STEPHEN HEMELT — Cities that support nonprofits create difference makers

Published 12:08 am Saturday, July 30, 2022

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When area fire chief Terry Morton spoke from his heart and from the top of his head late last year, he inadvertently kick-started a local municipality’s effort to award hundreds of thousands of dollars to local nonprofits.

“We do want to thank Fire Chief Terry Morton,” Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said toward the end of this week’s city council meeting. “As much as (city clerk) Gay (Ferguson) and I like this program, this came from Terry, who when we first got this money, just said what popped out of his head: ‘Why can’t we help the nonprofits that lost revenue for the festival?’ The light bulb went off. This program would probably never have happened had Terry not said that. Thank you to Chief Morton.”

Duque was referring to $4.3 million received by the city in Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery.

It’s a sum of money similar cities had the ability to receive.

Duque and Ferguson began outlining a program framework in late 2021 with city council support.

The guidelines were officially established in February as the City of Nederland Non-Profit Partnership Grant Program, with $500,000 allocated and a cap of $25,000 per non-profit organization.

Morton’s idea was tied to the canceled 2021 Nederland Heritage Festival, which is normally highlighted by a string of nonprofit food booths that serve delicious options and double as many in the group’s chief yearly fundraiser.

No festival (due to the COVID pandemic) meant the loss of thousands of dollars in funds that eventually find their way to area people in dire situations.

Groups serving Nederland residents that could document loss in revenue due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, experienced greater expenditures in providing services or are providing specific services to the community through a program or project were asked to submit their requests for reimbursement.

The process, which is tedious in nature, began to bear fruit this week with the announcements of the first awardees.

They include:

  • $25,000 to The Rotary Club of Nederland,
  • $21,082.75 to Knights of Columbus, Council 5145,
  • $11,171 to First United Methodist Church Nederland
  • $6,408 to Mid-County Noon Optimist, and
  • $15,066.40 to Nederland/Port Neches Evening Optimist Club.

If it is not too late, more area municipalities should emulate this program as a way of energizing local nonprofits who provide boots-on-the-ground support to our neighborhoods’ most vulnerable residents.

“To be able to have the blessing of recouping the year that we lost and being able to expand our program to add additional scholarships is a boost,” Nederland Rotary President Kay DeCuir said. “It all goes to senior Nederland High School graduates. We’ll spread them out over the years. We can award more students, and they are usually $2,000 scholarships apiece.”

Prayers answered

Many prayers from our community members were answered this week with news that none of the student-athletes involved in the serious, single-vehicle crash Wednesday suffered life-threatening injuries.

In speaking with Orange Newsmedia this week, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD Superintendent Stacey Brister and Athletic Director Eric Peevey asked for prayers, and that is exactly what they received.

“We want everyone to send up as many prayers as possible for the families,” said Peevey. “They are all such good kids and they were heading up here (Wednesday) morning to go through their workouts. We want to make sure the entire Bear Community has their backs.”

This week’s near tragedy is another reminder that tomorrow is not promised.

Please exercise caution when on the roads and remember to always say, “I love you” and pass out as many big hugs as possible to those close to you.

Those are not opportunities we can afford to miss.

Stephen Hemelt is the publisher at Orange Newsmedia, which produces the Orange Leader and He can be reached at