By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
City of Muskogee Foundation board members awarded nine grants totaling more than $240,000 for a variety of summer youth programs on tap for next year.
The awards represent a more than 20 percent increase, or $41,129, from the nearly $200,000 awarded for programs this year. All but one of the nine grant recipients announced Monday have received foundation funding for past programs.
The programs include camps designed to serve children with autism spectrum disorders and students interested in health care careers. Other grant recipients will offer a variety of mentoring programs that promote literacy, self-esteem and community service.
Muskogee Public Schools will receive the lion’s share of the awards for next year’s summer programs. The district will receive the $100,000 it requested for its Summer Pride program, a no-cost program available to Muskogee students from third to 12th grades.
Summer Pride, which serves about 700 students, “focuses on mental and academic training, physical training and character training.” Guest speakers are featured weekly, and participants get free lunches.
The only new grant recipient for the summer program cycle was the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma. It will receive $20,000 for its Colors of Summer program, which “seeks to combat the lack (of) role models and mentors” for girls interested in science, math and other technologies. The program is expected to attract about 200 participants.
Other grant recipients and the amount of awards approved include:
• Camp Grey Squirrel, a camp for children ages 5 and older who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, $10,000.
• Eastern Oklahoma Health Care Coalition’s Health Career Summer Camps for students pursuing health care education and related careers, $14,000.
• Muskogee Public Library’s Learn Create Share program, which focuses on video game creation and design and other digital media, $11,186.
• Night Hoops program at the Martin Luther King Center, which provides a safe haven by offering structured activities, $33,700.
• The Muskogee Parks and Recreation Department’s Youth Volunteer Corps, which promotes public service and volunteerism, $18,307.
• St. Paul United Methodist Church’s Project Transformation, a day camp promoting literacy, $13,500.
• Students Taking a New Direction Inc., a summer camp program that focuses on self-esteem and self-awareness, leadership, and various life skills, $20,000.
Although most of the focus Monday night was on grants, there was some serious discussion about measuring outcomes and program effectiveness. Questions about the benefits realized from programs offered by some repeat recipients prompted the discussion.
Executive Director Frank Merrick said foundation staff members will begin working more this year with recipients to establish measurable outcomes and reporting requirements.
“We will meet with them to establish some outcome measurements and try to get a lot better reporting from these coaches,” he said about the coordinating staff of the school district’s Summer Pride program. “If they don’t (follow through), they won’t be getting this grant next year.”
In other business, board members approved a grant budget of $4.25 million for the next calendar year. That’s up nearly 42 percent, or $1.25 million, from the $3 million budgeted for grants this year.
Ward II Councilor James Gulley, who heads the foundation’s investment committee, said those grants would be awarded during the regular grant cycle, which begins early next year, and in December for programs slated for the summer of 2014.
The City of Muskogee Foundation is a nonprofit corporation formed in 2008 by the city to develop, support and promote programs designed to improve the quality of life in Muskogee. The foundation is funded with proceeds from the 40-year lease of Eastar Health System, formerly known as Muskogee Regional Medical Center, to Capella Healthcare. A portion of its returns on the investment of that money is used to fund grants designed to promote its mission.
Its board — made up of nine at-large members, two city councilors, the mayor and city manager — is entrusted with overseeing and investing the organization’s assets to meet the foundation’s objectives.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.