FAIRMONT - Since 1994, Martin County Area Foundation has been doling out grants to local organizations in the areas of arts and humanities, community and civic affairs, social and economic growth, environment, and youth, but you may have never heard of the organization.
That's because until recently, the group went by the name Fairmont Area Foundation.
The name change was instituted to better describe what has been their focus for several years.
"Ten years ago the board realized that they could better service the area if grants went out to the entire county," said MCAF board member Ernie Nuss. "A lot of people who worked in Fairmont live out of Fairmont."
Nuss said the name change is simply a way to communicate the organization more accurately, since some possible applicants had been confused about their eligibility. Foundation board members hope the name change will eliminate the confusion.
"It just seemed the name change was a better way to describe it," he said.
Since its first grant disbursement, the organization has given $787,000 to non-profits throughout the area, using 50 percent of the proceeds from an endowment fund.
"That way our investment grows each year," Nuss said.
The funds have come from charity donations, estates, and business contributions.
Nuss said 423 different entities and individuals have given to Martin County Area Foundation.
"It is quite unique that we have had that kind of response," he said. "It is quite a powerful tool for the community when you say we have put well over $700,000 into the community with only charitable donations."
In 2012, grants were given to organizations in Sherburn, Welcome, East Chain, Truman, Fairmont, and county groups.
Nuss said the foundation receives more applications than they can grant each year, but they try to give enough to start a project that can be supplemented with community support.
"We have tended to give to structures rather than operating expenses," Nuss said. "We tend to give to something that will help a project go. If a community has a little bit of its own money in it, it goes better."
While the economic downturn affected the organization's ability to give as much as they would like, Nuss said things are starting to turn around.
In 2007, MCAF gave out $87,000 in grants. The next three years were less than half that amount.
"In the last three to four years we have been able to give out $32,000 to $35,000," Nuss said. "We hope we are going to get back up there."
Martin County Area Foundation is currently accepting grant applications for non-profits interested in starting a program or project to enhance the quality of life in Martin County.
Applications are available at the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce, 323 East Blue Earth Ave., or online at www.mcareafoundation.org
Applications are due Sunday.