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Panel awards gaming funds to area nonprofits

August 09, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - While many of the 83 nonprofit groups awarded money Tuesday received thousands of dollars for programs geared toward helping senior citizens, the homeless and others in need, William Beard's group got $551.

And he was happy. It was all he requested.

"That's what we asked for," said Beard, executive director of Corporation for Assistive Technology.

The nonprofit organization builds wheelchair ramps for disabled Washington County residents so they can remain in their homes.

"I don't like to ask for more than I need, and the (Washington County) Gaming Commission has been very good to us over the years," Beard said.

The Gaming Commission distributed $2.88 million to charitable organizations and the Washington County Fire and Rescue Association at Tuesday's Washington County Commissioners meeting.

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The money was generated by tip jars played in the county's clubs, taverns, liquor stores and restaurants in fiscal year 2006.

The amount distributed Tuesday was 4 percent less than the more than $3 million given out in fiscal year 2005. Gaming Commission Chairman William McKinley said the commission doesn't know what caused the decrease.

"It could be anybody's guess," McKinley said.

Since it was established by the state legislature in 1995, the commission has distributed more than $31.5 million to charitable groups, and fire and rescue companies in the county, according to a written statement from the county.

By law, the fire and rescue association must receive half of the amount distributed.

The association's share was $1.44 million.

County Commissioner Doris J. Nipps applauded the work of the Gaming Commission and the county's gaming program.

"If it wasn't there, where would this money come from?" Nipps asked.

B. Marie Byers, interim director for Discovery Station at Hagerstown Inc., said Tuesday that a volunteer said a prayer before the interactive science center opened the Gaming Commission's letter.

The letter turned out to be good news, in the form of a $35,091 grant.

"I'm happy," Byers said. "The volunteer staff ... they were just elated."

Byers, who said the downtown Hagerstown center continues to struggle with its finances, said the grant will fully fund two traveling exhibits and help with operation costs. It will still need corporate donors to help out, she said.

"It's a challenge to keep operating," she said. "We don't give up."

Another organization struggling with budget pressures also received help from the gaming commission. Community Free Clinic, which stopped taking new patients last month because of its financial woes, received $175,000, the largest amount awarded Tuesday.

Millie Lowman, executive director of the Parent-Child Center, said the center was thrilled when it learned it would receive $30,000 from the gaming commission.

"You hope and you don't know until you see that little piece of paper," Lowman said.

She said the money will help pay for the center's four programs that include assisting pregnant teenagers and providing parenting skills.

The center serves about 70 families a day, and all of its serves are free, Lowman said.

"The gaming commission allows us to keep our doors open, so we're really excited," she said.

Byers said the gaming commission's support provided a boost for Discovery Station.

"We are absolutely just so happy for the support from the gaming commission, for financial support and also moral support," Byers said. "We're just very glad that the gaming commission recognizes our hard work and that we are a benefit to the community."

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