Bartholomew County’s largest foundation wants to find ways to bridge the economic gap between the struggling and those with plenty.
So its leaders have added that concern to its other three focuses of economic growth, learning systems, and establishing a warm, welcoming community for all people, regardless of background. Those topics are the heart of the organization’s Community Fund Grants Program, the primary vehicle it uses for the bulk of its assistance.
The foundation spoke about that adjustment at a public meeting with nonprofits Tuesday morning at YES Cinema and Conference Center.
Tracy Souza, president and CEO of Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, said the economic gap first surfaced when some residents responded to the foundation’s 2010 survey measuring how welcoming Bartholomew County is to newcomers and people of diversity.
“The growing gap between people without economic resources and those with access to economic resources kept coming up in meeting after meeting,” Souza said.
She added that the fund’s board was cautious about tweaking its focuses.
“After all,” Souza said, “donors invest in the Heritage Fund for the long haul. And our three (previous) areas of initiative have served us well.”
The Heritage Fund’s outreach committee is beginning the task of how to bridge that gap, Souza said.
The United Way of Bartholomew County also has made financial stability a part of its just-announced community needs assessment.
That extensive report identifies that 21 percent of all the county’s households earn less than $25,000 annually.
Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, a nonprofit agency offering help such as job searches and parenting wisdom, serves the county’s most economically challenged residents in neighborhoods near downtown.
Forty percent of residents in the agency’s service area live at or below the poverty level, according to the agency’s statistics.
“The Heritage Fund is right on,” said Randy Allman, Lincoln Center’s director.
“I feel they have their finger on the pulse of the community.”
Allman said he knew the economic gap would be a major concern when he first assumed leadership of the neighborhood center 18 years ago. But he acknowledged that it’s a tough puzzle to solve.
“One of the big questions is, ‘How do we get the have-nots to be willing to venture out of their comfort zones?’” Allman said.
He referred to elements such as job training and education.
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