Visalia funds a dozen youth programs for 2022

Visalia City Council approves $65,000 for 12 nonprofits offering programs from toy drives to horse rides

VISALIA – A dozen nonprofits serving youth in Visalia received a share of $65,000 for 2022.

The Visalia City Council approved its annual Youth Nonprofit Grant awards at its Dec. 20 meeting. The 12 nonprofits will use the money to fund a variety of programs ranging from toy drives to horse rides. Nonprofits had until Nov. 19 to submit proposals for funding to the city’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), which formed a subcommittee to review the applications and make a consensus recommendation to the full CAC committee, which adopted the recommendation on Dec. 2. The recommendation funded 12 of the 14 proposals the city received.

“One of the other things we take into consideration is the ability to meet, too, to engage children across lots of different interests and backgrounds,” CAC chair Carla Calhoun said. “And I felt like we did that and we managed to meet that.”

Mayor Steve Nelsen asked why ImagineU Children’s Museum got less funding than it requested. The interactive museum provides a place for the wonder of imagination, excitement of exploration and love of learning. The nonprofit requested $6,000 to help fund a new exhibit children can play and dress like firefighters, police officers and paramedics. The exhibit is scheduled to open in fall 2022 but the CAC only recommended $2,000 for the project.

“Wasn’t there a way to arbitrarily take a little bit from the other 11, for ImagineU’s shield exhibit, which is for all the children in Visalia?,” Nelsen asked. “I’m just curious how this decision was made.

Calhoun said ImagineU’s request was ranked lower than others because the funding does not directly serve children but rather helps to build a new exhibit.

“But we didn’t want to completely not fund ImagineU’s new exhibit because of course it will benefit children in the future,” Calhoun said.

ImagineU wasn’t the only nonprofit to receive less funding than it requested. Neighborhood Church requested $6,500 for its program to provide laptops to former Houston Elementary School students but the program was only recommended for $6,010 because the CAC felt other funding sources could cover the gap. While Visalia Unified provides every student with a laptop during the school year, students enrolled in the church’s Neighborhood Degree Program are provided laptops to use at home during the summer and as they go off to college. The CAC received requests totaling $82,490 this year, $17,000 more than the $65,000 it was allocated.

“We had to make some hard decisions,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun went on to say two other organizations were not recommended for funding at all. Schrank’s Clubhouse Visalia requested $6,500 for its Teen Support Program offering group sessions in grief, depression, anxiety, addiction and emotional processing for students in middle and high school. Calhoun said there were concerns over the nonprofits qualifications for providing mental health and substance abuse services and that it had only been providing services since 2019.

The other nonprofit not recommended for funding was the Civil Air Patrol. The Visalia squadron requested $6,500 for its cadet program for students ages 12-19. Formally known as the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol’s cadet program offers a curriculum that focuses on leadership, aerospace, fitness, and character. Many of the nation’s astronauts, pilots, engineers, and scientists first explored their careers through Civil Air Patrol. Calhoun said the program wasn’t funded because it wasn’t likely to serve a large number of Visalia youth as the Visalia squadron serves a large area including Kings County.

Councilmember Greg Collins pulled the item of the consent calendar for a separate vote in order to lobby the rest of the council to offer more funding for the youth grant program. The grants are part of Measure N money set aside for youth programs. As part of the initial Measure N spending plan, the city council directed 2% of the 10% Maintenance and Emerging Needs Fund to fund youth programs.

“It’s been a number of years since we’ve increased this … but hopefully next year, we can bump this up a little given that it’s going to worthwhile efforts dealing with our youth and keeping them on a positive note.”

The city council voted 4-0 to approve grants as Councilmember Brett Taylor was absent.

The following is a breakdown of the remaining nonprofits which were awarded funding and the programs they provide:

American GI Forum – Visalia Chapter: The local chapter of this congressionally approved outreach for veterans, was approved for $6,500 too support the Northside Boxing Club. This national nonprofit has taught boxing out of the Wittman Community Center for three decades as a delinquency deterrent and alternative to gang affiliation. The club provides a positive environment for youth offering physical fitness, educational and recreational activities, social and behavioral skills to improve decision making and critical thinking.

Arts Visalia: Arts Visalia offers art classes for children all levels at its visual art center, 214 E. Oak Ave. Beginners to advanced artists explore their creativity, expand their technical skills and learn at their own pace. The nonprofit received $6,500 to provide scholarships for students who cannot afford the classes, which range from $50 to $70 per class.

Assistance League: The Visalia chapter of this national organization will use the city’s $6,500 grant to provide shoes, socks, books and hygiene kits to students in Visalia Unified School District. The local chapter, which was established locally in 1996, receives funding from cities, private foundations, fundraisers and individual donors to serve students all over Tulare County. From 2019-2021, Assistance League provided clothing for nearly 17,000 students, books for more than 9,000 students and hygiene kits for about 1,500 students in 10 different communities.

Care Pregnancy Resource Center: Is an faith-based nonprofit offering education services helping young parents prepare for and care for their baby during pregnancy as an alternative to abortions. The city’s $6,500 grant will be used for its Parenting Classes and Life Coaching.

CASA of Tulare County: Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, received $6,490 to provide environmental education for children in the foster care system. CASA volunteers are trained to advocate for abused and neglected children in the foster care system. Each child is appointed an advocate until the age out of the system or find permanent placement in a home.

Cultural Heritage Foundation of Tulare County: This organization received $6,500 for “youth-led projects” in Visalia.

Friends of Tulare County: The nonprofit is dedicated to promoting the safety, health and well-being of underrepresented Tulare County residents. One of its best-known programs is the toy drive for children under the umbrella of Tulare County Child Welfare Services. Friends of Tulare County received $5,000 to support the toy drive which was unable to take toy donations during the pandemic, so funding became increasingly important. Gifts are typically distributed each year during the first week of December.

Happy Trails Riding Academy: This nonprofit works with children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities through equine-assisted therapy. It provides an atmosphere to teach companionship, responsibility, leadership, vocational and educational skills, as a well as offer competition venues. Riding a horse provides a unique and often profound recreational or leisure activity for many people. Happy Trails received $2,500 to support its therapeutic riding class for children with disabilities.

Kiwanis Club of Visalia: The Downtown Kiwanis Club will be using $4,000 from the city to for student nature immersion programs.

University Preparatory High School: The county-run high school has launched a robotics team, known as Arborbotics, which teaches students to use engineering and computer science software to design a robot to assist human individuals. The $6,500 grant will help fund the UPHS team which took first place at the Madtown Throwdown robotics competition in Madera on Nov. 13, 2021. The win earned them a spot at the first regional robotics competition on March 30, 2022.

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