By Janice McIntyre
EL DORADO — Some consider when Union County Community Foundation grants are presented, as the “best day of the year” and representatives from several non-profit agencies agreed when awards were presented in El Dorado on Thursday.
Elise Drake, executive director of the UCCF; Deanie Connor, administrative assistant/fiscal officer; Rodney Landes, chair of the UCCF board and Wanda Ragsdale, chair of the Grants Committee, gathered at the McKinney/O’Connor House (home to The Granite Club) to present grants to local groups.
Grants will be used in a variety of ways – to help single parents stay in school, renovate a portion of the DeSoto Area Boy Scout camp, provide jumper cables to Camp Fire senior girls who have enrolled in out-of-town colleges, provide meals for senior members of the community, fund AIDS/HIV testing and education and maintain vehicles at El Dorado Connections that are used to provide transportation for elderly members of the county to doctor offices.
The UCCF awarded grants from the Union County Public Trust Fund and other funds to local non-profit organizations. Drake reminded those at the ceremony that the McKinney/O’Connor House was a gift to the community from the late Petey O’Connor, the home’s owner, who willed her home to the Arkansas Community Foundation, who in turn granted the home to the Union County Gift Foundation (which is under the UCCF umbrella).
“It’s important to remember the generosity of Mrs. O’Connor and ARCF on days like today when we celebrate how philanthropy is making so many good things possible. We stay in touch with Mrs. O’Connor’s family through their family representative, Ben Smith, an El Dorado native, who married Mrs. O’Connor’s daughter. Ben and his extended family established a charitable fund with UCCF in memory of his parents, to support local non-profits and even though it’s been a little disconcerting for them to watch their family home undergo the changes necessary to allow for a business like The Granite Club, the O’Connor family has been gracious about it and they continue to care about and support our community,” Drake said.
Handing out grant checks to representatives of local organizations on Thursday was Martha McCarty Wells of Dallas, whose parents, Madelyne and Edward McCarty, established a UCCF fund.
“We welcome back our good friend Martha McCarty Wells, who is the representative of the fund established in her parents’ name. Martha’s mother grew up in El Dorado and wanted to support Union County, her childhood home and Martha continued the tradition after her Mom passed away years ago. She’s been such a good friend to our community and in particular to all of you here today because for the first 12 years of our granting from the Union County Public Trust, it was Martha, via the McCarty Fund, who made all the grants possible. At that time, the Public Trust had $40,000 in assets. Today, it has almost $830,000 and we don’t have to piggy back off the McCarty Fund to award these community grants now,” Drake said.
“My mother had a great love for Union County and she knew the people of Union County needed help,” Wells said at the ceremony. Madelyne McCarty died in 2003 and Martha Wells has continued to come to Union County to award grants. “El Dorado knows what to do with money,” she told representatives of non-profits who strive to provide a better way of life for local residents. “I enjoy being here every year.”
Grants in amounts ranging from $500 to $2,000 from the Union County Public Trust were awarded Thursday to Area Agency on Aging of Southwest Arkansas, Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, Boy Scouts of America-DeSoto Council, Camp Fire, Community Living Arrangements, Economics Arkansas, El Dorado Connections, El Dorado Education Foundation, El Dorado School District, Fairview Community Development Association, HOPE Landing, Holmes Foundation, Dolly Parton Imagination Library through the United Way of Union County, Red River Radio/KBSA Public Radio, Salvation Army, South Arkansas Arts Center, Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center, Single Parent Scholarship Fund, South Arkansas Developmental Center for Children and Families, South Arkansas Center on Aging-Education Center, South Arkansas Fights AIDS, South Arkansas Symphony, 13th South Judicial District Court Appointed Special Advocates-for Union County, Turning Point and South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society.
Bre’Ona Douglas, Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year, received a $500 grant from the Allie Johnson Persistence of the Spirit Fund and a grant from the Sara A. Norris Fund was awarded to Barton Library in the amount of $10,343. A grant in the amount of $2,000 was awarded to the Single Parent Scholarship Fund through the Jodie Mahony Honorary Fund. Two grants were awarded from the Proctor Hill Memorial Fund – to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in the amount of $111,324 and to the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society in the amount of $110,965.