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An area foundation that awards several grants each year is helping area schools provide a better experience for their students.

The Margaret and Martha Thomas Foundation awarded grants totaling $349,980 in the last year.

Southern Public School was the largest recipient of the foundation, receiving three grants totaling $169,548. Southern received a grant of $150,000 to be used for improvements to bleachers, concession stand and restroom facilities at the football field in Arbor State Park.

Southern Superintendent Chris Prososki said the funds awarded this year and in years past help bring facilities up to modern standards.

“We’ve been very fortunate over the past 10-15 years to get all the grant funding from them,” he said. “We did pass a bond last June and due to increased costs of bleachers we did need more money to help finalize our project. Just things like running water and amenities for the concession stand are improvements.”

The previous bleachers date back to the 1960s, and Prososki said they were due to be replaced. The remaining projects are expected to be put out for bid in the coming weeks.

Southern received a second grant of $18,500 for a school-wide update of the phone system. Prososki said the previous phone system was from the early 2000s and needed to be upgraded.

A third grant of $1,048 was awarded for a video camera kit to be used for a variety of purposes, including the production of the senior slide show.

“We feel the foundation was able to do a lot of good for Wymore, Blue Springs and Gage County despite some challenging economic conditions during the past year,” said foundation president Dean Marples in a press release.

In addition to the Southern Public Schools grants, the foundation awarded grants to a wide variety of recipients across the county. Since the Thomas sisters started the foundation in 2005, it has awarded grants totaling $2,653,613.34.

Other grant from the past year include:

• Beatrice Community Hospital Foundation: $12,500 to help fund the infant memorial garden.

• Beatrice Public Schools: $50,000 to pay for a portion of a new activity bus.

• Beatrice Public Schools: $1,000 to be used for the Empty Bowls program.

• Beatrice Police Department: $30,000 to be used to help pay for a second K-9 unit.

• Tri County Public Schools: $9,685 to purchase a music filing system.

• NET Foundation for Television: $30,000 to support production of the Nebraska Stories television series.

• Hope Crisis Center: $37,000 for replacement of the roof.

• Gage County Historical Society: $6,047 for repairs to the roof.

• One Property at a Time: $4,200 for payment of landfill fees related to the demolition of a house.

For more information about the foundation and to learn about applying for grant funds, contact Willet at 402-228-3424.

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