Four local groups share in more than $23,000 in grants awarded by John Harris Community Fund this week.

Children's Advocacy Center, youth soccer, library and Grace Manor are recipients

Four Shelby County organizations were on the receiving end of more than $23,000 worth of grants awarded from the John Harris Community Fund this week.

The Shelby County Children's Advocacy Center and the Shelby County Youth Soccer Assocation each received grants of $10,000. Grace Manor received a $2,300 grant for foster home safety kits while the Fannie Brown Booth Memorial Library was awarded $1,085 for it's graphic novel program.

Grants from the John Harris Community Fund held at East Texas Communities Foundation (ETCF) in Tyler were awarded on Tuesday.

Shelby County Children’s Advocacy Center received funds to purchase forensic interview equipment in order to better preserve evidence as part of an investigation for victims of suspected abuse.

“New recording equipment is critical to our capturing quality audio during an interview with a victim,” said Denise Merriman, Executive Director of Shelby County Children’s Advocacy Center. “In the past, using the old technology, we lost an interview and had to bring the victim back to be interviewed again.

“As you can imagine, this can be very traumatic,” she said. “With the assistance of this grant, we can update our aging equipment and provide a better experience for our clients and assist local law enforcement get the information they need.”

On average, Shelby County Children’s Advocacy Center (SCCAC) serves 200 unique child victims each year. The SCCAC provides a full spectrum of services to child victims and their non-offending caregivers. Services include training programs regarding child abuse prevention, detection, and reporting to law enforcement, personnel, teachers and local school personnel, and to parents and children directly.

The $10,000 grant awarded to the Shelby County Youth Soccer Association through the City of Center will be used for improvements at the new soccer fields being prepared for use by youth soccer teams next spring. The Ballard Street Soccer Complex will have three adult soccer fields which can be divided into smaller fields for younger players, said Hector Pineda, president of the association.

“We have about 200 kids in the program and it's growing,” Pineda said. Improvements being made to the fields have also been aided by donations from the Center Noon Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Center, he said.

Center City Manager Chad Nehring said the completion of the fields by next spring will get lots of use.

“They will provide a safe place for kids after school and on weekends,” Nehring said. While the city has done work, or is planning work on the fields such as site work, irrigation and installation of lighting, the Harris Foundation Grant funds will fund construction of a stone monument park entrance at the soccer complex benefiting the Shelby County Youth Soccer program.

The Fannie Brown Booth Memorial Library received a grant from the Harris Community Fund to purchase new graphic novels. “Graphic novels are one of the fastest growing categories in publishing,” said Cassaundra Neal, Grant Coordinator at the library. “Our Graphic Novel Program has been a great success in our library and attracts all age groups.”

Adding books like graphic novels will allow us to reach those in our community who have a hard time reading traditional materials, Neal said. “These nontraditional materials attract new readers,” said Neal. “Reluctant readers or people with learning disabilities realize through our addition of graphic novels, that there is something for them at the library.”

The Fannie Brown Booth Memorial Library provides free services to all residents living in Shelby County and surrounding areas.  The library has been open to the public since the 1950's and in its current location since 1974.   In 2018, the library had 11,221 visitors, with an additional 12,667 computer and WIFI users. 

John Reagan Harris was a generous benefactor, giving both his time and his resources to many groups and worthy causes in and around Center,” said Kyle Penney, President of East Texas Communities Foundation. “The John Harris Community Fund was established to support worthy civic, religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational projects which benefit the Center, Texas community.”

ETCF seeks strong projects based on good ideas and compelling needs which have the potential to improve the Center, Texas community and the lives of its people. Applicants are limited to non-profits with 501(c)(3) status Funding will be awarded to support current projects and programs or to establish new projects/programs. Requests for general operating support are discouraged. Applicants must be tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status or a governmental unit.