Pure Nebraska: Celebrating a milestone, making a difference

Originally published on 10/11’s Pure Nebraska Program

The Perkins County Community Foundation Fund is celebrating a milestone 20-year anniversary, and its impact can be seen and felt everywhere you look.

During a recent visit to Grant, we learned all about the foundation fund, along with the group’s work and grantmaking efforts. “The Perkins County Community Foundation Fund is here for the whole county,” PCCFF treasurer Michelle Ross said. “This includes communities like Elsie, Madrid, Grant and Venango. We are here to support any projects they have.” The fund has a strong history in the county. “The reason it was formed is Becky Uehling started it,” Ross said. “She heard about Nebraska Community Foundation having a meeting in Paxton and she wanted to check it out. By going with Nebraska Community Foundation, that helped us start our own foundation fund, so donors could have that tax contribution, and help us keep our small towns growing.”

The foundation fund has been very active in Perkins County. “One of the highlights I like was the first sub-account that we had,” Ross said. “It was with an Eagle Scout Project. We have a veteran’s memorial. An Eagle Scout decided to build that memorial. We didn’t have one, and so we helped with that in setting up a sub-account for the project.” Not only that, but the foundation fund has played a big role in a new aquatic center for the community. “They started it in 2015, and we finished it in 2022,” Ross said. “Now we have a nice, wonderful pool for everyone to use.”

There are many other achievements. Perkins County Community Foundation Fund vice-chair Rodolfo Aragon felt that a local English as a Second Language program needed to get started. “For me that was my suggestion,” Aragon said. “The group saw that it was a good idea, and it was something they had in mind for a long time. I started helping with that.” As you might imagine, the program has affected many lives in a positive way by helping people communicate. “And it’s bigger than that,” Aragon said. “It helps everyone share their culture. Understanding the culture you are in. That’s why we started the program, as a way to help better the community.” The foundation fund is also helping with housing needs, according to Amy Thelander with the Southwest Nebraska Community Betterment Corporation. “We actually collaborated and partnered with the Perkins County Community Foundation Fund, where we completed the construction of one new home here in Grant,” Thelander said. “It has sold to a young couple that has relocated. Also, we are working on our second home, and we are currently in the process of building it.”

But it’s not just housing or English language programs that PCCFF is supporting. The foundation fund has also brought many benefits to the Perkins County Historical Society. “The main focus of the foundation’s contributions to the museum has been helping us to maintain the structural integrity on our buildings,” Perkins County Historical Society President Brenda Styskal said. “One project we did that was quite extensive was to repair the wrap around porch on our museum, and the two side porches. If that had not been accomplished, those porches would have literally ripped the front off the house.”

In many ways, the fund has helped make life better in Perkins County. As it celebrates 20 years, there are more goals for the future. “The village of Venango just completed a playground in the spring,” Ross said. “In Elsie, they have their funds completed, and that community will have a new playground in September. All of the small towns that are coming up with playgrounds and projects, that’s what we are hoping to support.” There’s also a goal to continue promoting the PCCFF in the community, and to continue getting the message out about what the fund does. “When it comes to communication and promotion, there’s still a lot to be done,” Aragon said. “Just like me at first, a lot of people don’t understand how the foundation works.” Fund advisory committee members hope to continue working to change that. “Eventually the foundation is going to help with huge projects,” Aragon said. “Look at what they’ve done in 20 years. In another 20 years, they’ll be able to continue with projects that change the community for the good.”

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