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Over $1 Million Given In Grants

More than $1.23 million in grants and scholarships were awarded to local students and nonprofits in 2011 through the Sonora Area Foundation and its supporting organization, the Irving J. Symons Foundation.

Foundation directors awarded $577,000 in more than 50 grants to local nonprofit groups through its competitive grants program. Another $661,000 was awarded through donor-advised funds, including scholarships and other directed giving from community contributors.

Combined annual giving was $1,238,000, up more than 10 percent from $1,116,000 in 2010.

Competitive grants, awarded by Foundation directors, went to support a wide variety of local projects and programs benefiting all areas of the community. Given on-going troubles in the economy, the foundation maintained a special focus on “safety net” services to help local residents with basic needs.

“Foundation directors felt strongly about maintaining a $500,000 budget for competitive grants in 2011, then went on to allocate another $77,000 in ‘human needs’ grants throughout the year,” said Sonora Area Foundation Executive Director Ed Wyllie. “We were able to finish the year strong in meeting the needs of our community partners.”

While extra emphasis went to basic human needs, Wyllie said the Foundation also stepped up to help several nonprofits with longer-term investments, including moves to new sites for WATCH, ATCAA’s new family center in East Sonora, a Sonora park and the first buildings at Habitat for Humanity’s Parrotts Ferry Village project in Columbia.

“We have partners who have proven themselves over time, and we’ve been there for them,” Wyllie said.

Foundation directors will be finalizing giving priorities for 2012 in the next few weeks, and Wyllie expects the focus to remain on the local safety net.

“It’s still too soon to count on a recovery in the economy,” he said. “We see a gain in one spot and lose in another. That seems to be where we’re at – treading water.”

“Local nonprofits still have a lot of concerns about what will happen with state and federal funding levels,” Wyllie said. “They’ve found ways to cope so far, and now their main concern is where to cut next if there’s another hit.

“As a community foundation, we’ll be doing our best to help fill the gaps.” For more about what the agency is doing read Ed Wyllie’s blog: Community Indicators Project.