A consortium of 14 churches served 1,700 meals last year to Augusta's hungry. A community health center provided doctor visits to 9,500 people who didn't have health insurance. A community theater group performed free weekday matinees for 12,000 students.
Thirty-four local nonprofits got help Friday from a foundation with one huge mission: support the community.
The Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area awarded $425,000 in grants to agencies in Richmond and five surrounding counties. Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament are the primary donors for the foundation's unrestricted grants program.
"Our mission is to meet the community's most pressing and changing needs," said Lee Smith, the foundation's president and CEO.
One way the community foundation stays responsive is by having panels of volunteers rather than board members conduct site visits and pick the agencies that receive help. That keeps decision-making close to the community, Smith said.
This year's grants ranged from $2,000 to $15,000 per recipient.
Because of the awards, Augusta State University's Literacy Center will get a new lending library. Aiken County will get 27 new musical instruments for public school students. The Family Y will get adaptive equipment for disabled children and adults to play baseball. Easter Seals will buy a used pickup.
"We've begun a program to train individuals on landscaping. Our goal is to one day take care of the ground of the Augusta National Golf Course," Lynn Smith, the director of rehabilitation services, said with a laugh. Easter Seals helps disabled people enter the work force.
The Georgia Health Science Foundation for The Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry received $14,800 to provide free dental services to Georgia Veterans Nursing Home residents. The grant will enable them to purchase portable dental units to use when visiting bed-ridden veterans.
"Think what it would be like to not be able to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth?" said Dr. Kate Ciarrocca, the director of geriatric dentistry. "In the scheme of medical needs, a lot of times oral care is not high on the list of priorities."
Charity donations are more precious now than ever, said Ken Walls, who represents Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries, the group that feeds Augusta's hungry.
"The economic conditions in this country have deteriorated to the point where people are giving less money to churches and churches are giving less money to the Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries," he said. "If it wasn't for the community foundation for the CSRA and the Augusta National Golf Club, we'd be in dire straits right now."