(Shaun Friedrichsen, Publisher)
In an effort to aid Blue Valley Community Action (BVCA) with their services and Bonham Theatre Project with their goal of reopening the historic theater, Union Pacific has awarded a total of $35,000 in grant money to the organizations.
Kelli O’Brien, Director of Public Affairs for Union Pacific, emphasized that it is important to have active groups and organizations in the community. She believes that these things help contribute to improving society.
“Union Pacific is proud to help organizations like Blue Valley Community Action Partnership and the Bonham Theatre Project, because we also live and work in the City of Fairbury,” said O’Brien. “We want healthy communities, and we want to assist and be a part of it.”
Blue Valley Community Action Uses Funds To Change Lives
BVCA received a grant totaling $15,000 from Union Pacific. Kim Robbins, Research and Development Office at BVCA, explained that these funds will help expand programs and services at BVCA to help change lives.
“This is going to be used for the programs and services that Blue Valley Community Action Partnership provides throughout the nine counties that we serve,” Robbins said. “We’re assisting low-income families, and we realize that the core to healthy, thriving community is individuals and families. So we want families to thrive.”
Robbins explained that there are a number of programs and services offered at BVCA that are designed to help people overcome barriers that are holding people back. She believes that having these funds available is important because it allows BVCA to help even more people.
“We’re able to use these private dollars to help provide services that other grants may not cover,” said Robbins. “This will help with things like financial counseling, education and to do referrals out to other organizations in the community.”
One program that Robbins believes people should check into is the Veterans Program. She emphasized that this program can help veterans to have access to more services. Another similar program is designed to help people navigate the Affordable Care Act.
“We realize that there’s a veteran representative in every county,” said Robbins. “Sometimes it’s difficult for people to access that, so we want to help those people in need of services to navigate the system.”
Robbins believes it is important to have each of the services offered by Blue Valley because poverty is an issue that is difficult to overcome.
“There’s never one specific reason for poverty,” Robbins said. “It’s usually multiple different things. So, we’re trying to use a holistic approach and remove barriers from all angles. We serve people of all backgrounds and of all ages. I love working here because of the dignity and respect that we show to people. There’s no judgment when you walk in. People can feel comfortable, and that’s what we want. We want to understand why someone is where they’re at and how we can try to help them.”
Blue Valley Community Action helped to serve over 9,000 families within the area that they cover.
“When you think about our rural communities, that’s a lot of people,” said Robbins. “Sometimes we think ‘oh, that’s not us.’ We’re working to remove that perception. Sometimes people need a little bit of help, a little bit of encouragement, and that’s what we’re here for.”
Robbins expressed her gratitude for Union Pacific’s grant, and reiterated just how important these funds are to help BVCA help others.
“I would just like to thank Union Pacific,” Robbins said. “There’s not many opportunities to receive private funding in rural communities, and they have been just an absolutely fantastic supporter of our mission and of our organization. We thank them very much! These funds are going to be put to very good use!”
Bonham Works On Building Community Through Entertainment, Engagement
The Bonham Theatre Project, whose goal is to restore the historic Bonham Theatre in order to bring entertainment back to Fairbury, received $20,000 from Union Pacific to help with their efforts.
Treasurer Debby Ebke explained that they were notified in February about the grant and that Union Pacific has a number of employees in the community, so this project could help enrich their lives as well as the lives of everyone in Jefferson County.
“It’s huge to us,” said Ebke. “Every donation is huge to us at this point. We do have the funding put together to complete this first phase. This grant was considered in the calculations of the funds available to complete this first phase. So it was absolutely necessary, because to replace $20,000 would be big to us.”
Ebke noted that the restoration project is making a lot of progress. New windows were installed on the second floor by Fairbury Glass. Before that, the old windows had been boarded up since a fire damaged the structure.
“We are going to finish some demolition within the next week or so,” Ebke said. “We will be doing some of the final big demolition projects. We’ll finish that and then we’ll begin framing and all of the activities within the next couple of weeks.”
On Aug. 21, there will be the second Birdies and Bogies for Bonham Charity Golf Tournament. Ebke explained that this is a major fundraiser for the organization and she hopes that many people will attend the event.
“We did this for the first time two years ago, and it was very successful,” said Ebke. “It was a big event for us, and it raised approximately $5,000. We are going to have the second one coming up on Aug. 21.”
If people would like to be part of the effort to reopen the Bonham Theatre, Ebke noted that there are a number of things people can do to help. Whether people would like to donate money or volunteer their time and talent, it all adds up.
Currently, the Bonham Theatre Project is hosting a “chair-ity” campaign where some of the seats from the Bonham Theatre are being decorated by artists. Those seats will later be auctioned off to help raise funds to buy new seats. Ebke noted that if people donate $250, they can have their name added on a plate to one of the new seats in the theater.
Ebke emphasized that volunteer days are important as well, and soon they will organize volunteer days to focus on specific aspects of the renovation, which will also help to group volunteers together based on their skills.
“There are a variety of ways that people can still help us,” Ebke said. “Everything is truly appreciated! We just need everyone rallying behind us. That’s really, really important to have the community stay positive and believe that we’re going to do this!”