CHAMPAIGN – Several local groups have been awarded $60,000 in Marajen Stevick Foundation grants through the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois.
Bill Nugent, president of the Stevick Foundation, which includes The News-Gazette, WDWS and WHMS, and several weekly newspapers, said the grants reflect the values of the late Marajen Stevick Chinigo, who owned the paper for decades after the deaths of her parents, David and Helen Stevick.
"Her priorities were reading and writing; health care, especially for the elderly through the Stevick Center; and, of course, journalism education goes with the first, reading and writing from young students to college students," Nugent said.
Those receiving grants are:
– Urbana Park District: $20,000 for site preparation and native tall grass prairie mix and wildflower prairie mix for a 40-acre area of Weaver Park.
– University of Illinois Extension: $5,484 for "Victory Boxes" in which senior gardeners partner with Master Gardener mentors. Seniors will use specially designed containers to provide nutritious fresh produce, supplement their food budget, exercise, connect with nature and the gardening community.
– Champaign Public Library: $15,000 for reading program at Garden Hills School. The Champaign library children's department will work with teachers to establish a reading program for third- and fourth-graders. Librarians will go to the school and the classes will have the opportunity to go to the library.
– Champaign schools: $8,505 for the Education to Careers and Professions Program in the three middle schools. The emphasis is on reading, writing and learning how those skills can help in making appropriate career choices.
– Education for Employment: $11,000 for expansion of the summer construction education program. The goal is to engage nontraditional high school students and develop awareness, career interests and skills related to the construction industry.
The partners in the program include the Education Employment System, area school districts, Parkland College, UI's Facilities and Maintenance Division and local trade unions.
Joan Dixon, executive director of the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, said her organization allocates the grants based on Mrs. Chinigo's stated interests in philanthropy.
Community Foundation is a publicly supported, tax-exempt philanthropic organization, created in 1972 to encourage and receive contributions establishing funds for the long-term benefit of East Central Illinois.
Dixon said grant applicants usually provide a two-page application letter that states not only their goals but their ability to sustain the work over time.
"Then we ask some of them to come back with a lengthier proposal," she said.
Tammy Lemke, president of Illinois Children's Health Care Foundation and a Stevick Foundation board member, said volunteers give their time to sort through the proposals.
"Marajen always wanted to continue to give back to community, both through the University of Illinois Foundation and through the Community Foundation," she said.
Nugent said giving the money made for difficult choices in today's recessionary economy.
"It was extremely difficult this year," he said. "I give a standing ovation to The News-Gazette and the radio stations for their preservation of high-quality journalism, as well as the other work the foundation does for the community," Nugent said.