Kivonna Coccia, executive director of Casa De Belen youth homeless shelter in Roseburg, has a tattoo of a fishbowl and a couch on her arm.

When Kivonna Coccia decided to get a tattoo on her left forearm, she didn’t pick a butterfly, or a flower, or the symbol for Chi.

Instead she chose to get a couch, with a fishbowl next to it and the words “YOUth Matter” underneath.

“I want people to know that a couch is not a house,” said Coccia, executive director of Casa de Belen, a homeless shelter for youth in Roseburg. “I wanted to bring awareness because the problem is not talked about enough.”

The fishbowl is also meant to be inspirational for youth going through hard times, Coccia said. It represents the message presented by Dory the fish in the animated movie “Finding Nemo.”

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming and swimming and swimming,” Coccia said. “I want to encourage them to keep trying.”

Coccia made her remarks Tuesday as she accepted $7,500 on behalf of Casa de Belen at an event at Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, hosted by the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation.

The foundation awarded a total of $474,650 to 70 nonprofit organizations located in Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lane counties. The foundation was founded in 1997 and began its philanthropic efforts the following year. To date, the foundation has awarded slightly less than $19 million to the seven counties in southwest Oregon to which it provides grants. The grants are awarded twice a year, in January and June. Last June, the foundation gave $556,850 to 83 nonprofit organizations.

“There are 38 organizations out of 70 that braved the roads to be here today,” said Carma Mornarich, executive director of the foundation. Mornarich said many of the agencies receiving funding help people who have to face the harsh weather without the benefit of adequate food, or shelter.

“They have no shelter, they have no specific place to go to get warm, and they are forced every day to figure out how to get food,” she said. “They are in survival mode. Every day. Every minute. Their life is about survival.

“‘Where do I get food today?’ is not a question very many of us have had to ask ourselves. But there are lots of people out there that do — every day — ‘How am I going to eat?’”

The organizations that received funding serve a broad and diverse group of people, from youth to senior citizens.

The Elkton Community Education Center was awarded $5,000 to help pay wages and other job training costs for rural students. One such student is Kyah Shepherd, 16, who attends the Elkton Charter School and is studying nursery management at the center. She has been selected to run a work crew at the center next summer.

“If you don’t have experience to get a job, you can get it here,” Shepherd said of the center as she helped accept the grant check. “You’re around jobs.”

Mornarich thanked those in the room for doing such important work, for tossing a lifeline to those in need.

“Our understanding and acknowledgement create a common compassion and we are reacting and taking action,” she said. “Many of the nonprofits in this room feed people. Others provide shelter. Others provide clothing. We are more human thanks to this connection.”

The following organizations from Douglas County received funding:

  • Case De Belen: $7,500 to provide funding for occupancy and support services for homeless teens.
  • Elkton Community Education Center: $5,000 to provide funding for student wages and native plant shade house for increased job training for rural students.
  • Friends of the Roseburg Library: $4,000 to support the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program that mails out a free book to children each month from birth to age 5.
  • NeighborWorks Umpqua: $7,500 to provide funding for materials so project partner Reedsport Charter School Manufacturing Program can build and install ramps for low-income seniors living in manufactured home parks.
  • Parents and Teachers Together: $5,000 to assist with replacing a 20-year-old greenhouse at Glendale K-8 Elementary School.
  • Riddle City Library: $2,500 to support the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program that mails out a free book to children in southern Douglas County each month from birth to age 5.

Winston Area Community Partnership: $7,500 to provide operational support for the Winston Teen Center and after-school youth programs.

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