Kathy Jacobi, president of the Felix E. Martin Jr. Foundation, was one of several guest speakers.
Jacobi spoke to a capacity crowd, noting that the foundation has assisted in achieving many advancements in the county in five short years.
"It's hard to believe that so much has been accomplished since the foundation had its first meeting in December of 2008," Jacobi said. "Since then many of you have worked hard to set in motion the foundation's objective to enrich the lives of the people of Muhlenberg County."
The late Felix E. Martin Jr., a native of Muhlenberg County, bequest $50 million to establish the foundation in 2008. According to Jacobi, that amount has grown to $52 million while at the same time, approving grants that have made a real difference in the lives of the citizens of Muhlenberg County.
"As of December of 2013, the foundation's assets had grown to $52 million and the foundation has distributed $17 million in grants. I think Mr. Martin would be proud of our progress," Jacobi said.
Jacobi listed some of the many projects and programs the Martin Foundation has assisted over the past five years.
These include assisting in the improvement of many of the county's smaller parks, the construction of the Felix E. Martin Jr. Hall for Creative and Performing Arts, numerous early childhood education programs, assisting in economic development and numerous other community grants throughout the county.
Martin Foundation Program Director Vicki Yonts, spoke to the chamber about the many educational programs that have been developed since 2008 with the help of the foundation. Those include Strategies, Opportunities, Advantages and Resources.
The Felix Martin Foundation has committed more than $600,000 so far to the SOAR program, which is designed to assure all children in the county are prepared for kindergarten.
"It's an alarming fact that right now only 49 percent of Kentucky children are prepared for kindergarten. That figure is even more alarming in Muhlenberg County, where only 32.6 percent of children are ready to begin kindergarten. It is a fact that children who are not prepared for kindergarten continue to fall behind other students as they go through school," Yonts said.
In cooperation with the Muhlenberg County school system, the Martin Foundation has several programs designed to increase the number of children prepared for preschool, and to assist those who may be falling behind.
Yonts also announced a new program for adults, called ACE2, which will offer free online classes for adults to help improve their computer skills.
Yonts noted that the foundation has seen huge success by partnering with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and the Muhlenberg County Public Libraries in distributing over 50,000 books to the county's children under age 5 since 2009.
One of the biggest undertakings of the foundation has been an $8 million grant to help construct phase one the new Muhlenberg County Park, located next to Muhlenberg High School's West Campus.
Tommy Barton, Executive Director of the Greater Muhlenberg Parks and Recreation System, told the chamber that despite recent bad weather, contractors have assured him the new facility will be ready to open in July.
"I talked to the architects and contractors earlier this week and they have assured me that phase one of the park will be ready to open the first week of July," Barton said.
According to Barton, phase one of the park, which will be called the Ray Jones Family Athletic Complex, will include five youth baseball/softball fields, five tennis courts, two basketball courts, one sand volleyball court, a playground, batting cages, restrooms, concession stands, and the new park system office building.
"The grand opening of the park will coincide with the National Softball Association Girls Softball Tournament on July 5 and 6. We hope to have a number of teams coming in for that. They will be staying at our county's motels, eating at our restaurants, buying gas at our gas stations. We hope to have half the school working at that event," Barton said.
SurfKY News Reporter
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