Fayette County Cultural Trust recently presented $5,000 checks to three local nonprofits in the last year of a six-year cycle for the Neighborhood Partnership Program, a state tax credit program that encourages businesses to invest in projects to improve communities.
Daniel Cocks, executive director, said the trust distributed checks to Carnegie Free Library, Wesley Health Center and Connellsville Area Community Ministries in a December presentation at the Connellsville Canteen.
“We gave them $5,000 per year so each of them has received $30,000 over the last six years from the Neighborhood Partnership Program,’’ said Cocks.
Outlining the good works by these nonprofits, Cocks noted the library helps patrons by offering free WiFi and educational programs. NPP funds helped the library acquire a handicap chair lift to help patrons reach the library’s main floor and will be used to purchase software for Smart Boards.
Wesley Health Center provides free patient care to individuals who are uninsured as well as free vaccines. The center also offers free over-the-counter medicine in partnership with Americares.
Connellsville Area Community Ministries uses NPP funds for its food pantry, which Cocks noted is the largest in Fayette County, providing food for more than 600 families a month.
John Malone, of Somerset Trust Company, presented checks to the nonprofits. Somerset Trust is one of the cultural trust’s three NPP sponsors. The others are TriState Capital and UPMC Health Plan.
Pennsylvania Dept. of Community and Economic Development explained on its website NPP is a collaboration that lasts five years or more between business, government and community leaders to produce a comprehensive, asset-based and relationship-driven approach to community development. A tax credit of 75% or 80% can be awarded based on the length of the program.
Cocks explained, “Instead of businesses paying tax to the state, they can put their money into this fund and choose where it will go. It has to benefit low-to-moderate income communities. It’s a good program for small cities like Connellsville, which are looking to better themselves.’’
Cocks explained Somerset Trust, TriState Capital and UPMC Health Plan contributed a combined $200,000 for six years for a total of $1.2 million. Funds were used for economic development and enhancement projects in Connellsville’s downtown and city parks.
Cocks said economic development included business retention and expansion projects that created a momentum in the community.
“Six years ago, we had a lot of vacant store fronts. Today, there are no vacancies,’’ said Cocks. “There are two buildings that were just sold and they’re being fixed up as we speak.’’
Cocks said the trust was able to put $40,000 into Connellsville city parks, including new playground and handicap-accessible equipment as well new roofs on pavilions in East Park and Yough River Park.
Cocks explained NPP allowed the trust to match other funds, such as raised by the Connellsville Recreation Board.
“We were able to match or exceed their funds to finish projects,’’ said Cocks, adding a grant from the county’s hotel tax, administered by Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, helped provide benches, planters and artwork in downtown Connellsville.
Cocks acknowledged the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which provided assistance to find UPMC Health Plan as a sponsor and helped the cultural trust find other sponsors. The conference serves 10 counties that include Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland.
“Before we were accepted into the NPP, the Allegheny Conference saw what was going on in Connellsville and they reached out to us and have been mentors to us,’’ said Cocks.
The trust’s Neighborhood Partnership Program will end in June with the state fiscal year.
Cocks said, “It’s done a lot of good for Connellsville in helping with revitalization efforts and giving people more opportunities.’’