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DECATUR — As the senior services supervisor for Meals on Wheels of Macon County, Greg Fitzgerald has witnessed firsthand how the program has grown by "leaps and bounds." 

Fitzgerald said Meals on Wheels delivered 78,000 meals to its clients last year. In order to ensure the program keeps up with demand, he said financial support is important. When the We Are One Community Fund reached out to lend a helping hand, Fitzgerald said he was "grateful" for its contribution. 

"Every little penny helps," he said. "We're probably going to use this money to pay for more meals for clients."

Meals on Wheels, along with 10 other local agencies, have been awarded a total of $14,000 in grants from We Are One Community fund. A ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. today at the large pavilion in Fairview Park.

The other recipients included the Decatur Family YMCA, the Good Samaritan Inn, Old King's Orchard, the Homework Hangout Pre-Apprentice Program, Boy Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Child 1st Center, Decatur Power Tumblers, Webster-Cantrell Hall and Northeast Community Fund. 

In addition to those grants, the fund will make smaller contributions to the Boys & Girls Club, American Cancer Society, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, St. Mary's Hospice, DOVE, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Catholic Charities, the Eddie Eagle Foundation, Shriners Hospital, Heritage House, Visiting Nurses, Special Olympics and Macon County Animal Shelter. 

In all, the fund will distribute $16,500 this year.

"We're very honored to receive a gift from (We Are One Community)," said Jerry Pelz, executive director of Northeast Community Fund.

Pelz said Northeast Community Fund is raising $2 million to build a new facility in Decatur, and said the $1,000 grant it received was a nice addition to its building fund.

"This is the first time we've received money from We Are One Community, but they've been very generous community supporters. They're good partners to have in your corner," he said.

Founded in 2011 as a collaboration between the Decatur Trades & Labor Assembly and the Decatur Building & Construction Trades Council, We Are One Community has prioritized the promotion of collective philanthropic efforts among working families. 

"With union members, we have a pretty strong tradition of giving back to the community," Chairwoman Amy Rueff said. "We're citizens here, we raised our families here and we want to do right by the community." 

Rueff said the fund has given $95,000 in the past six years. She hopes that We Are One Community can one day reach its goal of giving away $1 million, but she's really proud of what it has accomplished so far. 

Child 1st Center Director Jean Moore said this was the second time her program has received a grant from We Are One Community. The funds will help abused children and their families with emergency housing or transportation needs, she said. 

"We're very fortunate for their help, and I welcome the opportunity," Moore said. 

Matt Whitehead feels the same way. The Decatur Family YMCA CEO said its grant will provide financial aid for low-income families to ue the facility and the programs that it offers. 

"That way, we can make sure that we aren't pushing people away from the Y," Whitehead said. 

The recent distribution of the We Are One Community grants marks the beginning of a new season of giving to the fund. Rueff encourages local unions to host fundraising campaigns and to promote payroll deductions with their employers. 

"Last year, we raised $22,000, and this year, we raised a little bit less than that," Rueff said. "But we're hoping to give away more money away next year."

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Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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