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Charities get Washington County Gaming Commission funds

February 10, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

The Washington County Gaming Commission distributed almost $722,167 to 77 different charitable organizations on Tuesday, funding nearly eight out of every 10 requests.

Together with the $481,445 that went to the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association, which by law must receive 40 percent of the funding, the Gaming Commission gave a record $1.2 million.

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The commission received applications totaling more than $1.6 million, also a record.

"I'd say this was one of the most difficult times," said Gaming Commission Chairman Fred Rohrer. "Every decision that has been made was made honestly."

Rohrer said it is impossible to make everyone happy when applications total twice the money available.

"That's a tough thing to try to deal with You try to reach those that really need it," he said.

The Gaming Commission distributes money to nonprofit organizations twice a year. The money comes from a percentage of gambling profits that private clubs and taverns must pay.

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Clubs pay 15 percent of their profits from tip jars, a popular game of chance in Washington County. Taverns must contribute half of their tip jar profits.

Food Resources Inc. led all nonprofits with a $42,000 donation to fund a new walk-in freezer and operating expenses.

The Community Free Clinic and the Washington County Agricultural Education Center received $40,000 each, Children's Village got $31,900 and Senior Living Alternatives rounded out the top five with $30,000.

The Hagerstown YMCA, which applied for $32,462 to support its residential male housing program and hire a part-time staff member, got a $20,000 grant.

Michael Flicek, the YMCA's executive director, said he was happy with the grant, even though it was less than the organization asked for.

"Anything that people can assist others with is more than welcome here," he said. "We really appreciate what the Gaming Commission has allowed us to do here at the Y."

REACH Inc., which operates the Washington County Cold Weather Shelter, received $25,000 of its $56,581 request. Director Terri Baker said she realizes that competition for Gaming Commission grants is growing stiffer.

"We're really thankful for whatever we can get Of course, we always could use more," she said.

Baker said REACH was hoping to raise enough money to pay for security at the downtown Hagerstown homeless shelter.

"We'll have to find other resources," she said.

Not everyone was happy with the funding decisions.

A number of groups received no funding, either because the Gaming Commission did not consider them worthy or because the applications did not meet the criteria.

The Clear Spring Lions Club applied for $9,200 but was rejected because it gives donations to other groups.

Gerald Ditto, vice president of the organization, said the Lions Cub wanted to fund additional scholarships and support programs that purchase eye glasses and hospital equipment for people in need.

"There may need to be some changes," he said. "I certainly think that our request is as legitimate as any other We're having a very difficult time meeting all of the requests that come to us."

Gaming Commission members said they will work on guidelines that better explain the commission's rules for the next round of applications, which are due in May.

The Gaming Commission's lawyer, William McC. Schildt, wrote a letter explaining his belief that religious groups, veterans organizations and fraternal clubs do not qualify as "bona fide" charitable organizations.

As a result, the commission members rejected a $5,000 request by the Clear Spring American Legion.

The commission also amended its list and denied funding for the Washington County Joint Veterans Council, which tentatively had been slated to receive $3,000.

The beneficiary was Turning Point of Washington County, which helps mentally ill people function in society.

The commission approved a motion by member Curt Dudda to transfer the $3,000 to Turning Point. The group, which got $18,000, had asked for $45,000 to convert to a cash-flow program that changed the way it receives funding from the government.

"We haven't had the need to request this assistance in the past, so we don't take this sort of thing lightly," said Roger Larson, the group's executive director.

Dudda said the commission struggled with a $5,228 grant to the Washington County Fire Police to pay for emergency light sticks. Dudda said the commission members felt the safety need was great, but that the Fire and Rescue Association should have been able to pay for the items out of the $481,445 it received from the commission.

"This was an exception that will stand only as an exception this one time," he said.

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