assistance effort.
Hood River County Commission on Children and Families — $6,000 for meeting a wide variety of social needs of at-risk children and youth in the community. Recipients are referred via teachers, coaches and others with contact with the youths. Funds have been used for needs such as camps and swimming lessons.
Joella Dethman, commission director, read letters of thanks from youngsters, including one who wrote, “We are going to be learning about water in the creek at outdoor school, and I am really excited to go.” Dethman noted, “We do require the kids to write a thank-you note, but you can how heart-felt it is. They really appreciate what you’ve done.”
Boy Scout Troop 378 — $3,500 to help pay for camping opportunities for many of the 75 youth served by the mid-Columbia troop.
Hood River County Sheriff’s Office — $3,478 to purchase floor mats for the department’s training room, for use in self-defense and conflict tactics training. Regular training is important because the state requires it, and it means a better prepared force, according to Deputy Joel Carmody.
“Safety is paramount,” he said.
The facility is shared by a variety of local agencies, and the addition of the wrestling-style mats will mean the county will no longer need to coordinate with the schools to use their facilities for mat training.
Hood River Leos — $3,000 will help local teens travel to the international convention in Toronto in July 2014. Leos are comprised of Hood River County students who do community projects.
Hood River Community Education — $2,699 to purchase a trailer for transporting the Movies in the Park projector and screen, making the resource more secure as it travels between venues. The movies are shown during summers in Hood River and Cascade Locks.
Hood River Tennis Courts Association — $2,695 to purchase wind screens for the Tsuruta Courts on May Street. The screens had to be cut from the budget in the court renovations that took place last summer and fall. Grants and community donations led to a new court surface (with subterranean draining upgrades), nets and lights.
Gretchen Newcomb, of the tennis association, said the courts are now up to standard for high school competition but will also be used extensively by the community, including Community Ed classes, and elementary school classes.