Community foundation formed to help area projects

 By Kay Braddock

It’s an idea that began 10 years ago.
After the nonprofit Friends for Cherry Creek Dam disbanded in 1999, organizer Dale Hellman said group members knew then they wanted to use remaining funds, once raised to build a dam north of Terry, to benefit the community in another way.
“I hated to see that corporation just get dissolved,” said Hellman, pointing to the legal hurdles the group completed in order to attain its nonprofit status. 
It wasn’t until last year during community group discussions of the Northwest Area Foundation’s Horizons program that the idea of a community foundation began taking shape. 
In the past year Hellman worked to change the name of the nonprofit organization from Friends for Cherry Creek Dam to Prairie Benefits. With that task completed, Hellman and other Prairie Benefits’ board members are now working on raising awareness of what Prairie Benefits is and why people should donate to its cause. 
Prairie Benefits allows interested individuals to give tax-deductable donations for community projects. Government entities and nonprofit organizations can apply for funds from Prairie Benefits for projects focused on improving the communities in Prairie County. 
Organizations like the Boy Scouts can also apply for grant money from Prairie Benefits. Providing an outline of the proposed project and an expected date of completion, Prairie Benefits can act as a fiscal sponsor of the proposed project. Prairie Benefits provides funds for approved projects, once deadlines and project guidelines are met.
“It benefits the whole community,” Hellman explained. “(Donors) can designate where they want (donations) to go or we can just put it in our general endowment and people can apply for grants.”
Right now, Prairie Benefits’ funds total just over $20,000. Start-up funds transferred from the Friends for Cherry Creek Dam were almost $4,000. The Horizons program provided an additional $7,727 to the Prairie Benefits account, with an additional $8,600 coming from several grants.
Small donations from individuals have already begun to come in, Hellman noted, pointing out the group has yet to begin any real advertising campaign. By the end of the year a four-page glossy brochure about the community foundation will be mailed out to county residents. 
Although other nonprofit groups within the community are either already in place or beginning to form, Hellman doesn’t see Prairie Benefits competing with those other groups. 
“We’ll work with them too,” he said, adding, “because in the end they’re probably going to apply for grants from us also.”

Published Dec. 2, 2009

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