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Connellsville Cultural Trust gets nonprofit status

| Friday, June 8, 2007

The fledgling Connellsville Cultural Trust was approved as a 501(c)3 nonprofit Thursday by the Internal Revenue Service, allowing the organization to pursue publicly funded initiatives.

City residents Michael Edwards and Dan Cocks started the trust in 2006 as a way to renew the business and cultural climate in Connellsville. Edwards serves as president, and Cocks is vice president.

"Some of the grants we've applied for are coming through," Edwards said, "and now we can receive them and get started on projects we've been planning."

A 501(c)3 is a charitable corporation with the intention of providing a service to the community rather than making a profit. Incorporating a company makes it a legal entity, equally as responsible for its actions as a person.

Likely, the first project Edwards and Cocks pursue will be a $7,000 initiative funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission to place 16 poster-size vignettes at places of historical and cultural interest.

The grant, which came in the form of an earmark by U.S. Rep. John Murtha, was announced this past week.

One of the trust's primary objectives is to administer the state's Main Street Program, a plan that could bring upwards of $175,000 to the city for downtown improvements during the next five years.

Suzanne Gagliardo, a coordinator with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, said Connellsville is at an important stage in the economic development process.

"I've been here several times to explain the Main Street Program, but this is probably the most important time," Gagliardo said. "This program will not work without volunteers from the community stepping forward."

A gathering of about 20 people interested in serving on the board of directors and various committees for the Main Street Program were asked yesterday to bring more volunteers to the next meeting.

"You are looking to start this, go through the funding cycle and then sustain this," Gagliardo said. "Economic development is not a five-year program. The work must go on.

"I'm fairly confident you will find a way to make the Main Street Program a part of the ongoing efforts of the Connellsville Cultural Trust."

Preliminary work could take as long as three years, at which time the trust will submit its application.

The program is funded for five years and provides a total of $175,000. The city would receive $5,000 the first year; $50,000 the second, $45,000 the third, $40,000 the fourth; and $35,000 in the fifth.

The trust will be responsible for collecting a matching $90,000 in donations during the five-year term.

For more information, visit www.connellsvilleculturaltrust.org.

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