Metro Springfield Community Response Grants Address Poverty, Early-Childhood, Other Needs

The scenario is every parent’s worst nightmare. A young girl has been invited to a slumber party, and at that party an adult member of the host family attempts to coerce her into another room, thinking she’ll go along with whatever he says. But the girl says “no.” She runs away. She calls her mother. Upon arriving, the mother asks her “How did you know to do that?” And the girl says, “Because I heard Miss Mindy speak at school.”

Miss Mindy Munoz works for The Victim Center, and this anecdote was shared by the Center’s Executive Director, Nancy Berlin, at Wednesday’s Metro Springfield Community Response Challenge Grant presentation.

“This is an outcome,” Berlin said of the young girl’s story. “This is what this grant will be able to help sustain.”

The Victim Center and 12 other Springfield metro-area organizations shared $125,000 in matching grants, doubling amounts they had already raised individually, for a total of $250,000 to support programs representing early childhood development, hunger, health and human services, education, and housing stabilization.

This is the third year the CFO has offered the competitive matching grants tied to the Community Focus Report, which released its 5th edition in Fall 2011. The CFO is a partner in producing the report, along with the United Way of the Ozarks, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Springfield-Greene County Library District and the Junior League of Springfield, to develop a broad-based consensus on the community’s strengths and challenges. You can read the current and past Community Focus Reports at

Projects that will benefit from the funds include a collaborative effort aimed at fighting poverty, organized by Community Partnership of the Ozarks, that will attempt to re-engage Springfield’s low-income neighborhoods in civic activity through the Everyday Democracy project.

“One area that poverty has an impact is participatory inequality; lower-income people don’t get civically engaged,” said Janet Dankert with Community Partnership. “Our goal is to raise participatory democracy.”

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) plans to use the funds to increase its volunteer base by 75 percent of the next year, said Co-Interim Director Matthew Evans. “In Greene County last year there were more than 1,100 children in the foster system, and we were only able to serve about 23 percent of those,” Evans said. “The more volunteers we have, the better chance we have to serve those kids.”

Another innovative project that has seen success is the Ronald McDonald House Tooth Truck’s in-school brushing program, where children age 3-5 are taught healthy brushing habits and supplied with everything from tooth brushes to toothpaste to the cups to rinse with. More than 230 children have been helped so far, many of them with special needs.

The Metro Springfield Community Response Grants are intended for organizations with the financial capacity to match the grant, and for programs that have been proven to work. CFO President Brian Fogle told the recipients that it’s because of their energy that programs like this work, and our community is maintaining  a foothold in a turbulent time.

“We’re fortunate to have people like you who go out every day and try to make a difference,” Fogle said. “It’s not the programs, necessarily, that make the difference, but because you care.”