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Ardmore refinery gives out $200,000 as part of Valero Benefit for Children

Drew Butler
Representatives from Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers were on site at the Valero Refinery on Thursday to receive $30,000 from the Valero Benefit for Children. The corporation gave out $200,000 between five different local nonprofit organizations.

The Valero Ardmore Refinery surprised five local nonprofits with $200,000 in grant funding on Thursday as part of the Valero Benefit for Children. Ultimately, $30,000 went to Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers, $40,000 went to both CASA of Southern Oklahoma and Take Two Alternative Education Services, and $45,000 went to the HFV Wilson Community Center and the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma.

Sara Jones, community relations advisor for the Valero Ardmore Refinery, said the Valero Benefit for Children takes place every year but this year things worked a bit differently because of COVID-19. For example, the funding for the event typically comes from the Valero Texas Open which was cancelled this spring because of the virus. In spite of the cancellation, the corporation’s business partners, sponsors, and individual donors of the tournament still contributed over $14 million in net proceeds for charitable organizations across the United States.

Another problem was how to distribute the money to the organizations. Valero typically holds a large ceremony where all the organizations that will be receiving the money come together for a presentation, but they did not want to host such a large event in the current climate. So Jones came up with another idea. She invited all the recipients out to the refinery individually to conduct a presentation about how they planned to spend the money if they received it. They had no idea they were going to receive it while they were there.

Jessica Pfau, executive director of Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers, said receiving the funding came a complete surprise.

“We thought we were coming here to do a presentation to be considered for the money, and we had no idea whether or not we were going to receive it,” Pfau said. “After we pulled up and got out of the car, Sara (Jones) told us that she’d lured us here under false presentations, and that’s when we saw everybody and knew.”

When each of the recipients walked into the Valero Administration Building, they were greeted by balloons and staff members ringing cow bells before being presented a certificate for their funding.

In addition to the unique way the funds were given out, Valero also decided to take a different approach about how many organizations received the funds. In years past, the funds were divided between 20 to 40 different recipients with each agency receiving a smaller amount.

This year, they decided to give larger amounts to a more select group of recipients in order to maximize the impact the funds make to each organization.

“With COVID and everything shifting as far as these agencies’ funding goes we wanted to do something a little different,” Jones said. “As you talk to these nonprofits you find out that lots of them are losing some of their funding, whether that’s government funding or private funding. So we wanted to use this money where it would give the biggest impact.”

In spite of many agencies having tight budgets, Jones said some ultimately passed on participating this year so that other agencies could have the chance.

“As I reached out to the different agencies that we know have a huge impact on our area youth, it was really cool to hear some of them say 'now, we’re actually doing well financially,'” Jones said. “There were three or four different agencies that told us they were doing fine and they would rather see that money go to a different agency that could really use it.”

As for Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers, Pfau said they plan to use their funding for specialized training for counselors and a new iPad program they hope to begin in area schools.

"We cover nine counties so we have a lot of things going on, but we have some very specific things that we plan to use the money for,” Pfau said. “As an example, one of them is a very specialized training for some of our counselors that’s expensive that we wouldn’t normally be able to do. We also have some iPads that we hope to put into the schools, so that when a child is in crisis each school will have an iPad. All they have to do is press a button and it will immediately connect them with a Lighthouse licensed professional counselor who will then be able to help them. That will take some of the pressure off the schools and get children the help they need.”

Kevin Lassahn, vice president and general manager of Valero Ardmore, said he is happy to help local agencies help children.

“This is really positive news for our local nonprofit organizations, many of whom are facing challenges as a result of the pandemic,” Lassahn said. “We know how important it is to continue supporting these agencies and the work they do for the children in our community.”