CHAMPAIGN — Grants totaling more than $40,000 will give downtown Champaign a permanent piece of artwork and benefit people with dementia, Mahomet kids struggling to read and Urbana kids who could use more specialized help with their homework.
The four grants — funded by the Marajen Stevick Foundation, the owner of The News-Gazette Inc. — were awarded recently through the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois.
The largest grant, $13,500, went to support the literacy program of Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center, which serves more than 150 children with an after-school homework study center and academic enrichment activities.
Most of the children coming to the center at 1401 E. Main St., U, bring homework with them each day, said Janice Mitchell, the founder and director.
The grant money will be used to hire a case manager who will work directly with targeted students who could benefit from a more directed focus and additional support with their schoolwork, she said.
"We're very excited," she added.
The Community Foundation also awarded:
— $12,230 to the Memory Connection project designed to get local information and resources to people diagnosed with dementia and to their families.
Rosanna McLain, senior resource director at Family Service of Champaign County, said the program was launched in January with a $5,000 grant from the Christie Foundation, and additional funds were requested to expand it to train staff to work with local families.
"One thing we'd do is make sure they have a proper diagnosis," McLain said.
The program can also help people with a new dementia diagnosis deal with decisions that must be made early on, face the losses that come later and make connections with others diagnosed with dementia, she said.
Staff training has begun and services are being phased in, McLain said.
— $11,000 to the Mahomet Public Library and Mahomet Area Youth Club to establish an after-school reading program at the library to help children ages 6 to 10 having trouble with reading and writing.
The program will start in the fall and will likely run for three six-week sessions throughout the 2012-13 school year, according to the proposal submitted by the library.
The funding covers the hiring of a project coordinator, a book for each child in the program to take home and the purchase of books to be added to the libraries of Mahomet-Seymour grade schools and Mahomet Area Youth Club and to the Mahomet Public Library.
— $6,000 to the Public Art League to purchase and permanently locate a piece of artwork in downtown Champaign.
A not-for-profit organization that installs sculptures throughout the community, the league will use the money to either purchase a sculpture that is already downtown on a lease arrangement or buy a new piece from entries that will be submitted by a June 8 deadline, said league president David Wilcoxen.
"We're waiting to see what we get in the mail," he said.
Greg Cozad, president of the Marajen Stevick Foundation, said that foundation has granted $765,000 since it was founded in 2007, and $370,000 of it has gone to the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois.
The Marajen Stevick Foundation also awards money through the University of Illinois Foundation, he said.
Cozad said the Community Foundation did a great job in making the selections this year.
The Community Foundation said it focused on the areas of importance to the late Marajen Stevick Chinigo, who was the longtime publisher and owner of The News-Gazette and WDWS-AM and WHMS-FM radio stations.
Those areas of focus include beautification of Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding area, encouraging excellence in reading and writing and enhancing the lives of seniors.