Rosalie Danchanko Lee Initiatives

Rosalie Danchanko, of Highlands Health Free Medical Clinic, reaches out to hug Dr. Robert Barrett, a Lee Initiatives Health & Wellness Endowment board member, after her organization received $45,000 during a grant award reception Thursday, May 10, 2018, at Holiday Inn Johnstown-Downtown.

With additional money in their pockets, area nonprofits can continue with their mission of helping people in the region.

On Thursday, the 2018 Lee Initiatives Health and Wellness Endowment Grant Awards were presented at a ceremony at the Holiday Inn Johnstown-Downtown to 46 nonprofits in Cambria and Somerset totaling $562,000.

The grants address the needs of children, youth and adults and include everything from daycare to in-depth services, providing for the food insecure of the community and educational endeavors that provide training for healthcare careers.

Don Gardill, CEO of Lee Initiatives Inc., said the grant program carries on the legacy of the former Lee Hospital by supporting nonprofit organizations that aid in the health and wellness of the community.

“This is our 12th season of doing this, and we accept grant applications in January, and in the spring we review all the applications and we award the grants,” he said. “It’s very important, and it helps a lot of nonprofits in the community who could really use the help and struggle to get through.”

Leah Spangler, CEO of The Learning Lamp, said the $15,000 grant they received for its After School Outreach Program is critical in ensuring its success.

“This is a program we run year after year in Oakhurst, Coopersdale and Moxham – children from the Greater Johnstown School District and some of them who have had really traumatic experiences in their lives,” she said. “This funding will help us do a better job of meeting their needs and also train our staff in terms of understanding the types of things these children have been through and helps us adjust the program and educational component.”

She said the money will help them maintain the quality of the program.

“We’re making sure those children are served with an appropriate level of instruction and emotional support,” Spangler said.

The Cambria County Backpack Program was awarded a $20,000 grant that will be used to provide food during the weekends for up to 450 children from six school districts and community programs in Cambria County for the 2018-19 school year.

“The cost of one bag of food for the weekend is $4.59, so $20,000 is going to go a long way,” said Natalie Kauffman, program coordinator. “This money is extremely important to what we do.”

She said they are a partner with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies and an agency of the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank.

“We order a lot of our food from the food bank at a wholesale discount rate and we also survive off of donations from the community,” Kauffman said.

“This money is a huge boost for us.”

St. Vincent de Paul Food for Families received $40,000 to help provide food to fill the warehouse that supplies the food pantries in Cambria County.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our Food For Families warehouse to purchase the food stock items they need to be able to stock the pantries,” said Georgia Lehman, who works in community relations with SVDP Food For Families.

She said the grant money is coming at a perfect time because pantry shelves are almost bare.

“We supply 19 food pantries and other sites like the Family Kitchen,” Lehman said. “Without this money we would struggle, so in tough economic times this is a real boost for our warehouse.”

To date, Lee Initiatives Inc. has handed out more than $5 million in grants to area organizations.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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