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Cranston libraries among Champlin beneficiaries
Meg Fraser and John Howell

For some, it means a roof without leaks; for others, it’s radio receivers, updated computers and a pair of mini buses.

The list of what almost $19 million in Champlin Foundations grants will accomplish is long and impressive.

How 201 non-profits will spend the money differs, but it can be said most of the projects wouldn’t get done, or would be accomplished over a much longer period, if it wasn’t for the foresight of a Warwick industrialist and his sisters.

George S. Champlin, who died in 1980 at the age of 98, founded the first of the foundations in 1932 with Florence Champlin Hamilton and Hope Champlin Neaves. Since then, more than 900 charities have received nearly $480 million in grants.

Last week, the foundations announced the annual list of recipients. The agencies and non-profits receiving the awards were notified about two weeks ago, so there has been a level of excitement on the street.

“There were a lot of good applications,” said Keith Lang, executive director of the foundations. He said that there were 404 applications and that generally, Champlin awards are about a third of the total of the requests.

Lang said the foundations look to “make the biggest impact we can.” He said that has become increasingly difficult as matching grant opportunities are disappearing.

Lang placed the Champlin endowments at about $400 million, of which “we are required to give away 5 percent.” The endowment has remained relatively consistent despite market fluctuations.

“Our goal is to be as predictable as we can be,” he said.

Last year, Champlin awarded approximately $19 million in grants – on par with this year’s contributions.

Four Cranston agencies were awarded grants, with the lion’s share going to Cranston Public Libraries.

The foundations have long supported libraries and this year 34 libraries will receive nearly $3 million. The money will be used for projects ranging from security systems to building renovations to computer upgrades.

At Cranston’s Central branch, $74,550 will be used to renovate the circulation department.

“We’re going to be undertaking a renovation project hopefully in the spring, mainly just to improve workflow,” said Library Director Ed Garcia.

The central library was designed in 1983, and Garcia says the needs of the library have changed since then. Cranston has the highest circulation of any library in the state.

“Our circulation has drastically increased since then. We hope to really maximize our workflow by redesigning that entire space,” he said.

During construction, Garcia is hopeful that the central branch can remain open. He says circulation will move to the welcome desk for the duration of construction. This is one piece of an ongoing renovation project in the city’s library system. Garcia said it would not be possible without the generosity of the Champlin Foundations.

“We’ve done projects with them every year for the last couple of years,” he said. “I anticipate doing some other stuff down the line. It’s our plan to evolve the library as the needs of the community change.”

Another $61,400 will go toward repairing windows and doors at the William Hall Library on Broad Street in Edgewood. That grant will also be used to paint, repair plaster and clean the exterior of the building.

When the announcement of the two awards was made, Garcia said library staff and patrons were ecstatic.

“It’s fantastic for us; once the work is done, the workflow will be better. It will make services a lot more streamlined for the public,” he said.

The libraries will doubly benefit from a $914,400 grant awarded to Ocean State Libraries for updated technology. That grant will be used to enhance the availability of E-Zone downloadable materials and will provide Cranston with a new server to increase capabilities locally.

Another local agency to benefit is the Rhode Island Community Food Bank on the border of Cranston and Providence. The food bank received $120,495 to purchase a 22-foot refrigerated truck and equip the existing fleet of seven trucks with GPS systems. The new refrigerated truck replaces a vehicle that was beginning to require significant annual repairs. The Food Bank expects the truck to be delivered in early 2013.

“The Champlin Foundation really came through for us with a grant that will help us control our maintenance costs and increase our efficiency,” said Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. “Every day, our trucks are out on the road, all over the state, making deliveries to food pantries and meal sites – we put a lot of miles on those vehicles. This grant helps to make sure that we can reliably get the food out to our member agencies, which feed more than 66,000 Rhode Islanders every month.”

The Cranston League for Cranston’s Future is also the beneficiary of Champlin funding. CLCF, which provides recreational programs to Cranston children and teenagers, is receiving $102,500. That money will be used to pay off debt incurred after the floods of 2010 ravaged CLCF buildings.

“The city of Cranston was hit in 2010 by the historic floods, which put most of the CLCF complex on Pontiac Avenue under five to seven feet of water,” explained Board member Steve Richard. “CLCF provides over a dozen sports programs to thousands of kids in Cranston year-round, and obviously it was devastating to be hit by that historic flood.”

The Small Business Administration provided relief funding, but the league has since been beholden to loan payments. Getting out from under that debt, Richard said, will allow CLCF to put the floods behind them and move forward as a league.

“It’s been a burden but we’ve been aggressive in trying to pay it down and this is a tremendous opportunity,” he said.


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