Spark Morgan awards $55,000 to 10 nonprofit organizations

Louise Mulherin News, Press Releases 1 Comment

Spark Morgan!—formerly the Morgan Fund—was established by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta in 2003 to bring together donors, nonprofits and community members to make philanthropy happen in Morgan County. Spark Morgan offers grantmaking, philanthropic learning opportunities and community awareness activities.

On Tuesday, October 2, Spark Morgan awarded grants to 10 nonprofit organizations serving Morgan County, during a Celebration of Community at Empire Mills.

Community Foundation President, Alicia Philipp, gave celebration attendees some context on the impact of grantmaking in Morgan County: “Through local fundraising efforts and matching funds from the Community Foundation specifically for Spark Morgan, in the last 15 years the results are:

  • 109 grants awarded
  • $362,105 in total dollars awarded
  • 33 organizations impacted.”

She added, “if you look broader, at all of the grants that the Community Foundation and its donors have directed to nonprofits serving Morgan County, in those same 15 years that total is more than $4.5 million.”

The following grants were awarded during the celebration:

Boy & Girls Clubs of North Central Georgia

The Boys & Girls Clubs of North Central Georgia began in 2010 when the Pete Nance Boys & Girls Club in Greensboro, GA along with the clubs in Walton County and Morgan County split from the Metro Atlanta Boys & Girls Clubs. Headquartered in Madison, the clubs have increased membership, budget and average daily attendance since 2010. In 2017 the club served 225 youths in Morgan, Newton and Walton counties in support of its mission of enabling all young people, especially those who need the most assistance, to reach their full potential as productive, caring responsible citizens.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of North Central Georgia operates five clubs and provides school-age children with programming that includes education about healthy lifestyles, physical fitness activities and S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, math) education.  The clubs measure the effectiveness of their programs by administering a comprehensive survey to all club members to track metrics such as physical safety, plans to attend college, abstinence from drinking and smoking, self-confidence and more. The Madison-Morgan County Boys & Girls Club will further its impact by contracting with a certified teacher to serve as Program Coordinator for BE GREAT: Graduate. BE GREAT: Graduate will serve 30 teenagers from Morgan County who are at risk of dropping out of high school by providing them consistent support, case management and mentoring in order to develop the academic, emotional and social skills necessary to be academically successful. Each teen club member served through BE GREAT will develop a portfolio to track their academic progress, community service activities and career interests to ensure they have a plan that is working toward high school graduation. These youth will graduate with a firm plan for steps they will take toward postsecondary success.

Camp Twin Lakes, Inc.

Founded in 1992, Camp Twin Lakes’ (CTL) mission is to provide year-round camp experiences for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges to help each camper grow in their confidence and experience the joys of childhood. In collaboration with more than 60 nonprofit organizations, CTL provides week-long, overnight summer camp experiences at three fully accessible campsites in Rutledge, Winder and Warm Springs. In collaboration with its partners, CTL creates customized programs that teach campers to overcome obstacles. For children undergoing inpatient treatment at children’s hospitals in Atlanta, Macon and Savannah, CTL provides Camp-To-Go, a mobile camp experience that brings the same fun, engaging and therapeutic activities enjoyed at CTL campsites directly to children who are too medically fragile to leave the hospital.

CTL serves nearly 10,000 children and adults with illnesses and disabilities every year with the large majority, 6,400 campers, attending one of nearly 50 camps held at the Rutledge campsite. A wide range of populations and diagnoses are served at the Rutledge site, including children with cancer, blood disorders, Type I diabetes, developmental disabilities, muscular dystrophy, as well as children who have lost loved ones. Campers receive necessary medical care onsite at camp as well as safe, supported and appropriate opportunities for developing self-sufficiency in their own healthcare plans, including learning about and taking their medications. Traditional camp programs including biking, archery, horseback riding and canoeing are also available and are fully adaptive, allowing campers of any mobility level to be active. A grant will support CTL’s Rutledge campsite and the therapeutic camp programs offered to thousands of children and adults with special medical and physical needs each year at that location.

Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy DBA Ferst Readers, Inc.

Ferst Readers was founded in 1999 in Madison with a mission of providing books for local communities to prepare preschool children for reading and learning success. Ferst Readers addresses the issue of children from low-income communities entering kindergarten without basic literacy skills and school readiness by mailing age-appropriate books to the homes of registered children. Children served by Ferst Readers range from birth to age five and many are from at-risk populations including Women Infant and Children nutrition program participant households, low-income daycare/family care facilities and other vulnerable groups. The illiteracy rate of many of the Georgia counties served by Ferst Readers is above the state average of 17%, with the average illiteracy rate of 25% and a fifth of counties served having illiteracy rates of 25% or higher. Teams of volunteers, called Community Action Teams, help to deliver Ferst Readers’ programs in local communities by registering children, raising funds and building literacy awareness through partnerships at the local level. In fall of 2017, Ferst Readers mailed its five millionth book. Today over 43,000 children across six states receive a monthly book from FCCL.

In Morgan County, where at least half of children live in low-income environments and do not always have access to high quality literacy resources, approximately 96% of children (990) from birth to kindergarten are enrolled in the program. Since Ferst Readers’ founding in Morgan County, high school graduation rates in the county have climbed from as low as 71% in the early 2000’s to 91.8% in 2017. While many factors contribute to the upward trend, a recent School Readiness Survey found that children served by Ferst Readers begin kindergarten with better reading behaviors, are much more actively engaged during story time and are better listeners. Participating families are also more engaged in their children’s academic progress. This year Morgan County families will also benefit from a new parent literacy workshop, Conversations Count. FCCL makes efficient use of its resources; the cost of each book per child including book, mailing expense and customized parent newsletter is $3. A general operating support grant will help the organization support expenses related to volunteers, database maintenance and book distribution.

Habitat for Humanity of Morgan County

The mission of Habitat for Humanity of Morgan County (Habitat-Morgan) is to build affordable housing with zero percent (0%) mortgages for low-income families of Morgan County. Habitat-Morgan was originally a subsidiary of Newton County’s Habitat organization until 1998 when it became an independent organization. Habitat-Morgan seeks to break the cycle of poverty one family at a time by providing an opportunity for home ownership to low-income families who would not otherwise be considered for a home mortgage. Habitat-Morgan typically builds one home annually with the support of volunteer labor and donated or low-cost materials. Habitat-Morgan’s volunteers select deserving families whose income is less than 40% of the average median income in Morgan County; families are required to invest a minimum of 200 hours of “sweat equity” into their or another Habitat house.

Habitat for Humanity International, the umbrella organization for Habitat for Humanity affiliates world-wide, requires all affiliates to have a Certified Competent Safety Person (CCSP) in place. Habitat-Morgan’s volunteer safety coordinator recently went through the training and is now a CCSP. In reviewing Habitat-Morgan’s procedures and safety equipment, the CCSP realized the need to upgrade much of Habitat-Morgan’s equipment in order to improve the safety of construction sites for all volunteers. Items needed include new items Habitat-Morgan has never had, replacement items that are reaching the end of their useful life and additional items to increase existing inventory as some days the number of volunteers exceeds available equipment. A grant will allow Habitat-Morgan to purchase needed equipment and support the organization’s operations.

 Humane Society of Morgan County

Established in 1994, the mission of the Humane Society of Morgan County (HSMC) is to rescue adoptable dogs and cats from unnecessary euthanasia, either from overcrowded animal control facilities or through owner-surrender, so that the animals may live in a safe, healthy shelter until they find forever homes. The HSMC began as an all-volunteer organization using a foster network to rescue abandoned animals and to educate the public on animal care. Through a generous planned gift from a long-time supporter, the HSMC built a 5,000 square foot facility in Madison that it has operate since 2011. HSMC now has professionally trained employees, headed by a manager who previously worked for the Athens-Clarke County Humane Society. The HSMC has steadily increased rescues and adoptions to save and place approximately 425 dogs and cats each year. Under the leadership of the new manager, the number has doubled over the last few years.

Without HSMC’s adoption center and the services it offers, many animals would be euthanized and never know loving homes. Charges for animals range from $75 to $200, and do not cover the costs for food, spay/neuter, vaccinations, tests and treatments for medical needs. HSMC is a no-kill facility, so animals who are not chosen stay with us for the rest of their lives. HSMC also offers several community projects to contribute to the quality of life of Morgan County residents. One example is the Paws for Reading program. With the assistance of the animal control officer in Madison, HSMC sends dogs to Morgan County Middle School to sit with slow readers while they read aloud and assist with reading skills (students will read to dogs when they will not read to adults or peers). HSMC sends dogs to the local nursing home with a local vet to visit the elderly several times per month, much to the residents’ delight. A general operating support grant will allow HSMC to continue to offer the services and programs to Morgan County residents.

Morgan County African American Museum

Located in the Horace Moore House, circa 1895, the Morgan County African American Museum (MCAAM) opened in 1993 to research and collect, celebrate, educate and preserve the history of the African American culture. The museum envisions a community that is increasingly engaged and resilient because it understands its history and takes responsibility for building its future. MCAAM offers programs like its Youth Arts and History Initiative, which aims to help African American youth in third through 12th grades develop positive self-esteem by promoting positive racial identity.

In order to continue its work in fostering future African American leaders by strengthening the youth of today, MCAAM will begin to offer at least one competitive scholarship to a deserving graduate of Morgan County High School. Other needs of the organization include security equipment. The staff at MCAAM is small and often in the building with no other staff. MCAAM feels that having additional security equipment would increase peace of mind and safety of staff members. A grant will allow MCAAM to provide one scholarship in 2019 and purchase the needed security equipment.

Morgan County Foundation DBA Madison-Morgan Cultural Center

The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center’s mission is to enhance education and enjoyment of the arts and humanities by offering high quality permanent exhibits, temporary exhibitions, as well as performances while also preserving the historic building. The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center (MMCC) is a multi-disciplinary arts organization that was established in 1976 and is located in a restored 1895 school building. It seeks to enrich the lives of the residents of its immediate community and the broader region by presenting high quality programming and educational opportunities in the fields of visual and performing arts, history and other humanities. MMCC houses a large auditorium, the only museum of history of the Piedmont region of Georgia and three art galleries. Each summer for the past 16 years, the MMCC has brought the Madison Chamber Music Festival to its agricultural community in a variety of local venues. For 40 years, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has performed a holiday concert each December.

In December of 2015, the MMCC embarked on a $1.4M capital campaign to preserve, sustain and renovate the MMCC’s historic 1895 building. MMCC accomplished its campaign goals including the implementation of the landscape plan for the front lawn. The final goal of the capital campaign is the design, implementation and installation of new signage for the Cultural Center. This includes renovating and updating MMCC’s monument / marquee sign on the front lawn, sidewalk signs, interior and exterior signage, ADA accessible signs and ADA parking lot signs. Signage is extremely important as it makes patrons’ experiences more enjoyable, and the Cultural Center has never had adequate directional signage for our events. A grant will support the design, implementation and installation of new signage for the MMCC.

Morgan County Foundation for Excellence in Public Education

The Morgan County Foundation for Excellence in Public Education (MCFEPE) was founded in 2010 with a mission to support and enhance the educational opportunities of the public school system in Morgan County. Through its privately raised funds, MCFEPE supports innovative programs, brought to it by the Morgan County Board of Education, which might be beyond the Board of Education’s reach.

In the past, MCFEPE has supported programs including One Morgan Writers Workshop and Writers Conference, in which students learned and practiced writing through the study of above-grade-level literature. MCFEPE also works to improve the overall performance of Morgan County High School students on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, which give high performing students college credits. A grant will support an academic program targeting low-income Morgan County middle and/or high school students.

Rainbow Community Center

The mission of the Rainbow Community Center (RCC) is to minimize the impact of homelessness and facilitate the restoration of broken family relationships by sheltering, feeding and promoting literacy within the homeless population of Newton and surrounding counties. RCC provides an essential service by having different types of shelter available: an emergency program that allows for residents to stay for up to 30 days, a transitional program for residents working to grow their savings in order to move onto independence and a re-entry program for those existing the Georgia Department of Corrections. Recently RCC entered into an agreement with a Newton County judge to convert some beds for women exiting the correctional system that go mostly unused to beds for homeless veterans. Shelter residents are required to pay a nominal fee to reside in the shelter and in addition receive three full meals daily and support services. Approximately 20% of those served originate from Morgan County.

RCC has two dormitory buildings in need of new air conditioning (A/C) units. The current A/C units are more than 20 years old and are in constant need of repair; additionally, they are not energy efficient. The frequent repairs and high utility bills have become cost prohibitive, and RCC’s leaders recognize it would be more cost effective and better for the environment to replace the units. An additional challenge recently encountered by RCC is bed bugs. Bed bugs, small wingless insects that feed solely on blood, are increasingly becoming a problem within residences of all kinds, including homes, apartments, hotels and shelters. While bed bugs do not carry disease, their bite can cause allergic skin reactions in susceptible individuals. They are most abundant in rooms where people sleep, and they generally hide nearest the bed or other furniture used for sleeping. RCC’s current bed frames were built out of wood more than 10 years ago by a local Boy Scout for his Eagle Scout project. Though the bed frames are still in good condition, they are infested by bed bugs. RCC has been slowly replacing the frames, but additional financial support will allow the organization to purchase new, metal bed frames to assist in eradicating bed bugs from the shelter. A grant will support new A/C units and bed frames for the shelter.

Steffen Thomas Museum & Archives

The Steffen Thomas Museum & Archives (STMA) is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the work of Master Artist Steffen Thomas and to providing art education programs and projects for children and adults in rural northeast and Middle Georgia communities by using its large permanent collection of the artist’s work. When Steffen Thomas passed away in 1990, he left his wife, Sara Douglass Thomas, and their four children the summation of a prolific artistic career. To perpetuate Mrs. Thomas’s dream of a museum to preserve and exhibit the art for the education of future generations, a group of family, friends, art enthusiasts and members of the local community created the STMA in 1998 on land in Morgan County owned by Thomas’ oldest son. STMA’s permanent collection includes 400 sculptures, mosaics, paintings and works on paper by Steffen Thomas. In addition, there are major works on long-term loan from the artist’s family.

The Museum’s Arts Outreach Program was inspired by Steffen Thomas’ experiences with George Washington Carver and Martha Berry and his life-long advocacy of vocational education. As part of its outreach work, STMA operates the Creative Teens Earning Green (CTEG) program, a weekly art program for at-risk students at the Morgan County Crossroads School, an alternative school for middle and high school students not allowed on main campuses because of unacceptable behavior. CTEG is fully funded by STMA and led by two STMA staff members; it is also the only arts instruction students at Crossroads receive. In the curriculum-driven program, students work individually and in groups, learn that being an artist is a viable profession and collaboratively produce a public art piece that is donated to the community. Assignments given to CTEG students are based on the Georgia Performance Standards for Visual Arts, and for the past four years, the Superintendent of Morgan County Schools has authorized transcript grades for successfully-completed work, contributing to some students’ ability to graduate. CTEG has great positive impact on the students, particularly because at a time in their lives initially punitive in nature, students are afforded an opportunity via art for reflection, creativity and self-transformation. A grant will support CTEG for the current academic year.

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 About the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Since 1951, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has been connecting the passions of philanthropists with the purposes of nonprofits doing that work. With 67 years serving the 23-county Atlanta region and a robust team of experts, the Community Foundation manages the behind-the-scenes details, empowering our donors to focus on the joy of giving. The Community Foundation is a top-20 community foundation nationally with approximately $1.1 billion in current assets and is Georgia’s second largest foundation. Through its quality services and innovative leadership on community issues, the Foundation received more than $144 million from donors in 2017 and distributed more than $100 million that same year to support nonprofits throughout the region and beyond. In 2018 Charity Navigator named the Community Foundation a four-star rated nonprofit, its top distinction. For more information, visit: or connect with the Foundation via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Media Contact:
Louise Mulherin, 404.405.1070