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Separate grants by the Custer and Nugent foundations in recent weeks have made possible the fulfillment of two grass-roots efforts undertaken by local residents.
Last month the Nugent Foundation awarded $1,300 to the Kiwanis Clubs of Columbus for the purchase of a brass plaque to honor the contributions of local entertainers and showmen Fuzzy Sewell and Smokey Joe Miller to the long-running Donner Park shows. The new plaque will replace one that had been on display at the park’s shelter house since 2002 but was stolen earlier this year.
At approximately the same time, members of the Custer Foundation board of directors approved a gift of $9,405 to a fund started by Columbus North High School student Dylan Prather that will be used to purchase, train and maintain a new police dog for the Columbus Police Department. The gift, coupled with money he had raised earlier as part of his senior project, took him over his goal of $15,000 and cleared the way for the department to begin the process of adding a third team to its K-9 corps.
In terms of foundation gifts, the amounts provided by the two family foundations were fairly small, especially when compared to major undertakings in the past in which local foundations have disbursed tens of thousands of dollars to individual entities. Though they might have been relatively small in that comparison, they were enormous to these recipients.
Acting on the encouragement of member Ron Arnold, the Kiwanis Clubs have been sponsoring the park shows since their revival in 1998. Fortunately the expenses are low given that the performances are donated by the entertainers. Moreover, the clubs have membership rolls that are only a shadow of the larger groups two and three decades ago. They could not have dipped into their treasuries without having a serious effect on their other programs.
Prather certainly took on an ambitious senior project, given the amount of money he had to raise and the fact that he was a high school senior with limited access to individuals or groups with the resources to help on his mission.
Both Arnold and Prather could have achieved their goals over time, but it would have required a great deal of effort and sacrifice from both of them. Fortunately their causes were publicized and brought to the attention of the two foundations.
What makes these grants special is that they were initiated from within the foundation. Neither Arnold nor Prather had applied for assistance.
The story about the theft of the Donner Park plaque caught the eye of Nugent Foundation board member Bob Spurgin, a retired bank executive and longtime Columbus resident. Harking back to the enjoyment so many in the community had gotten from earlier park shows as well as the revival series, he asked his fellow board members to pay for a new and more secure sign.
A story about Prather’s K-9 project drew the attention of Custer Foundation board member Dick Weaver, a retired funeral home director in Columbus, who went to his board with a request that they make up the difference in the money the student needed.
Both requests were quickly approved.
The gifts and the way they came about are a reflection of the ties to the local community by the foundations that were established in honor of two families deeply rooted in Bartholomew County. The families of Elizabeth Ruddick Nugent and Clarence E. and Inez R. Custer would consider these gifts well spent.
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