Features — 06 September 2012

Despite decreasing budget allocations, the advisory council for Murray State University’s Office of Regional Outreach decided to allocate $158,000 toward projects that will improve the region. The advisory council, made up of at least one representative from the university’s 18-county service region, met Aug. 23 to deliberate over multiple project proposals. Through the entire process, representatives tried to identify and fund projects that met the council’s four main goals of education attainment, job creation, collaborative partnerships and quality of life. To date, the council selected 10 projects to fund at a total of $158,265, leaving the council with money to grant as the year continues. Projects ranged in scope from STEM education to Shakespeare to an early childhood language exhibit to connecting volunteers to non-profit organizations.

After five years of managing regional grants funds, the advisory council has become staunch in their adherence to the four goals of the program. One of the projects partners five United Ways in western Kentucky. “Get Connected” is a website that connects volunteers with the organizations they want to benefit. Aaron Dail, executive director of the United Way of Murray-Calloway County, was ecstatic when he discovered “Get Connected,” was chosen as a worthy proposal. The request was an all or nothing approach. If the full amount of $12,800 wasn’t funded, the project wouldn’t be possible.

“It wasn’t going to happen,” Dail said. “It was really a save the day kind of thing for Regional Outreach to make it happen. It created more flexibility for the six United Ways to do this.”
He said the partnering United Ways didn’t have the financial capacity to fund such a large project. Though many agencies have the energy to put work in, the puzzle pieces could not have come together without the grant funds. “We saw a huge opportunity and thankfully so did Regional Outreach.”

Much of the goal of Regional Outreach is to fund seed money that can allow a project to begin and gain sustainability over the years.

Since the office’s creation in 2007, funding has slowly dwindled while requests have increased. It’s been the advisory council’s duty to take the funds available and allocate them in a way to benefit projects with the highest capacity for impact. The council meets again Oct. 26 and will entertain additional projects for funding. Anyone wishing to submit a proposal can do so online at www.murraystate.edu/outreach.

For a full list of funded projects for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, contact Bentley Utgaard at (270) 809.5888.

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