Local nonprofits present requests for grant money

News Reporter

Representatives from Central Texas nonprofits are vying for federal grant money from the San Marcos City Council for their organizations.

The City of San Marcos receives funds through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) each year. These funds are to be distributed in part to organizations that assist low- to moderate-income members of the community, according to the San Marcos Department of Planning and Development services. The amount of CDBG funding awarded to the city this year totaled $491,929,000, which is about $22,000 less than the city was granted in 2013, said Janis Hendrix, community initiatives administrator for the City of San Marcos.

“The public hearing is an opportunity for citizens to talk directly to council, to make suggestions as to how they’d like to see our funding for next year laid out,” Hendrix said.

According to the Department of Planning and Development services, San Marcos receives it share of federal funding based on U.S. Census Bureau demographic statistics.  

Non-profits pled their cases to the city councilmembers in their April 15 meeting.

Former city councilmember Kim Porterfield spoke in support of allocating funds to United Way, with which she has been a volunteer for over 20 years.

Porterfield emphasized the importance of selecting proposals that advance the city’s goals for economic development and its comprehensive youth and master plans. 
“Hundreds have been served through the funding you provided last year,” Porterfield said. “The United Way makes sure that efforts are coordinated, not duplicated, and we get the most bang for our buck that we can.”

Gene Martin, resident service director of San Marcos Housing Authority, presented a plan to combine horticulture and aquaponics with public housing, an arrangement he said would provide low-income residents with a sustainable living system and allow them to safely produce their own organic food.

“Our goal is to create an interdisciplinary collaboration with Texas State University’s agricultural and aquatic biology programs to help manage the facility,” Martin said.

University students would conduct routine maintenance and monitoring of the conservatory while teaching residents about the science involved in food production, Martin said.

Councilmembers heard requests ranging from Sustainable San Marcos’ need for two paid staff positions to Court Appointed Special Advocates of Central Texas’s request that the city finish paving the road leading up to the site of its new facility.

“The reality is very simple,” said Marla Johnson, executive director of Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center. “The demand for these services is going up. The state and federal funds that used to support them in the past are going down. We need our local community to help us meet this need.”

The Women’s Center is a shelter asking for $25,000 to provide resources to victims of physical and sexual abuse.

Last year, the city awarded CDBG funding to United Way, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Central Texas, The Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center, the Scheib Center and the Southside Community Center Housing Rehabilitation Program, according to Planning and Development Services.

Porterfield said she understands the allocation of funds will be a difficult decision for city council to make due to the amount of requests and the cuts from the federal government.

“Roads are nice and programs that you have not funded before could be nice, but they’re not proven,” Porterfield said.

Applications submitted by organizations will be officially reviewed at the May 6 city council meeting and funds will be awarded at the May 20 meeting, Hendrix said.

“It only takes an hour a week for a volunteer to make a difference in a child’s life,” said Michelle Harper, executive director of United Way of Hays County. “But it takes money to make those programs happen.”