Area cashes in on Gates grants

The grants are intended to provide resources for residents as they look for work or seek support for basic needs.

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Walla Walla is the beneficiary of grants given today by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in ceremonies in Seattle and Spokane.

The Blue Mountain Community Foundation, Blue Mountain Action Council Volunteer Attorney Program and the state's public library system were recipients of some of the more than $4 million in 12 grants announced today by the Gates Foundation.

The grants are intended to provide greater resources for residents as they look for work or seek support for basic needs, including food and family programs. Funds will also help to provide legal services for low-income families who face increasing economic hardship or unsafe living conditions, a press release said.

Blue Mountain Community Foundation is one of 10 community foundations splitting $672,000. The Walla Walla agency was given $60,000 to help area residents have a basic standard of living

Accomplishing that will echo what many agencies here are already striving for, said Lawson Knight, executive director of BMCF. "This grant could not be more timely. At a time when increasing numbers of residents are coping with the stresses of this economic downturn, area nonprofits are seeing increased demand for service."

The agency's endowment fund that supports service providers has been impacted, too, Knight said. "This support will go a long way to helping families stretch their incomes and build assets. It will widen access to health care, support children and families and strengthen neighborhoods."

The Walla Walla organization will begin distributing its share of the Gates Foundation grant no later than Dec. 1, channeling the money to area providers -- in particular those that are meeting needs in new ways, such as Commitment to Community and Lincoln Health Center, Knight said.

"The money is meant to go beyond basic budgets. It's meant to improve access to and improve emergency (social) services for families."

While the first round of funds will go into relationships already established with Blue Mountain Community Foundation, the director is interested in talking to others who have ideas of how to provide basic needs for families, he said.

The Washington State Library System received $400,000 for 17 public libraries around the state and that will impact Walla Walla, a spokeswoman for the Gates Foundation said today.

However, specific monetary numbers for that and the Blue Mountain Action Council Volunteer Attorney Program were not available by press time today.

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