Monroe County awards $120K in Sophia Travis community service grants

Community service grants to 36 organizations totaling $120,000 were announced and approved by Monroe County Council at its work session Tuesday evening.

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Monroe County Councilor, Marty Hawk. July 23, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The grant program was renamed six years ago in honor of Sophia Travis, who served on the County Council from 2004 to 2008. She worked as a councilor to “assure the applications for the limited funds available for support would be considered in a fair, even-handed and transparent process,” according to the renaming resolution.

Serving on the committee that made the grant awards this year were councilors Cheryl Munson, Eric Spoonmore and Kate Wiltz with citizen members Frankie Preslaff and Rachel Guglielmo. The awards were read aloud at the meeting by Guglielmo. Committee chair Munson put the number of clients served by the organizations who applied for grants at 91,000 people.

This year the highest 10 awards were granted to Community Kitchen of Monroe County, Inc. ($6,700), Big Brothers Big Sisters ($6,500), South Central Community Action Program ($5,750), Society of St. Vincent de Paul ($5,400), Grace Center, Inc ($5,400), Safe Families for Children ($5,300), Planned Parenthood ($5,300), New Leaf New Life ($5,000), Indiana Recovery Alliance ($5,000) and Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington ($5,000).

The total figure of $120,000 is the same as last year and $25,000 more than in 2008. In the dozen years since 2008 (including this year) a total of $1,258,900 has been granted by the county to organizations for various aspects of community service.

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Monroe County Councilor Kate Wiltz, July 23, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Wiltz said the committee work was educational—she’d learned what’s going on in the community and the work the applicants are doing. She called the choices made by the committee “tough decision making” and thanked everyone who applied.

According to the resolution approved by Monroe County Council, 37 applications were received requesting $241,597.91 support, about twice the amount that was available to distribute.

During the time for councilors to comment, Munson called the Sophia Travis committee the “best committee in all of county government.” She also called it the “hardest committee in county government.”

Drawing criticism from about 10 people during public commentary were two grants—to Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky ($5,300) and All Options Pregnancy Resource Center ($3,900). The criticism was based on support of abortion by those organizations.

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Monroe County Councilor Cheryl Munson, July 23, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

During public commentary, Scott Tibbs told councilors he’d been speaking against the funding of organizations like Planned Parenthood since 1999. He said Planned Parenthood has enough funding and does not need the grants awarded by Monroe County. He asked councilors not to force pro-life taxpayers to fund organizations they find morally abominable.

Cathi Crabtree spoke in support of Planned Parenthood, describing them as inclusive and non-discriminatory organizations that provide services to “people, actual living people…who need these services.” Abortion was not on debate that night, she said.

Spoonmore said he would support the recommendations, calling his service on the committee his “greatest privilege.” He thanked those who came to speak about the grants for taking the time to come to the meeting.

Councilor Marty Hawk voted against the awards, based on the grants to Planned Parenthood and All Options. She said she didn’t think it would surprise anyone that she was voting against the resolution on the grants—she’s done that in the past—but said she supported the work of the other organizations.

Hawk said she appreciated the fact that the grant committee works well and regretted that the public comment focussed on the topic on which the community was divided. “There’s many things we’re together on,” she said.

In past years, the Council has separated out the votes on the grant to Planned Parenthood from those to other organizations, and Hawk has voted for the other grants but against the one to Planned Parenthood.

Asked in a phone interview why that wasn’t done this time around, Hawk said that dividing the question would have required a motion from her, a second from another councilor, discussion of the motion, and an opportunity for public comment on the vote to divide the question.

Hawk said it would have seemed like she was making “more of a political point.” She said, “I really regret that any of this has to be about politics because we had some many good things that we were supporting.” She said she would never vote for anything tied to support of abortion.

The resolution to award the grants was approved on a 4–1 vote among the five members present from the seven-member County Council.