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Mini grants available to assist with recovery

St. Nick, We Care, Community Foundation combining on program

Operation St. Nick, We Care and the Community Foundation of Grundy County are pulling together to offer $55,000 in mini grants to help those suffering from the flood.

Individuals or families can apply for mini grants ranging from about $500 to $1,200 to assist with financial needs related to flood damage, said Joe Schmitz, president and founder of Operation St. Nick.

“Everyone relates St. Nick and We Care as helping the needy. This time, if you had anything ruined and are in need, anyone can apply,” said Schmitz.

The grants are to be used for mortgage or rent payments in order to free up money for families to use what they would normally pay for their home toward repairs or replacing necessities. The grants can also be applied for to buy food, clothing or other necessities lost due to the flooding, said Schmitz.

We Care is supplying its $25,000 in federal funding for its Emergency Food and Shelter Program. This money is more restricted and based on income, but for those who apply that make a higher income than We Care usually assists with, the funding from St. Nick and the Community Foundation will be utilized.

“There is not much more of an emergency than right now,” said Denise Gaska, executive director of We Care.

“It’s great to work with other organizations that just want to do the best they can for Grundy County residents,” she continued.

The We Care money is actually from 2012, but the government was so late in supply the money that We Care now has until May 31 to use the funding.

An emergency Operation St. Nick board meeting was called Sunday night. Operation St. Nick had already started saving money for a disaster situation. Schmitz said it began doing this after Utica was hit by the tornado in 2004, and residents there were having trouble finding help.

In 2010, when the Dwight area was struck by a tornado, financial help was difficult to come by there as well, so Operation St Nick wanted to make sure this wouldn’t happen to Grundy residents if they were struck by a natural disaster, said Schmitz.

The Community Foundation had similar conversations and made funding available for such instances as well, said Julie Buck, executive director.

Community Foundation trustee Jim Baum and Schmitz were in-touch and both had similar ideas — for local service organizations to work together to provide for Grundy residences affected by natural disasters.

But before an official plan could be put in place, the flood hit Thursday.

Calls for help started coming in Friday, so St. Nick, the Community Foundation and We Care escalated their preliminary plan and decided to provide immediate help.

After the flood victims can be helped, the organizations will go back to making a long-term plan.

“This is something I hope is a step in developing some sort of natural diseater program with local organizations,” said Schmitz.

“We’re going to learn a lot from this whole process,” he said.


We Care is handling the eight-page application for the grants, which includes having to turn in photos of the damage to homes or property.

The amount of money each individual or family will be granted will depend on a number of things, such as how many children the family has and the estimate of their damage.

By late afternoon Monday, about 12 applications had been picked up from We Care, said Gaska, but she didn’t know how many applications were collected from other locations or online.

Buck said the foundation was dropping off applications Monday to local landlords.

To return an application, an appointment has to be made at We Care so they can go over the documentation with the applicants. Call for an appointment and if no one answers, make sure you leave a message, said Gaska.

Applications can be picked up at We Care, 520 W. Illinois Ave, or accessed online at

For more information, call We Care at (815) 942-6389.

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