Grants give boost to Creswell nonprofits

Three Rivers grant funding will enable Creswell Clubhouse to continue offering affordable pricing, scholarships and adequate staffing through the year.

Two Creswell nonprofits, Creswell Clubhouse and Creswell Heritage Foundation, have each received grants which will provide a significant boost to their ability to invest in community projects and programs.

Earlier this month, the Three Rivers Foundation announced it was distributing $1.4 million in funding to 100 organizations in six Oregon counties. Among them, Creswell Clubhouse received $22,000 while Creswell Heritage Foundation was awarded $20,000.

In a time when many grants are being awarded exclusively for COVID-19 or fire disaster relief, the nonprofits were ecstatic to see such large amounts come through.

“I was blown away, pleasantly surprised and impressed with their ability to give and step up when they know people need it,” said Executive Director Laura Rariden at Creswell Clubhouse.

The Three Rivers Foundation was established by the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians as the charitable arm of its Three Rivers Casino Resort.

“These grants trickle down and make a positive impact on communities in Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane and Lincoln counties,” said Doug Barrett, Tribe Council member and Three Rivers Foundation Board of Trustees Chair.

The Creswell Clubhouse has been providing its service for 17 years and has operated as its own nonprofit for 13 years, offering afterschool and summer camp programs for kids.

“[The grant] gave a lot of hope going into next school year that we’re going to be able to maintain the low prices, the scholarship levels and the staffing levels,” said Rariden. “And it really loosens me up personally to be able to do the work that’s really important, which is with the kids versus fundraising.”

The clubhouse aims to bridge the gap of services that are offered in larger cities like Eugene or Springfield and bring those same kinds of services for kids to Creswell.

The nonprofit operates in a partnership with the University of Oregon, much of its staff teachers in training or family and human services students.

It also operates in partnership with the City of Creswell to utilize the Cobalt Activity Center to run its program.

“And our program is highly educational,” said Rariden. “Everybody does a club called Brain Zone every day. And then other clubs they choose from our enrichment clubs are really varied, so kids can find something they’re into and passionate about to get excited about.”

There are activities like gym games, art classes, Spanish sign language, “around the world” exploration, performance clubs and dance clubs.

Additionally, there is a scholarship program for families in need.

“Currently, over half of our families are utilizing our scholarship program,” Rariden said. “And that’s up from 20 percent, which was pre-pandemic … We haven’t raised prices since before the pandemic and we can continue to offer unlimited scholarships in the next school year because of this (grant). And so it’s pretty huge to get that kind of funding for our ability to serve people when they need it the most.”

Keeping prices low and the program high quality is a valuable asset in a small town like Creswell where there aren’t as many options, she added. “And so, the more kids we can serve here, the better.”

The Creswell Heritage Foundation, too, will see the grant money go toward a community benefit.

“I just could hardly believe and I said, ‘This is like in my dreams,’” said Verlean McCoy, president of the Creswell Heritage Foundation board. “We asked for $3,000. … I was just beyond myself when we got that because we had been turned down by a couple of other grantors.”

The foundation, a nonprofit, organized in 2017 to restore Creswell’s first schoolhouse, which was built in 1875. 

The building on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was abandoned in 2006, when the city’s new library district was formed, and the volunteer library in the old schoolhouse moved.

After the foundation formed to restore the building, the city gifted the schoolhouse to the nonprofit, said McCoy.

“They gave it to us with support for continuing the restoration project. So, since that time, that’s been our focus. We have been raising money for that, raising awareness and getting the work done,” she said.

The restoration project has proceeded in steps, the first of which was building a new foundation as the building was sagging. After that, the exterior was restored by a preservation contractor along with all windows.

Now the Heritage Foundation is in the process of raising money and working towards restoring the interior. This also, however, consists of redoing or upgrading all the electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems — no small task.

And that’s where we are right now and working to do as much of that this summer as we can.

Hopes are to get the systems done this summer then finish the entire project and open it up to the public by the end of 2023. 

“When we got that $20,000, we were pretty much assured that we can do the electrical work,” McCoy said. 

Taking care of a significant arm of the project, the funding will put the project back on its schedule.

“That was very encouraging to us,” said McCoy. “We know that we can at least accomplish part of what we want. And we’re hopeful for all of it.”

When finished, the old schoolhouse may be used as a public meeting place for events such as organizational meetings or town halls. Renting it out for private events will also be possible.

“We hope we need to make it a sustainable operation,” said McCoy. “The possibilities are limitless as to what it could be used for.”

Open to the public, the building will also be able to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2025.

The Three River grants were widely distributed, half of the recipients in Lane County alone.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Emerald Valley, for instance, which stayed open to serve kids during the pandemic, was awarded $25,000.

“Three Rivers Foundation understands the urgent need to help ignite the imagination and interest of kids, especially traditionally underrepresented groups like girls and young people of color, to the possibility that STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) learning can provide for enhancing their fundamental skills at school. With this grant money, our organization can expand these programs and serve even more kids,” said Matt Sorensen, chief executive officer of the club.

A life-saving funding of $25,000 was even awarded to the Central Coast Humane Society (CCHS).

“The grant is being used to spay/neuter, vaccinate, treat illnesses and injuries, and help feed community cat colonies, said President of CCHS Barbara Perry. “They provide rodent control and much needed peace and purpose for their caregivers. We are truly grateful to the Three Rivers Foundation.”

The foundation’s stated mission is to support innovative ideas, collaborative approaches and grassroots efforts in education, health, public safety, problem gambling, the arts, environment, cultural activities and historic preservation.

Since it began awarding grants in 2012, the foundation has given out $2,694,340.

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