With the help of an $8,800 grant from the Columbia Foundation, an ecumenical group plans to open the first transitional housing facility in Howard County for homeless single women struggling to become self-sufficient, said the group's president.
"Without this grant, it wouldn't happen. It's as simple as that," said Rod Summerford, president of Churches Concerned for the Homeless Inc., a group of more than 30 county churches.
The Columbia Foundation, a 25-year-old independent community foundation started by James Rouse, Columbia's developer, awarded $121,800 last week to 17 county nonprofit organizations.
The foundation awards grants semiannually to human services, educational and arts and cultural agencies, bolstering the operating budgets of existing organizations in the fall and providing seed money for new groups or programs in the spring, said Barbara K. Lawson, the executive director.
Since the previous round of grants in November, which the beneficiaries did not receive until January, the foundation has awarded $391,000 -- the most in its history. That figure includes an earlier grant of $100,000 for a performing arts center at Wilde Lake High School, a $1.2 million renovation project. Grants awarded last fall are reflected in this year's total.
The start-up grant to the church coalition will help pay housing costs for a Columbia condominium to be shared by two women making the transition from homelessness to paying for their own housing, Mr. Summerford said. The church group will provide job training, counseling, financial advice and transportation, he said, estimating the program will cost $12,000 to $13,000.
"We want to get our feet wet, go through a learning process and probably expand after that," Mr. Summerford said.
Youth for Environment and Service was awarded $1,500 to help send two county high school students to an environmental leadership training center in Bedford, Va. The county program, launched five years ago by The Mall in Columbia, is affiliated with a United Nations environmental program.
The community will see a return on the $7,000 investment to send two students to the six-week summer program, said Suellen Weisberg, the program's adviser and the mall's community events coordinator. Participants help organize plantings, stream cleanings, recycling efforts and other projects with their schools, businesses and government, she said.
The foundation received 40 grant applications for the spring cycle, about 10 to 15 more than average, Ms. Lawson said.
"The Columbia Foundation has become better known, and different organizations coming out of the recession are trying to expand programs," she said.
The foundation, which awarded $5,000 in grants during its first year in 1971 and more than $3 million since then, generates revenue from an endowment fund, donations from county businesses and individuals and an annual spring party.
In addition to grants to the church coalition and the youth environmental program, the foundation awarded:
* $20,000 to Developmental Services Group for a job training and placement service for the deaf and disabled.
* $7,500 to Each One Reach One for a summer camp for 40 at-risk middle-school students.
* $17,000 to Family & Children's Services for family counseling services for Deep Run and Laurel Woods elementary schools.
* $10,000 to Helping Hands Enrichment and Leadership Foundation for a part-time director for children's educational programs.
* $2,000 to Meals on Wheels for 300 emergency meals for the elderly.
*$5,000 to a local United Way group to help establish a grant office for community service organizations.
* $25,000 to Columbia Festival of the Arts for the annual festival.
* $10,000 to the Columbia School of Theatrical Arts for a children's production.
* $2,000 to the Ellicott City Ballet Guild for a dance festival.
* $3,000 to Howard Community College Educational Foundation for a performing arts series.
* $2,000 to the Elkridge Heritage Society to replace the heating system in Brumbaugh House Museum.
* $2,000 to Historic Ellicott City Inc. for the expansion of a Civil War re-enactment program.
* $3,000 to the Howard County Conservancy for a part-time land trust director.
*$2,000 to the Lazarus Foundation to restore and redistribute donated computer equipment to human services groups.
* $1,000 to Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group for signs, text and audio equipment for visitors to the Patapsco Female Institute.