After a delay of nearly three years, leaders of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians announced 33 recipients of community grants totaling $1.4 million at Tuesday’s Madera County Board of Supervisors meeting - a nice Christmas gift for clubs, organizations and schools throughout the county, including $312,495 to Oakhurst’s Manna House.
The announcement was made by Tribal Chairperson Claudia Gonzales.
“This is a proud day for me and the tribe,” Gonzales said. “In our small communities these funds are critical to these programs that make a difference every day to the men, women and children on our county. This is a great way to end the year, especially during the holidays - the season of giving.”
The successful grant applicants were selected from requests submitted for 2014 - requests that were delayed due to internal tribal conflicts and the closing of Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino on Oct. 10, 2014. The casino reopened on Dec. 31, 2015.
The announcement came after Gonzales and other tribal leaders held meetings with Board Chairman Rick Farinelli and Vice Chairman Max Rodriguez to narrow down the 65 grant applications from 2014 that totaled $4.2 million.
“These grants are timely and critical contributions for our community and demonstrate the importance of a successful partnership between the Chukchansi Tribe and Madera County,” Rodriguez said.
The last grants announced in late December, 2013, went to 31 county recipients. That year the announcement of the grants was delayed about seven months due to tribal leadership conflicts. County District 5 received 17 grants and District 1 received two, giving Eastern Madera County 19 of the 31 grants totaling $623,000.
This year, 18 of the 33 grants (54%) went to Oakhurst organizations, including four grants labeled 2016 “settlement agreement” totaling nearly $650,000 - the $312,495 to Manna House and three for $112,495 to Yosemite Unified School District, Oak Creek Middle School and Community Medical Center.
“I’ve been the volunteer director of Manna House for 11 years and the assistant director for 10 years prior to that,” said Tom Nicolulis after the meeting. “When I became director, I made a vow for Manna House to get their own piece of property and now thanks to the love and kindness from the tribe, we will be able to purchase the one acre we are on (land currently leased from Yosemite New Life Church of the Nazarene) with $125,000 for property and fees. We will also be able to expand our storage area with the balance going to our general budget to help the needy residents of the Mountain Area.”
The remaining 14 Oakhurst grants, for $25,000 each, went to Marine Corps League Griswold Detachment 1121, Indian Lakes Homeowners Association, Sierra Ambulance Service, Caring Veterans of America, Sierra Senior Society, Camarena Health (dental services), Wild Wonderful Women (per food bank), American Legion Post 110, Children’s Museum of the Sierra, Sierra Historic Sites Association, Sierra Lions Club, The Positive Living Center, Boys & Girls Club and Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce Foundation (River Parkway Trail).
Oakhurst received nearly $1 million in grants, 71% of the $1.4 total.
“I like that they spread the dollars out to more of the area nonprofits,” said Angelo Pizelo, who said he is involved with about nine of the groups that received grants. “I would like to congratulate the tribe for assisting so many of our nonprofits in the Mountain Area and throughout the entire county.”
The City of Madera received five $25,000 grants (Madera Historical Museum, Golden Valley Unified School District, Self Help Madera, Adopt-A-School program, The Salvation Army) and one for $52,218 for soccer field lighting at Sunrise Rotary Park.
Three county-wide organizations received $25,000 grants - Madera County Food Bank, Madera County Film Commission and Madera County Arts Council.
Coarsegold received three $25,000 grants: two for Rivergold Elementary (tech and playground up grades) and one for the Coarsegold Community Center (building repairs and upgrades).
Chowchilla received two $25,000 awards: Chowchilla Elementary School (music program) and VFW Post 9896.
The Fairmead Community & Friends Center Building received a $25,000 award through the Community Action Partnership of Madera County.
Grant requests that were not awarded any funding this year included: The Economic Development Corporation of Madera County ($160,000 request for a convention center study for Eastern Madera County), Friends of Ahwahnee Hills Park ($32,000), Chawanakee Unifed School District ($60,000), North Fork Elementary School ($54,000), Oakhurst Community Park ($38,500 for fencing), and Golden Chain Theatre ($38,300).
Chukchansi set aside $10,000 for an awards luncheon that will be held Dec. 14.