Login NowClose 
Sign In to shelbynews.com           
Forgot Password
or if you have not registered since 8/22/18
Click Here to Create an Account

Permanent endowment funds a lasting effect of racino money

1 / 4
The Hands at Home program helps seniors make improvements at their homes.
2 / 4
A County grant in 2017 helped with trail maintenance and removal of invasive species at Meltzer Woods Nature Preserve, allowing rare woodland wildflowers to thrive.
3 / 4
4 / 4
Funds from the Blue River Foundation paid for the construction of a roof over the batting cages at Donald L. Johnson Park, the home of Shelby County Babe Ruth Baseball.

By AMY HAACKER - For The Shelbyville News

Ten years ago, many members of the community filled the Shelbyville Middle School cafetorium to discuss how the anticipated racino revenues that the City of Shelbyville and Shelby County would be receiving as part of the planned casino could be leveraged to benefit our community.

As a result of the positive public input, the elected officials at the time established endowment funds at the Blue River Community Foundation for a grant program that would benefit local non-profit organizations serving our residents. The city and county both committed 5 percent of their racino revenues to build the funds and establish the grant program.

Each year a portion of the earnings generate the grants that benefit local organizations. Since that time, the City and County have awarded numerous grants to many local organizations, totaling nearly $400,000, and the permanent funds have grown to $977,856 (city fund) and $1,875,570 (county fund). These endowment funds are invested, continue to grow, and will be a resource for our community forever.

It is very likely that nearly everyone who lives, works, or goes to school in Shelbyville or Shelby County has benefited in some way from these grants, but may not be aware they were made possible by the racino funds. In fact, many of the grants have allowed Shelby County’s non-profits to operate more effectively or with improved facilities.

Shelby Senior Services, Girls, Inc., Shelby County Players, the Cancer Association, the Grover Museum, The Boys and Girls Club, and the Strand Theatre have all received substantial funds to make improvements to their buildings and provide needed equipment or technology.

A grant a few years ago from the city’s fund helped launch the (now familiar) Get Healthy Here campaign from Healthy Shelby County.

The Hands at Home program through Senior Services helps keep seniors and those living with disabilities in their homes by making needed improvements, like ramps and shower bars, and providing other home maintenance that can often be difficult for those folks. The program received nearly $24,000 in funding through City and County Racino Grants in 2017 to help with homes throughout Shelby County.

Athletes who would like to participate in the Shelby County Special Olympics, but were unable to afford the costs to compete received assistance through a grant.

The Back Sacks program, administered by Gleaners Food Bank, which sends healthy food home on the weekends with elementary-age children who often go without, has been funded in multiple years by the city. Imagine a young child, who faced hunger over the weekend, anticipating his breakfast at school on Monday morning, now, with Back Sacks, had enough food. One young boy, upon receiving a sack of food, asked if he could share with his younger brother since he didn’t get to go to school yet.

A county grant in 2017 helped with trail maintenance and removal of invasive species at Meltzer Woods Nature Preserve, allowing the rare woodland wildflowers to thrive.

Racino grants have touched thousands of our youngest and most senior residents, through programs and projects in Arts and Culture, Health, Education, and Social Services.

Perhaps the most visible of the grant-funded projects have been the improvements at Shelby County Babe Ruth Baseball. Babe Ruth Park is owned and operated by all volunteers, from the building and field maintenance, scheduling, and concessions. Many don’t know that it’s not part of the city’s parks system. However, the support from the city’s racino grants have allowed the park to add covered batting cages, sidewalks and other improvements, allowing for better accessibility and a greater ability to attract and host weekend tournaments.

Visit the park, on the far west end of River Road any evening from April through July and you’ll experience the “sounds of summer” – cracking bats and cheers under the lights. Shelby County Babe Ruth Baseball serves hundreds of children and their families each season. The new projects have improved the experience for the players and their fans.

Thanks to the ongoing commitment from the City and County Councils, there is nearly $200,000 available to grant this year. The endowment funds that the city and county have created are permanent; they will be there as a resource for our community forever, there to address future needs that cannot be anticipated today.

Non-profit organizations with their 501.c3 status serving Shelby County residents may apply. The foundation accepts applications each year by Aug. 1, then recommends the funding for approval to the City and County Councils at their regularly-scheduled meetings in October.

Visit the Blue River Community Foundation’s website and select “grants” to access the guidelines and application for the Racino Grants. The Blue River Community Foundation encourages organizations to contact the staff there to discuss potential ideas and projects.

Amy Haacker is the Executive Director of the Blue River Community Foundation.