MORTON — Christmas comes early every year in Morton.
Each spring, the Morton Community Foundation announces the recipients of its competitive grants for not-for-profit organizations and government and school bodies that are located in Morton and/or benefit Morton residents.
Grants totaling $40,925 were awarded this year, raising the overall total to $457,248 since 2003.
Each grant must pay for something tangible, that can be seen.
"One reason for that stipulation is to create awareness for the foundation," said Scott Witzig, who has been the foundation's executive director since 2007.
Dave Getz, orchestra and Composers' Guild director at Morton High School, and Tim Taylor, past president of the Morton Youth Baseball Association, are well aware of the foundation.
They've each applied for and received several grants.
"The grants are wonderful for educators. They allow us to dream big," Getz said. "Scott (Witzig) is great to work with. He reminds me when a grant cycle is coming up because he knows how busy I am."
Taylor said the MYBA has a beneficial relationship with the foundation.
"Their grants allow us to pass on savings to our parents and do some of the extra things we're able to do," he said.
The Composers' Guild, an extracurricular activity, received a $600 grant this year for two accounts for composition software.
"Professional grade" is how Getz describes the software.
"Students in the Composers' Guild have been using free online software, which is fine, but we have students doing high-level work," Getz said.
The MYBA's 2019 grant of $3,000 will help pay for new dugouts at Diamond No. 1 at Westwood Park.
"Morton Buildings donated new dugouts at Diamond No. 2, so the MYBA purchased diamonds from Morton Buildings for Diamond No. 1," Taylor said. "They cost $12,000; the grant will defer $3,000 of the cost."
The dugouts are replacements for ones that had been there for years and were not in good shape.
Nearly 600 youths are playing on MYBA house and travel teams this season.
Witzig said two grants stand out to him among this year's recipients.
The Peoria Area Water Wizards club swimming team received a $1,799 grant for a pulley machine and the Heart of Illinois Adult Literacy program (formerly the YWCA Pekin Adult Literacy program) received a $650 grant for equipment in tutoring rooms at the Morton Public Library.
"I didn't know there were swimmers from Morton on the Water Wizards team," Witzig said.
As for the tutoring rooms grant, "the Morton library director (Alissa Williams) told me she didn't apply for a grant this year for the library because she didn't want it to compete with the adult literacy program application," Witzig said. "That's how important she considers that program."
A committee made up of representatives from the village of Morton, Morton Township, Morton library, Morton Park District, Morton School District and Morton Chamber of Commerce and at-large members choose the grant recipients each year.
This year, there were 15 committee members. A committee member cannot vote on a grant if there's a conflict of interest.
The foundation will distribute more than $321,000 in grants and scholarships this year from its several funds. The total is nearly $3.9 million since 2003.
May 9 was the foundation's fifth annual Give Day fundraiser for operating costs. Witzig said a record $10,450 was raised, surpassing the $10,000 goal.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.