The SBC Foundation held a press conference March 5 to present a $66,000 technology grant to West Side organizations involved in training community residents in the field of technology. SBC Foundation’s stated goal is to empower nonprofit organizations to use technology to expand the reach of services and heighten the impact those services have on people in the community.

Grants were awarded to 59 nonprofits throughout Illinois and four West Side organizations were part of the group. Michael Fountain, director of Government Relations for SBC, is the link between large corporations and local community organizations. Fountain, an affable, charismatic young man, and Carrie J. Hightman, SBC president-Illinois, were both on hand to make the presentation.

Awardees who will share in the grant are the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Lawndale Business and Local Development Corp., Lawndale Christian Development Corp., and Westside Association For Community Action Foundation. State representatives Art Turner (9th) and Calvin Giles (8th) were on hand to congratulate the organizations.

Accepting for their organizations were: Camille Lilly, president, Austin Chamber of Commerce; Eric Strickland, director, Lawndale Business and Local Development; Gloria Jenkins, executive director, Westside Association for Community Action; and Richard E. Townsell, executive director, Lawndale Christian Development Corp.

Fountain told the audience, “I had the opportunity to read up and to study and try to be knowledgeable about the things that I bring you. You know on the West Side?”Austin, North and South Lawndale, East and West Garfield?”they’re talking about public safety, they’re talking about education, they’re talking about economic development, health and housing. These are the issues. They don’t talk about technology. You and I talk about technology because we know how that affects all those other issues. And that’s why what we’re doing here today is so important.

“And being a Westsider as I am and doing the things I do, I like to bring my friends out. I like for people to meet you. We can socialize, and we need to talk to about those issues that impact us. In my four years SBC has been granted long-distance approval, so we’re in that market now. We’re a major player in the satellite, satellite TV. We’ve passed major legislation in Springfield, we worked with commissioners, regulators and legislators to help them understand what we do, and we think they have a greater understanding of that.”

Hightman, a petite lady with a beautiful smile, told the audience: “It’s great to be out and actually see the groups that we support. We’ve always been a supporter of so many great organizations.

“It’s a highly competitive process and there are far more requests than money we have to give. It’s a once-a-year grant program. We always are going to have people who are disappointed, but what we try to do is make sure we cover all parts of the community we serve. There is a rigorous evaluation done in San Antonio through our foundation to make sure it meets all the technology and requirements that we have, and then we’ve just got to make some tough decisions, so that is why these groups should be so thrilled. It was highly competitive and they got chosen.”