Even in tough economic times the Champlin Foundations keep giving and this year was no exception, as it announced the award of more than $18.9 million to scores of Rhode Island non-profits this week. Of that total, 12 Warwick institutions and agencies will receive $551,370.
The grants have some people pretty excited, including Diane Greenwald, director of the Warwick Public Library.
With its $101,700 grant, Greenwald plans to transform the reference desk, a massive 40-foot long structure that has outlived its time and takes up too much space.
“It’s much more mobile; it’s about helping people,” Greenwald said. She pointed out that rather than being glued behind a reference desk, library personnel accompany people to what they are looking for and assist on how to use a computer or track down information.
The activity at the library didn’t go unnoticed by Keith Lang, executive director of the Champlin Foundations, when he paid a site visit this summer.
“The place was packed,” he said yesterday. “It really made an impression how important a library is.”
Improvements will tie in with the library teen center, which will be located in the glassed quiet study room adjacent to the reference area. A Champlin grant made last year is being used to create the center that will be open in February.
The teen center will have computers but, recognizing that teens can also be noisy, won’t carry the “quiet” label often associated with libraries. “Teens will be teens, they need a separate space,” said Greenwald.
The library has also become a community resource in these stormy economic times. Many people who can’t afford their own computers depend on the library, as evidenced during the power outages in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene when it was the place to come for Internet updates and, as Greenwald notes, to charge a cell phone.
Lang said the awards committee carefully weighed the impacts of the awards with the aim that they would serve to keep jobs as well as create new ones.
For that reason, Lang said grants were made to “keep the momentum” of ongoing projects and to have the dollars flow into the economy as quickly as possible. Capital projects prolonged by a reduction in giving, he said, were purposely temporarily shelved so that Champlin money could be used more immediately.
“We were mindful to get the money out the door,” he said.
And a lot of money – $460 million – has been distributed since the first Champlin foundation was created in 1932.
Of the $460 million, $451 million has been distributed since the death of George S. Champlin of Warwick in 1980. Every community in Rhode Island has been the recipient of at least one grant. More than 900 charities have received Champlin grants. The Champlin Foundations make direct grants, the overwhelming majority of which are for capital needs, to non-profit organizations.
Greenwald said the library has been working with architect Mark Saccoccio in creating a more flexible reference area and “one-stop” entry for those entering the facility. The banks of computer stations lining the reference area will be replaced with a flexible computer furniture arrangement with greater use of laptops. DVDs and CDs that are currently scattered throughout the library will also be centralized in the area. Also, the entire area will be re-carpeted. Project completion is slated for June 2012.
“That is all wonderful news. The fact that Champlin continues their generosity and great support of Warwick-based agencies is essential as we keep offering quality programs,” Mayor Scott Avedisian said in an e-mail.
In addition to the library, the following Warwick agencies received grants: $755 to the Gaspee Days Committee for lighting improvement to the Aspray Boathouse; $55,245 to the Warwick Museum of Art to renovate the art classroom and kitchen; $22,550 to Veterans High School for a computer lab to be used by seniors working on graduation by proficiency projects; $126,000 to the Kent Center to build out a new primary care facility in their offices; and $150,000 to Kent Hospital to equip operating rooms in the new ambulatory surgery center.
Also, $12,830 to Cornerstone Adult Services for a new hot water heater and connection to municipal sewers; $43,000 to FRIENDS Way to offset mortgage indebtedness; $21,290 to the House of Hope for washers and dryers; $7,500 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Warwick for camperships; and $10,000 to the Police Athletic League for sports equipment.
Lang said requests for funding were especially high this year. “There’s a lot of need out there,” he said, “I wish we could do everything.” He said the foundations awarded $1 for every $2.50 in requests it received.