In April, Hope 2 All's building in Drakesboro experienced a fire.

Thanks to a recent $20,500 grant from the Felix E. Martin Jr. Foundation, the Muhlenberg County food pantry is expanding and improving.

"We are rising from the ashes," said Larry Chandler, Hope 2 All's director of operations.

On Monday, the Felix E. Martin Jr. Foundation announced more than $150,000 in awards during its summer community grants cycle. Among the recipients are the City of Greenville, Found 46 Teen Services, Governor's Scholars Program Foundation, Junior Achievement of Western Kentucky and several more.

In 2008, the late Felix E. Martin Jr.'s will left $50 million to Muhlenberg County. It may rank as the single largest gift ever from an individual to the residents of a Kentucky county. Martin, a Greenville native, died in 2007 at age 80.

Foundation officials seek out projects that create transformational change in the community. The foundation's main focus areas are economic development, community development, education and youth services.

Since late 2008, the foundation has distributed about $25 million in grants to benefit Muhlenberg County. Even so, the foundation's assets still stand at $62.5 million, according to foundation officials.

Hope 2 All serves nearly 800 families and 400 senior citizens in Muhlenberg County every month. Chandler said the food pantry stayed open after the April fire. "We never missed a time feeding people."

The pantry has a 3,800-square-foot building. Chandler said the Martin grant will pay to add another 560 square feet and resurface the parking lot, which has become hazardous. Pantry officials plan to install a walk-in refrigerator and move all free-standing refrigerators and freezers into the same area, which will free up space in the portion of the building that is used to serve clients.

Hope 2 All traded a lot to the city of Drakesboro for a building that adjoins the pantry's property. The $20,500 grant did not pay for the additional building, but it will help renovate it.

In the past, Martin foundation grants paid for the pantry's forklift and put a new roof on its building.

"(The Felix E. Martin Jr. Foundation) is a wonderful asset to Muhlenberg County," Chandler said. "Hope 2 All wouldn't exist without the foundation and other generous community donors."

Savanna Garrity, director of the Learning Center in Central City and Madisonville, echoed Chandler's remarks.

"Without (Martin foundation) grants, we would not be able to stay open," Garrity said.

The Learning Center's main office is in Madisonville. The center has a satellite branch in Central City. During the 2018-19 school year, the center served 34 students from seven public schools and one home school.

The center tutors students for $15 an hour. It focuses mainly on children with dyslexia and elementary and middle school students who struggle to read; however, the program now offers an after-school math program, too.

The Martin foundation gave the center a $10,000 grant for Muhlenberg County student scholarships, supplies, curriculum and technology. About one-third of the branch's students make use of the scholarships, which pay one-half of the hourly tutoring rate.

This marks the Learning Center's third year for receiving a Martin foundation grant. The center's Central City branch opened in 2017.

Several community grants were awarded to programs in the Muhlenberg County Schools district. One of them -- a $27,000 grant -- provides money to nine family resource youth service centers. In addition, Bremen Elementary School's family resource center received $1,050 to host Family Fun Nights in the upcoming school year.

"They are very generous to family resource centers," said Penny Roberts, district contact for the resource centers.

Each school is different and has unique needs, Roberts said, so each school's officials decide how the grant money will be spent.

Some schools use it on alcohol and drug prevention programs. Others focus on school readiness, nutrition and hygiene.

"The money might be used for basic needs, such as clothing and school supplies," Roberts said.

The grant assists some students with elementary school club fees. At the high school level, the foundation grant helps pay for low-income students' prom and graduation expenses.

"Barriers to learning is what it's all about," Roberts said. "All donations are used to help reduce barriers to learning."

The foundation awarded $300,000 during its 2018-19 cycle and has announced another $300,000 will be available as part of the 2019-2020 community grants program. Applications are accepted throughout the year and reviewed quarterly.

The next two deadlines for consideration of community grants applications are Aug. 12 and Nov. 4.

Nonprofit organizations serving Muhlenberg County are invited to submit applications for projects that focus on the county's education, civic and cultural needs. All proposals must directly serve and benefit Muhlenberg County.

Applications are available on the foundation's website at www.felixmartinfoundation.org. For more information, contact Meredith Zahirovic, the foundation's director of grants, at 270-977-9194.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

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