Inflation, needs high as Lee Initiatives awards $500K to local nonprofits

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May 26—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Raising donations to keep a fire company functioning is no easy task, said Cover Hill Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Bill Scherer.

The fire company in Conemaugh Township, Cambria County, received $1,000 on Thursday from Lee Initiatives Health & Wellness Endowment's latest round of grants.

"This grant means a lot," Scherer said. "It would take a lot of bingos and spaghetti dinners to afford this."

With inflation stubbornly staying above the long-term average, household donations to nonprofits serving the community may be taking a hit.

At least, that was the gut feeling of Lee Initiatives Health & Wellness Endowment CEO Jodi Clark, whose organization awarded a total of $500,000 to 56 nonprofits on Thursday.

"With inflation the way it's been, nobody can afford to give donations, so without this funding, none of these projects would get off the ground," she said.

"And because we have an endowment fund, it also slumps when the market is low."

The 56 grant recipients for this round of funding came from a pool of 75 applicants — a greater number than last year, she said.

"That speaks volumes that people don't have the funds they need," she said.

Among the awardees that received the biggest individual grants of $40,000 was Highlands Health, the Laurel Highlands' free and charitable medical clinic in downtown Johnstown.

Highlands Health Executive Director Rosalie Danchanko said her organization is fortunate to have support from Lee Initiatives.

"We will use the award to cover needs of patients who are uninsured and underinsured," she said. "Lee Initiatives has been supportive of us for many years. It touches my heart that they value what we are doing."