Fraternal group presents grants and donations to several recipients

Dated, old and borderline unsafe.

Those are the words that Executive Director Heather Lancaster of Sanctuary Inc., used to describe the playground equipment in the courtyard at the agency's Hopkinsville facility.

"We want to make it sturdy, reliable and safer," Lancaster said of Sanctuary's plans to update its playground with grant funds awarded through the Hopkinsville Fraternal Order of Eagles.

The local fraternal organization presented monetary awards to several organizations during a meeting Monday at its facilities on Fort Campbell Boulevard, among them $5,143 grants awarded to both Sanctuary and to Court Appointed Special Advocates of Christian County.

The advocate program, or CASA, also received $200 from the Hopkinsville Eagles Auxiliary.

Jim West, the Eagles' grand treasurer, said his organization likes to help the community as much as it can and was honored to receive the grants on behalf of Sanctuary and CASA.

"These are both well deserving of the honor," said West, who noted that Eagles clubs, or aeries, all across the country may apply for the grants from its national organization.

These grants came from the Eagles' Children's Fund, which must be utilized to benefit children and which addresses drugs, child abuse and similar issues that affect youth.

Of Sanctuary, West noted that his organization at one time hosted telethons to support the agency that serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and oftentimes the children of those victims, in a nine-county area including Christian County; he said the Eagles helped Sanctuary acquire its current location in the local community.

Lancaster said her agency will use its grant funds for recreational activities for the children of its clients, including replacing the playground equipment in its courtyard.

"I can't reiterate enough how important it is for our children to have an environment to thrive in," said Lancaster, noting that many of the youngsters' early experiences could have been traumatic. "We want to give these children the best because they deserve the best."

She said she's thankful to the Eagles, whose grant Lancaster said will reach hundreds of children served by Sanctuary children in the future.

Ruth Lynch, a board member and treasurer for CASA, said her organization will use its grant to help with the services that will be provided to abused and neglected children; CASA works primarily with judges but also with social workers and others serving abused children.

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"The ultimate goal is to advocate for what's best for the children as we work with their family," said Lynch, who noted that her year-old organization has been working to establish itself in the community and to raise awareness and support of its efforts.

She said it's been rewarding personally for the group to know that there are people like the Eagles members who know the value of the work that CASA is doing on behalf of children; Lynch described the work of CASA as ensuring that abused and neglected children are served.

"Hopefully, it will bring awareness to bring additional volunteers to work with the kids, in addition to offsetting the funding we already have," Lynch said of the Eagles' support.

CASA of Christian County was formed last year in the local community with an initial grant from the Kentucky CASA Network, according to Lynch. She said the Eagles grant will take care of needs not covered in that initial grant, and she noted that it will be used for services for the youngsters.

No administrative costs will come out of that grant funding, she said.

Carolyn Self of CASA said the Eagles grant will be used for special toys, clothes and other needs the children have when they first come to the attention of the advocate program.

Additionally, she said the Eagles Auxiliary donation likely will be used as a portion of the matching funds for a grant that CASA is seeking to provide a volunteer coordinator for the group.

Lynch said CASA is currently supported with its board, four volunteers and Virginia Erxleben, who is the only hired position as executive director and serves as the face of the group.

"This (grant) will give us some leverage to support the children and the families," Lynch said.

She said anyone who is interested in learning more about CASA and its work in the local community or who might be interested in volunteering may call Erxleben at (270) 887-4024.

CASA of Christian County is headquartered at 301 Riverfront Drive and is one of 45 such programs across the state.

"Children," Lynch said, "are our No. 1 priority."

The local Eagles organization also on Monday presented the following donations: $300 each to the Christian County Humane Society, Crime Stoppers and St. Luke Free Clinic, $100 to the local Imagination Library and a $500 scholarship to Christian County High School graduate Jenna Humphries.

Humphries is the daughter of Todd and Melinda Humphries.

Additionally, the Eagles and the auxiliary presented its international president, Carl Burnett, with $350 for the charity of his choice, Metavivor, which supports work on behalf of metastatic breast cancer.

Linda West was recognized by the Eagles with an Auxiliary Member Award.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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