Soroptimists distribute Festival of Trees grants

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer February 28, 2014 09:40 am

The Soroptimist Club of La Grande awarded $32,000 worth of grants during a luncheon Thursday at Island City City Hall. The grant money was raised through the groupís annual Festival of Trees event. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
The Soroptimist Club of La Grande awarded $32,000 worth of grants during a luncheon Thursday at Island City City Hall. The grant money was raised through the groupís annual Festival of Trees event. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

ISLAND CITY — Money does grow on trees — in a way.

The Soroptimist Club of La Grande handed out $32,000 in Festival of Trees grants Thursday during a luncheon at Island City City Hall. 

“We were able to fully fund all grant applications,” said Amy Briels, club president, “and we still have money left over from the 2013 Festival of Trees.”

The event happens each year the first full weekend after Thanksgiving weekend. One tree this year sold for more than $8,000.

People who want to apply for grants from the leftover funds can contact a Soroptimist member. The grants must be for projects that occur by Dec. 31, Briels said.

Among the grant recipients was the Eastern Oregon University continuing education GED program, which received $4,000.

Kathy Torchlell, representing the program, said there are no remaining GED classes in Union County, which is an obstacle for students.

“This way, we can provide scholarships for students so they are ready for college or trade schools,” she said.

Also receiving a grant, this one for $2,000, was the La Grande High School Aspire program. Lezlie Wright, Career Center coordinator, said the program brings volunteer mentors to work one on one with students to help them figure out what to do after high school.

“Nearly 100 kids signed up,” Wright said, “and many of them have no support at home. The mentor will tell them, ‘You can do this,’ whether it is applying for college or getting into the trade world. It’s very rewarding for the mentor to see the students become more confident.”

Handing out money

Others receiving grants included:

• Union County First Book, $1,000

• La Grande Parks Mobile Fun Unit, $2,000.

• Community Connection Kids Club, $3,000.

• Imbler Education Foundation, $1,000.

• Northeast Oregon Health Education Center, $3,500.

• Union County CASA, $1,000.

• ArtsEast Union County Children’s Choir, $1,500.

• EOU Writing Project, $1,000.

• LHS PTO, $2,000.

• Anthony Lakes Ski Racing Association, $1,024.

• La Grande Safe Communities Coalition, $2,000.