Naperville groups earn DuPage grants

With the DuPage County Board awarding $1 million in grant money this week to 49 non-profit agencies throughout the county, some Naperville area charities are getting needed assistance.

“I think they (the grants) really make a difference in the county,” Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Bob Larsen (R-Wheaton) said after the board’s unanimous vote of approval for the grants.

Among the awardees are Loaves and Fishes, the Naperville community food pantry; Naperville Cares, an agency that helps families cope with short-term financial problems; and Naperville Elderly Homes, operators of the Martin Avenue Apartments.

Although the board didn’t list individual grant amounts, the smallest was for $2,198 and the biggest was $45,000.

The grants are part of the county’s Human Services Grant Fund that has been in existence since 2009, available to entities that apply for them, with the stipulation that they promote self-sufficiency, protect children or strengthen families.

All agencies are required to be registered as non-profit, serve the greater DuPage County area and have a proven record of helping county residents for at least three years.

Larsen said that a prime objective of the program is to reach as many non-profits in the county as possible, while balancing that goal against providing meaningful financial assistance with limited resources.

“We’re spread somewhat thin,” he said, while pointing out that even a small grant can bolster non-profits by giving them a “stamp of approval” that helps with fundraising.

Since the grants are matching grants that cover no more than 50 percent of an individual program, fundraising remains the largest source of revenue for non-profits.

The county’s Community Services Department oversees the application process throughout the calendar year and makes recommendations to the Health and Human Services Committee, which then makes its own recommendations to the full board.

The applications serve the dual purpose of gathering information from newer agencies the county may partner with and at the same time reviewing the records of non-profits that have already been awarded grants.

“There’s certainly monitoring done every year in the application process,” Larsen said.

Larsen also noted that there are many different problem areas in DuPage County that deserve the benefit of assistance, notably the recent spike in heroin overdose deaths drawing so much attention in recent months.

Then there are the inevitable problems facing a county with changing demographics, as evidenced by the growing need for English language programs throughout DuPage and the challenges of serving a rapidly aging population.

Larsen pointed out that while DuPage’s population only grew by 1 or 2 percent since 2000, the number of its residents of 65 years old has increased by 20 percent during that time.

Similarly, and maybe even more significant for the future, the 45 to 65 age group grew by 27 percent.

“It’s a much more significant portion of the population than in 2000,” Larsen said.