It's that time of year again. Local non-profit groups made their annual grant requests to the Town Board of Aldermen Tuesday night and and now the officials will decide if and how much they can spare for each request.
This year, Franklin officials have put aside $40,000 in a community funding pool. The aldermen will disburse the money out as grants to local non-profits who provide a public service to the residents of Franklin and meet a set criteria. The organization must be a non-profit; funding provided will not be given on a reoccurring basis; the organization must meet the public purpose doctrine; and all of the awarded funding must be spent within the fiscal year. Organizations cannot receive more than $5,000.
Before the groups approached the podium, the board allowed for a public comment session. One of the speakers, Angela Hubbs Moore, a candidate in the upcoming town aldermen race, spoke out against giving money to the groups present.
"I want to begin by saying thank you to each and every non-profit represented here tonight, for your dedication and long hours spent serving Macon County," she said. "That being said, I am here tonight to ask the board to reconsider their decision to give tax dollars to non-profit organizations."
"If I asked you outside of this board room, 'Is it reasonable to force individuals or businesses to donate to charity?' Your answer would most likely be, 'No, it's not,' but that is exactly what is happening here. The hardworking people of Franklin are being forced, through their taxes, to donate to charities based on the desires of the board of aldermen," said Moore.
"Of the $40,000 that you will begin to hear requests for tonight a little came from my husband and me, and a little came from every other tax payer in Franklin. When I feel led to, I give to deserving charities. Most of us probably do, but that does not change that money that was taken from me is about to be given away by somebody else. I'm asking that you give it back to the citizens of Franklin.
"For several years we have heard that there is a goal of cutting taxes, and every year the budget is approved at the same tax rate. Allowing the non-profit fund to go unused would place it back into the general fund at the end of the fiscal year and allow a tax cut of approximately 2.5 percent. I am grateful for people who volunteer their time and resources to serve others in need, but even more than that, I value the right to spend my own resources as I see fit. So tonight as you listen to the wonderful things that each of these organizations is doing in our community I'm asking you to remember where the money came from. I'm asking you to remember that you are forcing your constituents to donate to a charity of your choosing. And I'm asking you to consider returning the $40,000 you took from your constituents through taxation."
After the board thanked Moore for her comments, the meeting moved along as 12 non-profits submitted their requests.
Angel Medical Center (AMC) of Franklin approached the board to request a one time grant of $5,000.
According to AMC's grant request, the funds will be used to allow the provision of medication assistance to low-income patients and seniors in the Town of Franklin with a goal of improving the overall health of the community by addressing both chronic and urgent medication needs. The program has been in place for 13 years and began as a response to an urgent community need for assistance in obtaining medications.
"Without telling you any names, let me at least give you an idea of some of the people you've helped in the past," said Don Capaforte, director of the Angel Medical Center Foundation. "You've helped a 12-year-old boy get medication for asthma while he waited on help from the federal government. You've helped a cancer patient who was under 65 receive medicine until she qualified for medicare. There is a young man who suffers from seizures and another who needed help with his glucose. This program helped these people."
Capaforte guaranteed that those receiving help live inside the Franklin city limits.
"We make sure to verify that," he said.
The next grant request came from the Community Care Clinic of Franklin. Franklin Ingram was present to make the request for $10,000.
The clinic has provided medical care in Franklin for three and a half years and for three of those years, the clinic has used funds granted from the N.C. Office of Rural Health, but the funds have been depleted. In 2012, the clinic saw 854 clients with a total of 1,694 visits. The organization estimates that 80 percent of the patients they see are at least working part time and cannot afford medical insurance.
A decrease in available volunteers has led the clinic to reduce its number of operational hours from two evenings each week to one. Currently, anyone seeking an appointment must wait more than two months to be seen by a physician.
"We're making progress. Many organizations have made donations," he said. "But we need to be able to hire a paid physician to meet the needs of our clients."
The Franklin Garden Club made a request for $3,000. Their request states that the funding will contribute to the upgrade and maintenance to the Clock Tower Square and Rankin Square in the downtown area of Franklin, as well as additional plantings incorporated into existing flower beds.
"We feel that the design of the two spaces has improved this year and look forward to continuing our efforts in making the gardens one of the highlights of our downtown area," said Jeanne Vaughters, president of the garden club.
KIDS Place asked for the amount of $5,000. These funds will be used to provide services for child victims of abuse in Macon County.
The organization conducts child forensic interviews, child medical evaluations, trauma focused therapy, victim's advocacy and case management, community education, and has a multidisciplinary core team—professionals from child protective services, law enforcement, the district attorney's office, physicians, child therapists, and KIDS Place staff who meet monthly to review all open cases of child abuse.
"The best part is that after our services, we are seeing a 90 percent reduction in trauma to these children," said Alisa Ashe, executive director at KIDS Place.
The cost of these services for one child totals $1,593.77. Last year 12 forensic interviews were conducted at the request of the Franklin Police Department. A total of 95 children were served from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013. There was a successful prosecution rate of 100 percent (six guilty pleas) and in the last three years there has been prosecution rate of 94 percent.
Macon County's Care Network requested assistance from the Town of Franklin. In order to assist in the purchase and installation of an air conditioning unit in the organization's warehouse to keep food from going bad and to help Franklin residents pay their water bills, the organization has made the request for a total of $5,000.
Executive director Shaina Adkins was on hand to give the presentation.
"The economy may be improving, but we're still seeing a need for food and in water bill payments," she said. "In response to the lady [Angela Moore], you know, we struggle just as much as anybody else. We appreciate the town's continued support."
The Care Network or CareNet, was established in the county in 1988 by churches located in Macon County with a mission to provide food and assistance to individuals in need for whom the government or other forms of assistance is not available. In addition to food, they also provide financial assistance for utilities, fuel, prescriptions, and rent, when available, on an emergency basis.
In 2012, CareNet gave out 306,476 pounds of food to 8,859 families in need. There were 13,011 hot meals provided by volunteers, and 15,425 backpacks loaded with food distributed to school children in Macon County.
The next request came from Macon County Habitat for Humanity. The $5,000 that Rick Westerman asked for would go to help the organization rehabilitate housing for residents of Franklin. Some examples of the upgrades that are often carried out by HFH are wheelchair ramps, roof repairs, and improvements to accessibility among other things.
"The money we receive stays in Franklin," said Westerman. "We have branches in Sylva and Cullowhee, but the money doesn't go there. We do however get to use their volunteers which are often college students so it works out well for these projects."
The Macon County Historical Society Museum made a request for $5,000. These funds would go towards ongoing renovations of the third story of the Historical Society Museum.
"A large fire damaged the third floor about 35 years ago," said Bob Poindexter. "We would like to use this year's money to continue to repair it. We would also like to receive the money we were granted last year, but never got."
Carol Bryce on behalf of the Macon County Public Library was next to approach the aldermen. She requested $5,000 that would help to fund the Reading Rover Program. The Reading Rover provides library services directly to child care providers in Franklin to help prepare children to enter school ready to learn according to the library's grant request.
"We go to six childcare centers a month in order to encourage children to read," said Bryce. "We also provide parent training on the importance or reading to children."
Jennifer Lynn Turner representing REACH of Macon County asked the board for a $5,000 grant to assist in the costs of shelter, court advocacy, and counseling services for residents in the Town of Franklin. REACH provides services to victims and children of domestic violence and sexual assault in the community. In 2012, they served 122 different clients, offered 1,827 court advocacy services, 895 crisis counseling, and 2,671 hotline services. The organization also provided shelter to 54 women and children with a daily average of five occupants and provided 5,475 meals.
"In response to the lady [Angela Moore], I just want to point out that non-profits don't do things for recognition, they do these things because it's the right thing to do," said Turner. "We all work together to address needs in the community."
The next grant request came from Read2Me of Macon County at a sum of $6,000. Representing the organization, Gary Dills said that the purpose of the money would be to help bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program to Macon County and the Town of Franklin. The organization delivers a book each month to a child in Macon County from birth to the age of five. According to the request, the lack of literacy among the early childhood population of Macon County is a significant problem that can be helped by teaching children the importance of reading prior to entering school. The request states "It significantly improves their reading skills, their competency in K-12, and greatly improves their opportunities to succeed in our society."
"Like the library touched on, there is a big need here in Macon County to improve literacy among children," said Dills. "On top of everything we offer, we also conduct an essay and poetry contest in the elementary schools to engage the kids."
On behalf of the Scottish Tartans Museum, Nancy Deitz made a one time request of $2,829.25 to help purchase a security system for the museum in order to be able to borrow artifacts from other museums. The funding will also be used to purchase one year of basic digital security service.
"There is actually a tartan that went to the moon," said Deitz. "If we had a security system, we could possibly borrow it for our display. I think people would flock to see that."
The last organization to request funds from the Board of Aldermen was the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center in the amount of $4,000. The requested amount would be used to assist the center in educating the public on information about pregnancy and parenting to help teach important life skills.
CEO Jenny Golding says that there is an apparent need in Franklin for the center's services.
"Today alone, we did three pregnancy tests," she said. "In 2011, we were in the hole $40,000 because our funding from local churches had been cut back so much. We don't qualify for big grants."
The center allows for parents and future parents to take educational courses on parenting in order to build points that will allow them to get needed things from the store it houses.
The aldermen will reconvene on Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m., to inform the organizations of whether they will receive funding and the amount that will be granted. The total of the grant requests was $68,829.25.