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County grants help strengthen community

As King County created its 2007 budget, it kept the needs of Federal Way — especially educational — in mind.

The King County Community Services Division has awarded five grants, most in the amount of $2,400, to local Federal Way civic clubs and organizations so far in 2007.

Each of the five Federal Way groups that received a grant has until December 2007 to distribute the money to an area that will benefit the community, Metropolitan King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer said.

For eight years and counting, von Reichbauer tries to identify civic groups that could distribute that money within their communities, he said.

Members of such groups are familiar with the needs of their city's residents and have the time and expertise to invest in the community, he said. Members of these clubs are usually volunteers with a stronger position to identify students in need of extra financial assistance to achieve their goals, he said.

"They don't have deep pockets, but they have deep hearts," von Reichbauer said.

One recipient, the Kiwanis Club of Federal Way, wasted no time in identifying the needs of Federal Way youth and children and donating its grant money. The club learned that it was receiving a grant in March. It finished distributing its funds June 27.

"The sooner they get the money, the sooner they can begin putting it to work," said Don Chovil, Federal Way Kiwanis Club president.

Mirroring its motto, "Dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time," the club chose to invest in the education and well-being of Federal Way children.

The club donated $1,000 to the Federal Way School District's Americorps program, $1,000 to the Multi-Service Center's Homeless Education and Readiness for Tomorrow program (HEART), and $400 to Panther Lake Elementary School, Chovil said.

Americorps began in 1994 and offers tutoring to students in each Federal Way public school with the goal of improving students' reading, writing, academic and critical thinking skills. The program's ultimate goal is to help each student to pass the state's WASL test. In the 2005-2006 school year, the program had 446 volunteers.

A check for $1,000 was presented to the Multi-Service Center on June 27. Stephanie Parsons, the center's Adult Education Programs supervisor, arrived at the club's meeting as a guest speaker for the HEART program.

The purpose of HEART is to expose homeless children, living in a Multi-Service Center shelter, to a stable, fun, educational atmosphere, she said. The children gather weekly and play learning games with Parsons and her colleagues. In 2006, HEART served 165 children and families, Parsons said. Because staff, volunteers and funding are limited, game selections do not vary much from week to week, she said. Many of the games are handcrafted.

Parsons promised to use the money to buy more educational games for the children at the shelter.

The remaining $400 of the club's grant was given to Panther Lake Elementary School at the request of Dena Hagen, a second-grade teacher there. The money will buy books for second-graders this fall, Chovil said. The school needs a wider range of lower-level reading books, he said. Hagen plans to travel to Olympia in early July to attend a book sale.

For the Kiwanis Club of Federal Way board members, choosing where to donate the money to was a difficult decision.

"It's not as easy as one may think," board member Janice Siebenaler said. "There are a lot of needs out there."

Ultimately, the board picked groups it knew would put the money to good use, Siebenaler said.

The King County 2007 budget was created in November 2006 and may be amended at various times throughout the year, said Joe Fain, Metropolitan King County Council Chief of Staff. This means the county may or may not have the opportunity to award more grants to similar organizations later in the year, he said.

Contact Jacinda Howard at: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or at (253) 925-5565.

Other Federal Way grant recipients:

The Rotary Club of Federal Way received a special programs funding grant from King County on April 26 in the amount of $2,400. The club will use the money for general operating costs, said former club president Lisa Skari.

The noon Federal Way Lions club received a grant for $2,400 from King County. The club plans to use that money in October to purchase dictionaries for all third-graders in the Federal Way School District, club president Carolyn Harestad said.

The Federal Way Historical Society was another grant recipient. It received $5,000 in grant money from King County, treasurer Jerry Knutzen said. The group has not yet decided how to use that money, Knutzen said.

The Federal Way Soroptimists received a grant for $2,400 from King County. The club applies for such a grant each year, club member Carol Stopper said. The Soroptimists use the money to provide $50 savings bonds to essay winners, as well as award girls and women in the community with scholarships to be used toward furthering their education, Stopper said.

Once the money has been donated, each club must submit a detailed report of who the money was given to and why it was given before the county will reimburse the civic group.

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