17 local nonprofit organizations received a total of $84,560 in support of a variety of programs and projects aimed at serving the needs of Henderson County residents. Funding for the grants was made possible thanks to the Edwin A. Blue and Janice Owen Miller Charitable Fund held at East Texas Communities Foundation in Tyler.     

Nonprofits play a key role in improving community conditions and enhancing the quality of life for vulnerable populations, according to Mary Lynn Smith, Program Officer at East Texas Communities Foundation.

“The committee wanted to make more of an impact with their grant recommendations this year focusing on education, human services and health,” said Smith. “By focusing on these areas, grants from the fund will provide the services and resources that are vital to a healthy and stronger community.”

Miller fund committee members granted 56% of available funds to address critical health needs in the county. “Providing hunger-relief to Henderson County families was a priority this year,” said Smith. “Data provided by Feeding America shows that 19% of the adult population and 27% of children in Henderson County are experiencing food insecurity. Providing people access to quality food on a regular basis improves health outcomes.”

Henderson County Food Pantry received one of the grants from the Miller fund. HCFP is a volunteer ran organization that is expecting to serve 10,000 Henderson County residents this year. The food pantry serves clients four times a year or more if circumstances change their status, such as another member added to the household, unexpected medical bills, loss of housing, or loss of employment.  “We are very pleased to be receiving this grant,” said Linda Horton, board president at Henderson County Food Pantry. “The grant will be used to purchase high-quality, lower fat proteins for our clients.”

Malakoff Education Foundation also received funding from the Miller Fund. The grant will be used to award innovative teaching grants to the staff of Malakoff Independent School District which serves approximately 1,300 students. “The state's conservative economy continues to fund school districts at a lower rate, many school districts, including Malakoff ISD, no longer have discretionary funds for services and activities that exceed minimum needs and requirements,” said Mike Burns, Board Member for Malakoff Education Foundation.  “The current financial environment calls for finding new resources to assist in building and increasing excellence in the classroom, which is the mission of the Malakoff Education Foundation.”

 The Malakoff Education Foundation was formed in 2012 and has awarded nearly $175,000 in classroom grants over the past six years.

ETCF seeks strong projects based on good ideas and compelling needs which have the potential to improve the Henderson County community and the lives of its people. Applicants are limited to non-profits with 501(c)(3) status or governmental entities providing services in Henderson County, Texas. Grant requests for support in the areas of education, health, human services, environment, and the arts are welcome. A grant committee composed of representatives of Henderson County reviewed all grant applications.

“Mrs. Miller was a generous benefactor during her lifetime, giving both her time and her resources to many groups and worthy causes in and around Athens,” said Kyle Penney, President of East Texas Communities Foundation. “Mrs. Miller made plans before her death in 2007 to establish an endowment fund that continues to fulfill her charitable objectives in her beloved community.”

Other non-profits serving Henderson County that received grants include: The Ark Campus Ministry for student fellowship gatherings and internet updates; Athens Public Education Foundation for creative teaching projects; Athens Samaritans/ Labor of Love for roofers and plumbers; CASA of Trinity County for recruiter to increase number of volunteers; Community Food Pantry in Tool to purchase nutritional foods; East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society for tiller, equipment and compost; East Texas Food Bank fresh produce program for partner agencies; Faith in Action Outreach for the weekend backpack program; First Baptist Church Athens Clothing ministries to purchase shoes for Athens ISD students; First Christian Church’s Pastoral counseling ministry for client support; GoBus East Texas Council on Governments to provide free ride service for senior adults; Maggie’s House (HELP Center) for counseling sessions for victims of abuse or neglect; Library at Cedar Creek Lake to purchase STEM materials; Public Library Fund to provide BookPacks; Texas Shakespeare Festival to subsidize production cost and associated curriculum units at 5 schools in the county.