The Lawton Constitution directed $10,000 this week to Arts for All to help that organization support local arts during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The gift came via the Carmage and Martha Ann Walls Foundation, which allows publishers at all Southern Newspapers Inc.-owned papers to choose a local non-profit to receive funds each year.

Carmage Walls founded Southern Newspapers, which now owns 12 community newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma. Martha Ann Walls served as president of the company for most of its history. Their daughter, Lissa Walls, now owns the company, and her parents’ legacy of community giving lives on through her and the foundation.

“This gift is a reflection of the legacy of giving many newspapers through history have been a part of,” said Constitution Publisher David R. Stringer. “Newspapers have supported all sorts of volunteer efforts, sometimes through news coverage, or perhaps advertising or donations. We’re glad the Walls family and Southern continue to honor that legacy and history of community support. It’s especially critical under today’s conditions.”

Arts for All was unable to hold its annual festival this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Constitution recognizes the value of the arts in society and wanted to support those artists who are struggling now.

Publishers of each newspaper recommend organizations for funding, and the foundation’s board of trustees vote on distribution.

Past recipients of Carmage and Martha Ann Walls Foundation grants distributed through The Constitution include the Lawton Public School Foundation and Comanche County Memorial Hospital Foundation.

This year publishers were asked to consider giving to organizations impacted by COVID-19, which turned out to be an easy task since just about every aspect of our economy has been affected.

Organizations that received grants for 2020 provide shelter, assist family violence victims, relieve food insecurity, offer healthcare and rescue abandoned animals, among other worthwhile endeavors.

In the past 10 years, the foundation has given almost $3 million to the communities Walls-owned newspapers serve, including Galveston, Baytown, Brazoria County, Bay City, Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Paris, Del Rio, New Braunfels, Kerrville, Seguin and in Lawton, Oklahoma.

The newspapers themselves also offer matching funds or sponsor local events and activities that benefit the areas they service. Just a few of those sponsored by The Lawton Constitution include last year’s Apache Balloon Festival, the upcoming Trace Adkins concert hosted by Fort Sill Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), the annual scholar letters program for the three Lawton high schools and the International Festival.

“I’m proud to work for a community-first newspaper company,” Stringer said. “We literally are invested in our towns in so many ways, including job creation, community building, accountability journalism, marketing to help local businesses reach audiences and more. Walls Foundation grants allow us to have a significant impact on non-profits that enrich our community and the efforts of local volunteers.”

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