At Friday’s Celebration of Giving Luncheon, the Faulkner County office of the Arkansas Community Foundation honored local nonprofits with their annual presentation of Giving Tree Grants.
The Arkansas Community Foundation is a statewide organization, founded in 1976, with headquarters in Little Rock. In 2001, local philanthropists founded the Faulkner County office, one of 27 affiliates across the state.
“We are a little different from most nonprofit organizations,” said Julie LaRue, executive director of the Faulkner County office of the Arkansas Community Foundation.
The foundation does not support just one cause and it does not “fundraise,” she said, but supports philanthropic work being done in the community by housing endowments, providing service and leadership and making grants to nonprofits.
Since 2001, Giving Tree Grants have given more than $200,000 to nonprofits in the community through the foundation’s Giving Tree Endowment.
The Rockefeller and Walton families started the Giving Tree Endowment, La Rue said, and matching funds helped to build up the endowment. This year 17 grants from a total of $20,000 were dispersed among local organizations.
“We could give the whole $20,000,” LaRue said, “but we try to touch as many lives as we can.”
The grants make an impact in the areas of human services, health, education, environment and community development. These grants are given each year with applications accepted between Jan. 10 and Feb. 15.
Independent Living Services, a nonprofit agency whose purpose is to assist in making a better life possible for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, was among the organizations that received a Giving Tree Grant.
Independent Living Services’ Angela Musgrove, coordinator of program services at Profiles Adult Day Program, said Profiles teaches independent living skills through seven classes and a recycling-based work program.
“We received a grant so we could buy chairs for our cafeteria,” she said.
While chairs may not sound like the most exciting amenity, Musgrove explained, the Profiles cafeteria didn’t have a single one.
“Everyday of the week there’s a program where everyone comes together, and when everyone comes together, everyone has to carry a different chair from a different area of the building so they can participate,” she said.
So while chairs may not sound exciting, they were reason for celebration at Independent Living Services.
“When our executive director walked in after we received the chairs, she received a sanding ovation from 120 adults with disabilities thanking her for helping us get the chairs,” Musgrove said.
In addition to the foundation’s annual Giving Tree Grants, last year, the foundation established a “Venture Task Force,” who actively seeks out and meets needs as they happen, LaRue said.
In their second year, the Venture Task Force has given 11 grants totaling $11,435.
Several organizations also received grants from the Stop Hunger Endowment for Faulkner County, founded in 2009 as an initiative to end hunger in the community.
Don Greenland, chair of the Faulkner County office of the Arkansas Community Foundation, said the most gratifying moment for the foundation is hearing the nonprofits speak about “how such a small grant at the right time can affect so many people and touch so many lives.”