The Vermont Community Foundation announces $21,343 in grants from the Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth, a new philanthropic resource in southern Bennington County

The Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth is a newly launched fund at the Vermont Community Foundation. As the Foundation increased its engagement in the Bennington County region over the past two years, the organization heard a recurring theme: middle and high school youth are looking for more opportunities to pursue interests and build skills, and businesses cannot keep or recruit the best talent for Bennington-area jobs unless families know their children and youth can thrive.  It is clear that youth development programs play a vital role in keeping and attracting families in the Southshire.

The Southshire community’s eagerness to support their young people resulted in the Foundation creating a fund that will make grants for dynamic and innovative youth programs in Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, and Woodford. Seed funding from the Community Foundation will support the first three years of grantmaking at an amount of $20,000 annually. The Foundation is committed to raising at least $500,000 in the next several years to assure that the fund can continue to make at least $20,000 in annual grants in perpetuity. The goal over time is to grow the fund to $1 million and more than double the annual grants.

In late 2018, the Fund’s first annual grant round awarded $21,343 to six organizations in the region. $11,593 of the total was made possible by Giving Together, a program at the Community Foundation that shares grant proposals with fundholders and donors, giving them the opportunity to co-fund projects.

"The Vermont Community Foundation has initiated the Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth as part of a special commitment to increase philanthropy in southern Vermont, particularly the Bennington region,” stated President Dan Smith. “In late 2017, we committed to closing the opportunity gap in Vermont, and this fund is part of our efforts to respond to local communities’ goals to help all Vermonters thrive in school, work, and life. In addition to these grants, the Community Foundation and its supporting organizations also made a $500,000 investment in the Putnam Block project and eight other grants totaling $96,032 to nonprofits in the Bennington region in 2018.”

”Small nonprofit organizations serving youth in the Southshire often struggle with limited resources to support programs and services,” observed Betsy Rathbun-Gunn, a Foundation Board Member who lives in the region and is the Director of Early Childhood Services at United Counseling Services in Bennington. “I am excited to be a part of the Community Foundation’s commitment to creating a permanent community fund for Bennington’s future.” 

For more information on the Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth and its $1 million goal, please contact Bennington County-based Elisabeth Marx, Senior Philanthropic Advisor at the Vermont Community Foundation at 802-388-3355 ext. 241.

2018 Inaugural Grant Making

Alliance for Community Transformation received $2,500 for a program that will support and empower LGBTQ+ youth through education opportunities including leadership conferences and LGBTQ+ justice and rights advocacy.

Bennington College received $3,000 to pilot a student-to-student mentor program for first-generation, low-income, or working-class students from Bennington College and Mount Anthony Union High School.

Center for Restorative Justice received $3,843 to offer ten youths a week-long summer program that fosters team-building and leadership skills, develops self-confidence, and builds a sense of empowerment and self-respect.

Community College of Vermont Bennington received $4,000 to provide college and career preparation support through individual coaching sessions and group workshops for 20 to 25 high school juniors and seniors.

Vermont Arts Exchange received $4,000 to support professional musician and sound engineer mentorship for 12 to 15 high school students so that they may write, perform, and record music, and produce two public events at a popular downtown venue.

Young Hacks Academy received $4,000 for Team Elektra—a summer camp for girls in grades six and seven that builds girls’ confidence and expertise in the use of technology tools through an introduction to core concepts of digital media design and production.






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