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Bobby Ann McCollough, Charter Foundation Board Member Bill Gladden and Program Chair Patsy McKenzie pose for a photo. Gladden was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. --Wayne Clark

Voting underway for Charter Foundation grants

VALLEY — CharterBank was acquired by CenterState Bank within the past year, but that didn’t mean the end of the Charter Foundation and the good work it has done in the local community for the better portion of 25 years. Prior to the acquisition, the Foundation was made separate from CharterBank and is continuing to make grants in the Chambers-Troup-Harris county areas.

Charter Foundation Board Member Bill Gladden was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. He said that voting was underway to determine this year’s grants. It ends Aug. 31 with the top three vote-getters receiving $5,000 each.

One change is that residents of the three-county area are eligible to take part in the online voting. In the past, voting was limited to CharterBank customers.

“If you live in the three-county area, you can go to charterfoundation.net and vote,” Gladden said. “I encourage you to.”

Thus far, 945 people have voted. That number is likely to get much bigger before the final day. Each person can vote one time.

Gladden said that at least half of the ballots that had come in so far are invalid. The only ones that are eligible are from those who live in Chambers, Troup and Harris counties. Some ballots have been received from as far away as Canada, England, Spain and Sweden.

“If your favorite organization is one of the top three vote getters, they will be getting $5,000 with no strings attached,” Gladden said.

The Charter Foundation was formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1995.

“To understand it, you have to go back to the start,” Gladden said. “First Federal S&L began in 1954 as a mutual savings and loan in Lanett. It ultimately became CharterBank.”

The Foundation’s purpose is to provide funds to eligible nonprofit organizations to help them carry out unique and innovative projects in specific fields of interest such that these projects will help improve the quality of life in the local community.

In its 24-year existence, the Charter Foundation has awarded an estimated $6.5 million in grants, $142,000 in scholarships, and more than $830,000 in voting.

The Foundation has a current endowment of more than $7 million. It’s required to grant at least 5 percent of average assets. This comes to around $300,000 in grants per year.

The scholarship program began in 2006. A total of 13 scholarships have been awarded thus far. It began in the LaGrange and Greater Valley areas and later expanded throughout the CharterBank footprint. The program provides $1,000 to a deserving college-bound student who needs help in continuing their education.

Organizations may apply for grants from the Charter Foundation. Applications should state the problem the project addresses, why it’s significant, whether the project is under way and if so, what has been accomplished thus far, what are the immediate and long-term outcomes and how will the success of effectiveness of the project be assessed.

“We need to know what strengths and skills the organization and personnel bring to the project,” Gladden said. “In short, what makes your organization the right choice to conduct this project? What is the mission of your organization and how does the project fit into the mission.”

Grant requests first go to a screening committee, where they are graded on their worthiness, the number of people helped and expertise in the mission.

“If it’s big, talk to a board member about it,” Gladden said. “Don’t send us a book. Give us some options. We pick what we believe are the best applications in front of us.”

There are four options with each grant request: (1) approve what’s asked, (2) approved part of what is asked, (3) defer consideration to a later date and (4) deny the request.

Some patience is needed in those requests that are deferred. Just because it’s not approved at this time does not mean it won’t be approved in the next grant cycle.