Mt. Pleasant Area Endowment Trust revives donation effort
By A.J. Panian
Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
In America's more fiscally affluent times, the Mount Pleasant Area Endowment Trust was known for making annual donations to a variety of community projects in the borough and surrounding areas.
However, starting in 2007, the country's Great Recession made it impossible for the organization to distribute yearly funding for such initiatives.
Now the trust is prepared to give again.
Led by Chairman Doug Hauser, officials of the trust's board of directors have made $3,500 in grant funding available to qualifying applicants.
The deadline for applications is Sept. 1.
“We encourage people to apply, and we hope the money can make a difference in their projects and in the community,” Hauser said.
Applicants — who must represent organizations which have obtained certified, nonprofit status — can seek funding from the trust for a variety of projects.
“We are very wide open. We're talking health, education, environmental efforts, recreation and the arts,” said Dale Walker, a Mt. Pleasant certified public accountant who sits on the trust's board along with Hauser, Joseph “Coke” Yancosky, Al Maida, Don Good, George Wood and Jim Schmidt.
In 1999, officials of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County approached Hauser, who, at the time, was serving as executive director of the Mt. Pleasant Business District Authority, with a proposal that was also extended to seven other county municipalities, he said.
The proposal asked officials to drum up $50,000 in donations for the Community Foundation — that the Greensburg-based group would then distribute to local programs.
In return, an anonymous donor would match that money raised with $50,000 for the municipality to establish an endowment to fund future projects.
The Mt. Pleasant group was able to raise $52,000 for the Greensburg foundation in roughly one year and could establish a local trust in 2001 with the $50,000 matching reward.
Additional $1,000 donations from former borough Councilman Frank Uhrin and the Mt. Pleasant Garden Club actually brought the trust's total amount to $52,000 at that time, Hauser said. As a stipulation of the matching donation, trust officials must give judiciously, only donating a portion of what the account earns in interest, Hauser said.
The trust's board of directors always makes sure the amount of money available in the trust equals the foundation's original matching donation before considering the dispersal of any monies to the public, Hauser said.
“The idea is a permanent, lasting fund,” said Susan Acito, program officer of the foundation, which in 2010 merged with the Pittsburgh Foundation.
Between 2001 and 2007, notable annual trust donations included:
• $1,500 to the Coal and Coke Trail Committee for use in the acquisition of rights-of-way necessary to construct scenic passage.
• $500 to help local military veterans afford to have their names added to the Veterans Memorial Wall at Veterans Park.
• $500 to the Braddock Trail Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, to place past editions of the Mt. Pleasant Journal on microfilm.
• $500 to Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society for use during the borough's sesquicentennial celebration.
• $500 to the Mt. Pleasant Junior Football League Inc. for use in installing a handicapped accessible ramp at Hurst Stadium.
• $500 to the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society for use in purchasing a copy machine.
“For the first few years, we were donating, but then the bottom fell out,” Hauser said.
Particularly in 2008, Acito said, when the stock market crash severely diminished the amount of money in endowments like the trust.
“It took them down,” Acito said.
By 2009, Hauser said the amount available in the trust sank to its nadir — $37,000 — which prompted the trust's board of directors not to make any donations.
“It's really been a necessity to let the fund do its own thing while market recovers so it can grow again,” Acito said. “(The trust's directors) have been very mindful and prudent in allowing it to do that. They're a great group.”
As the stock market continues its recovery, Hauser said, the trust has been replenished to roughly its original amount, Hauser said. Gains in interest earnings on the trust in recent years compelled the trust's board of directors to make $3,500 available for donation this year, he said.
“We had not made any donations in recent years, so we thought it was time to make a big splash,” Hauser said.
The two-page grant application forms are available at Walker's office, located at 841 W. Main St. in the borough. Those interested can also write to the Mount Pleasant Area Endowment Trust, P.O. Box 825, Mt. Pleasant, PA 15666.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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