Sixteen programs aimed toward education about and prevention of drug use in Blair County have been awarded more than $52,000 in grants by Operation Our Town.
Area businesses formed Operation Our Town to fight drugs and violent crime in Blair County. Grant recipients range from the Blair Regional YMCA to the Evolution Expressions: Arts for Healing Program.
This is the first grant for Leaders of Tomorrow, a mentoring program for people ages 11-17 that provides educational, recreational, physical and spiritual opportunities and outlets.
“This is a true blessing,” founder Jeremiah Witherspoon said.
The Gloria Gates Memorial Foundation received money to assist at-risk youths enrolled in after school programs held within the low-income housing developments of Evergreen Manors, Fairview Hills and Logan Hills.
“Almost every risk that our children face, so have the adults in the community and the community as a whole,” said Toni Bilik, executive director of the Gloria Gates Memorial Foundation. “So it’s so important to reach those kids, and I’m so thankful that Operation Our Town has an understanding of youth at risk and therefore puts so much funding and hard work into helping us break those cycles.”
Operation Our Town Board President Michael Fiore told the gathered grant recipients Tuesday that the board sees the hard work that they do every day.
“It doesn’t go unnoticed,” Fiore said. “Your work is admirable and relentless.”
Operation Our Town raises money for the grants through its annual September golf tournament; grants from local businesses, organizations and individuals; and donations from large annual donors, according to Shawna Hoover, Operation Our Town executive coordinator.
Since organizing in 2006, Operation Our Town has given over $1.2 million in grants to prevention programs in the county according to a press release.
Operation Our Town will begin accepting grant applications again in May 2022.
Those receiving grants for the 2021 cycle are:
* Altoona Area School District Adult Education Program ($2,500) to cover the cost of GED subtest exams for adults who lack a high school diploma.
* AASD Education Leading to Employment & Career Training program ($2,000) to provide meals and snacks for pregnant and parenting teens.
* AASD Foundation: Project SOAR (Study, Overcome, Achieve, Reward) ($4,000) for supplies and materials for students identified to receive financial assistance to pursue a post-secondary education.
* ArtsAltoona Music Programming ($2,000) to provide music lessons to children starting in third grade, targeting Altoona’s 6th Ward and underserved population living within an eight-block radius.
* Big Brothers Big Sisters of Blair County Students & Mentors Achieving Results Together ($5,000) to support matches between mentors and mentees.
* Blair Regional YMCA: Family Y-Nite ($1,000) to help low-income families attend activities.
* Center for Independent Living of South Central PA TEAM Builders ($1,500) to promote self-confidence, self-esteem and respect as part of a bullying prevention program.
* Central Blair Recreation & Park Commission’s Happy Hoops Program ($2,000) to assist with startup costs for new program supplies and equipment for youth basketball programs for children 4-6 years old.
* Child Advocates of Blair County’s CHOICES Summer Program ($1,925) to purchase supplies and incentives for a youth summer program at Evergreen Manors.
* Community Worship Center’s Community Kids! Weekly Program ($2,500) to purchase food, clothing, school supplies and curriculum materials for a weekly program that serves youth ages preschool to fifth grade.
* Evolution Expressions’ Arts for Healing Program ($2,800) to the purchase of art supplies to help at-risk youth combat the effects of trauma.
* Gloria Gates Memorial Foundation’s After School Program ($12,000) to fund educational materials, field trips, snacks and individual assistance to youth at-risk enrolled in programs at Evergreen Manors, Fairview Hill, and Logan Hills.
* Home Nursing Agency Foundation’s Healing Patch Children’s Grief Program ($2,500) to assist with the supplies associated with peer support groups held twice monthly during the school year for Blair County children and their families who have suffered the death of a loved one, as well as grief related books and brochures for its Lending Library.
* Leaders of Tomorrow ($2,000) to mentor youth ages 11-17 through physical fitness, educational opportunities, life skills and community involvement.
* The R.O.C.K. at 2nd Avenue: (Reaching Out to Community Kids) ($6,500) to purchase food and program supplies for youth in pre-K to 12th grade and provide a home-cooked meal, gym/physical activities, the arts, and age-appropriate small groups that encourage healthy living.
* United Way of Blair County’s Family Resource Center programs ($2,500) for supplies and educational materials for the parent education programs, parents as teachers and parent education classes.