The Champaign County Preservation and Conservation Association started as a nonprofit, all-volunteer program in 1982. From that point until 1994, most of the group's income came from memberships or grants.
Those grants were given with the expectation that PACA would provide a service, and some were matching grants.
At any rate, the grants rarely provided a profit or a surplus of capital.
But in 1994, PACA established a Heritage Grants Program to local nonprofit organizations, public institutions, recognized neighborhood associations and public agencies in Champaign County. Eligible applicants must be in Champaign County and not-for-profit, and all projects must involve preservation, conservation and/or education related to history, architecture or archaeology in the county.
From 1994 to 2001, I was involved in a small way with these grants. In that eight-year span, PACA gave 28 grants to various nonprofit groups totaling $28,565 (the smallest grant was $50; the largest was $5,000).
More current figures show $58,000 has been given since I was involved (the smallest $88 and the biggest $11,000).
A few of the recipients include the Channing-Murray Foundation, the University YMCA, the Urbana Park District, the Octave Chanute Museum, WEFT radio, the Champaign County Historical Museum, Leal Elementary School and Edison Middle School.
When people ask me where PACA's profits go, I very seldom mention the Heritage Grants. I tell them PACA has purchased and completely paid for its building at 44 E. Washington St., C; that it probably has invested almost $100,000 in the Solon House, which it owns free and clear and through grants; and that it has forgiven loans. It has probably come close to $100,000 in gifts to the Orpheum Theatre.
The Ricker House, street pavers, Lincoln Hall furniture and the University of Illinois main library card files have produced good profits, but it has taken long hours and hard work on the part of PACA volunteers to spread those profits around.
You may apply for a Heritage Grant by June 1. For more information, contact Tom Garza at the PACA warehouse or call 359-7222.
Bob Swisher has been a collector since he was a child. Questions or comments can be sent to Swisher by writing to The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-677 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.