Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 28, 2013

Local youths award big bucks to nonprofits

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Pete’s Place Youth Shelter received some news for which to be thankful on Thanksgiving eve.

The homeless shelter for youths in Traverse City will pick up an $11,500 grant from the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council.

“Are you kidding?” said Norvilla Bennett, youth services director for Third Level Crisis Intervention Center — the organization that runs Pete’s Place — upon learning of the windfall Wednesday afternoon. “Wow, awesome. Happy Thanksgiving to Pete’s Place.”

Pete’s Place was one of 23 organizations selected this month to receive some of the $70,000 in grant money awarded by high school students from Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Antrim and Kalkaska counties who served on the foundation’s Youth Advisory Council.

The money comes from the Community Foundation’s Youth Endowment. The endowment was established in the 1990s through a matching grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that came with a caveat: the Community Foundation needed to involve local students in endowment management, said Rex O’Connor, a Community Foundation board member and an advisor to the youth council.

“In their mind, that’s how you perpetuate philanthropy in your community, by teaching it to younger students,” O’Connor said.

Youth council members divided into groups by county, researched grant applications, evaluated presentations from the applicants, and ultimately recommended grant recipients for final approval by the Community Foundation board.

The board is expected to formally approve the council’s recipients during a meeting early next month, O’Connor said.

Autumn Good, a junior at Kingsley High School, said her time on the council taught her a lot about how the nonprofit sector functions and about local community groups.

“I learned there is a lot more that goes into it than just ‘hey, we need some money,’” Good said. “And there is a lot of demand for funding that’s not being met right now.”

The Youth Advisory Council each year works to alleviate nonprofit groups’ funding problems, with an emphasis on local organizations that help youths in need.

Another local, youth-focused nonprofit initiative -- Catholic Human Services’ Host Homes for Homeless Youth -- garnered funding from the Youth Advisory Council every year since its creation 10 years ago, said Marybeth Novak, prevention coordinator for Catholic Human Services. This year the program will get $6,500 in grants.

“I think it’s very validating to the kids who are in our program when their peers recognize a need for what our program does.

“We appreciate everything we get from them,” Novak said.

For Pete’s Place, the $11,500 will go a long way to eliminate a deficit between $25,000 and $30,000 in this fiscal year’s budget caused by rising operational costs and cuts to federal funding sources, Bennett said.

“This means some stability and some community investment in what we’re doing,” shelter Manager Courtney Russell said. “We know how important the work we do is, but seeing that other youth in the area understand and support it is something that’s really important for me.”