MACHIAS, Maine — The Washington County Fund, which supports nonprofit organizations in the region, is celebrating 30 years.
All of Maine’s 16 counties, except for Sagadahoc and Kennebec, have similar county funds, which are administered by the Maine Community Foundation, according to Cathy Melio, program officer for the foundation. County funds for Aroostook and Piscataquis also are celebrating 30 years, she said.
The Washington County Fund was established in 1986 with donations from Machias Savings Bank, the First National Bank and Bar Harbor Bank & Trust. Later on, the fund received a $1 million bequest. It has a balance of $1.7 million. In addition, the Maine Community Foundation holds scholarship monies and other funds that bring the total in assets dedicated to Washington County to $4 million.
The money has been invested so grants can be awarded from the interest, Melio said.
Each year, the Washington County Fund gives awards of up to $10,000 to various community groups to use toward sustainable projects that benefit the community.
This year, for example, the fund awarded a total of $129,675 to 20 different grant recipients. Since 1986, the fund has awarded 240 grants totalling $758,293. Overall, the Maine Community Foundation has awarded 2,660 grants totalling $11,118,649, Melio said.
“Local leaders, knowledgeable about their communities, help review grant applications and distribute funding,” she said.
Among this year’s recipients is the Cobscook Community Learning Center, which is receiving $10,000 to expand its two-year alternative high school program into a four-year program.
“We so appreciate the work of the community members who serve on the Washington County Fund,” Alan Furth, Cobscook executive director, said.
The alternative high school, which Furth described as “a really important program,” operates in conjunction with Calais High School.
“Our goal is to be able to [start] the four-year version in 2018,” Furth said.
The St. Croix Recreation Association also was awarded $10,000 toward the refurbishing of the Howard Fox Memorial Pool in Calais.
Last year, the pool filtration system died and officials weren’t even sure they could open up the facility this year. However, thanks to donations from the community, the pool is scheduled to open June 20, said Craig Morrison, the Calais Recreation Department director.
The $10,000 grant from the Washington County Fund will go toward the $180,000-$200,000 the group plans to raise to redo the asphalt on the deck, add new skimmers and coping edge and sandblast and repaint the concrete.
Morrison said the grant was “greatly appreciated.”
In honor of its anniversary, the Washington County Fund held a celebration June 9 at the University of Maine at Machias and awarded another $3,000 grant to the Down East Hospice Volunteers.