Youth Drama Club gets $25,000 grant
IRONWOOD - Nearly 3 million online votes were cast and the local Youth Drama Club has been selected as one of 40 winners of $25,000 grants.
The grant is through the State Farm Neighborhood Assist Grant program. From the end of April through the middle of May, people voted daily on Facebook on grant entries from around the country.
According to Bruce Greenhill, director of the theater, more than 4,000 grant applications were submitted, with 200 being selected for the voting process.
Once the 200 were selected, the top 40 vote recipients received $25,000 each.
The drama club met on Thursday afternoon and the results were announced.
State Farm agent John Parker was on hand to deliver the news to the youth.
"You guys did it," Parker said. "I know we all were badgering our Facebook friends to keep voting, and I'm pretty sure I lost some Facebook friends over this, but you guys did it."
Unofficially, the club finished 14th in the voting, having a "truckload" of votes, Greenhill said.
"It's incredible," Greenhill said. "You guys must have a heck of a lot of Facebook friends."
Grant submissions came from across the country, including California, New York, Idaho, Louisiana, Florida, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio.
The projects varied, from skate parks and sports venues for kids, to art clubs, community gardens and youth centers.
For students in Ironwood, the news is exciting.
"It just means a lot to us," Ethan Puisto, of Ironwood, said. "Twenty-five thousand dollars goes a long way, and we are so thankful for the votes."
As expected, there was a noisy and very excited response to the news, but the students soon settled into the business at hand - electing officers for their new club and developing an initial list of project ideas from which priorities and an action plan will be developed.
One of the first questions asked by the group was, "How can we thank all those people who voted for us?"
"This is an amazing group of students; I just love them," co-director Mary Hansen said. "And it says so much about their character that they want to make sure the people who supported them are thanked."
The goal is to use the money to create a "sustaining" club, according to Greenhill. When he announced the voting results to the students, he spoke about his experience in Boulder Junction, Wis., trying to get a bike trail system started.
The advice he received was instead of grabbing a hammer and nailing, what needs to be done, Greenhill was told, was to grab the brightest, loudest nail and hammer it in public to draw attention to what was needed.
"We started off with 3/4-mile of bike trail, and now there are hundreds of miles of trail in that area," Greenhill said. "That community supported that project, and the community supported you all here, as well. We need to make sure we do things with this club for the community that supported us."
"It's really, really fun, and we're all like a family here," Angelina Jarvela, of Ironwood, said. "People should give it a try because we accept everyone. Also, Mary and Gene (Goss) are really great directors."
Some students found confidence while in the club, and others found new friends.
"I recently moved here, and I had never been involved with drama before," club member Hannah Steckling said. "This was a good chance to meet a lot of new friends and try new opportunities."
The drama club plans to present puppet theater at Ironwood's Depot Park during the summer free-lunch program and will offer a drama "mini-camp" in late-summer.
The club has no shortage of activity ideas. According to Lynne Wiercinski, assistant director of the Ironwood Carnegie Library, the challenge will be narrowing down the initial ideas list to a manageable number.
"The enthusiasm is just wonderful," she said. "And it's infectious. I see great things ahead for the club."