BOYNE CITY — The utility cooperative Great Lakes Energy recently announced 28 nonprofit organizations in northwest Michigan that received grants for various community projects.

Among the local winners were the Pathfinder Community Library, in Baldwin, which won a $5,000 grant, the Reed City Area District Library, which won a $5,104 grant and Luther Fire District No. 1, which received a $2,109 grant.

"How cool is that?" said Pathfinder director Bonnie Povilaitis. "Great Lakes Energy is helping so many communities with grants like these. Any entity in a rural area like ours could use help like that."

Pathfinder's grant award will pay most of the cost for a project that will bring a new handicap-accessible door, complete with a pushbutton, to the library. Povilaitis said the library's current door is compliant with standards set by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, but still isn't very convenient for people who use it.

"People in wheelchairs can get through it, but you can't hit a button and open it up like you see at so many other places — someone from inside needs to actually come outside and open the door for you," she said. "We have a lot of seniors and people with disabilities who come here and use wheelchairs to get around."

The Reed City library's award will cover the entire cost of replacing six computers, which were running on an obsolete operating system, and buying two more. The computers are part of a larger project to revamp the library's public access computing center, which also involves new paint, wall art and furniture, library director Tom Burnosky said.

"The center in itself is an equalizer for technology," Burnosky said. "We serve people who come in just for email, but we also have people come in who are running small businesses online, so this will serve a lot of needs. People are going to be able to develop their skills around a Windows 10 environment, which is commonly used in the workplace."

Burnosky said he was appreciative of the award, adding he expects the center to be finished in about a month.

"We're very surprised and overwhelmed," he said.

The award for Luther Fire District No. 1 will go toward a rescue raft.

In total, Great Lakes Energy doled out $94,175 in People Fund grants, which is a program that has been around since 1999.

The People Fund is supported by the voluntary contributions of Great Lakes Energy members who allow their electric cooperative to round up their bill each month to the next dollar. It averages 50 cents a month.

“Cooperatives have a unique opportunity to have a significant impact in the communities they serve,” Great Lakes Energy President/CEO Bill Scott stated in a press release. “By allowing members to round up their bill, Great Lakes Energy serves as the conduit between them and their communities to have a positive and lasting impact.”