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Valero hands out $35k for youth

September 9, 2011
Jenn Brookens , Fairmont Sentinel

WELCOME Last year's Valero donations were a blessing to those organizations it helped. This year, the donations were able to go to even more organizations, at even higher amounts.

Preschools and Early Childhood Family Education programs for Granada Huntley East Chain, Martin County West and Truman each saw donations of $5,250. Martin County Youth for Christ received a $5,250 donation. Two other organizations Fairmont Area Kinship and Services for Challenging Youth each saw donations of $7,000.

The checks were presented Thursday during Valero's United Way kick-off.

Article Photos

Char Kahler hugs some of her mentees after learning Fairmont Area Kinship received a $7,000 donation from Valero.

No one knew how much money would be donated to each group beforehand, so when the amounts were read, gasps were heard throughout the room.

"We were surprised by the amounts we had last year," said Valero's Welcome plant manager Brian Brinkman. "It was a very moving experience, and this year, there's even more. It's a nice kick-off to the United Way kick-off, and it also highlights volunteering. Volunteering is huge here."

A volunteering council at the plant nominates the different agencies for donations and then votes on who should receive what.

"We chose you because of your projects and your sincere efforts," Brinkman said to the group of nonprofit organizations. "The Valero Texas Open Benefit for Children Golf Classic raised $9 million this year, and now that $9 million is distributed throughout all the Valero businesses, to make sure all that money is used locally."

Char Kahler of Fairmont Area Kinship said the mentoring program's largest fundraisers can't compare to Valero's $7,000 donation.

"We could work for months to attain this," Kahler said. "This is a real shot in the arm for our budget and our kids. This means adding more mentors and mentees; we can make it happen for even more kids."

Kahler also applauded Valero for its interest in investing in youth.

"How much they put into the community and their focus on youth will pay off in magnitude for years to come," she said.

Jennie Bowers, a preschool and ECFE teacher from Truman, said, "This is going to make a lot of happy families. On this first day of school, it reminded us of how great a need there is."

After the presentation, Bowers said Truman's ECFE donation would go toward curriculum and to allow more scholarships for preschool students.

"The need is more and more each year," she said.

Services for Challenging Youth, which aims at the prevention of juvenile tobacco, alcohol and drug use, was excited about the doors the $7,000 donation would open.

"When we came in, I heard a lot of people asking, 'Who are they? What do they do?'" said Dennis Lockwood. "We try to help keep children away from alcohol and drugs, try to help educate them and make them realize how bad messing with those things are, especially when their young minds and bodies are developing."

The group has been working with other in-school organizations, such as TARGET and STORM.

"We really try to concentrate on prevention," Lockwood said after the announcement. "But with this, we could have someone to help assist with that journey for those who need help. We had counselors on a volunteer basis, but maybe now we can have someone available."

Martin County Youth for Christ hopes to use their funds to send kids to camp, upgrade technology at the Lighthouse, and train volunteers.

"We have the high school campus ministries and the breakfast club at some of the schools," said Mike Johnson. "It's a great way to connect with the kids to make sure they're not falling through the cracks."



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