18 Projects Awarded Vermont Community Foundation Spark! Grants

The Vermont Community Foundation announced that 18 nonprofit organizations across the state are receiving a total of $48,668 in Spark! grants for local projects that will nurture their communities and build social capital. These grants—where a small amount can make a big difference—are intended to light the spark that keeps Vermonters healthy and happy.

This round of projects includes the expansion of a Bennington area after school program for at-risk youth in grades 7-12, a new Justice Film and Discussion Series in Derby Line, two trails connecting a K-12 Orange County school to a nearby bike path to make a safer commute, and hiring bilingual high school students from local farmworker families to strengthen communications and reduce the isolation encountered by many of the Spanish speaking migrant families that work in Addison County.

“Vermonters are good at volunteering. We’re good at helping each other and creating space for youth and adults to come together,” says Vermont Community Foundation Vice President for Grants and Community Investments Sarah Waring. “This social fabric is critical to our communities and grows when there is local support for such initiatives. We are proud to support the grantees for Spark! for the spring of 2019, because we believe they’ve all found innovative ways to build community locally.”

One of the competitive grant programs at the Community Foundation, Spark! Connecting Community supports the grassroots work happening throughout Vermont that turns good ideas into remarkable results. These grants were generously supported by a number of fundholders through Giving Together, a program at the Foundation that offers the opportunity to co-fund projects.

Nonprofits interested in applying for the next round of Spark! Connecting Community grants are encouraged to visit vermontcf.org/spark for more information. The second round for 2019 just closed and the last round for this year has a September 27 deadline.

Spark! Connecting Community Grants in Spring 2019

Addison County

The Addison Allies Network ($3,000) will hire bilingual high school students from local farmworker families to distribute a comprehensive resource guide and strengthen communications and connections between farmworker families and their community. The program will offer valuable work experience for youth and reduce the isolation encountered by many of the Spanish speaking migrant families in the area.

TheBoys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes (3,000) will offer a Summer Club Camp for fourth through sixth graders.  Recognizing a community need for safe recreation outside of the school year, the camp will provide a program where the campers are engaged, nurtured, and free to be themselves. In addition to fun activities, Summer Club campers will receive free breakfasts and lunches.

Bennington County

The Center for Restorative Justice ($2,971) is expanding its after school program from one to two days per week. SHOP, which stands for Student Hope and Opportunity Program, serves Bennington area at-risk youth in grades 7-12. Preliminary plans for increased activities include starting and maintaining a community garden, volunteering at local events, and participating in more outdoor activities.

Caledonia County

Northeast Kingdom Community Action’s ($3,000) Community Day Shelter in St. Johnsbury provides warmth, companionship, and nourishment to individuals experiencing homelessness. Volunteers—including those who have experienced homelessness—provide peer mentoring, companionship, and a sense of connection to the community. This grant will support the hiring of a part-time shelter coordinator who will oversee volunteer recruitment and training while coordinating access to services with participating regional providers.

The Wheelock Community Initiative ($500) is organizing monthly community events to encourage neighbors to get to know and trust one another. It works to create economic and social opportunities for all residents including elders, families, working people, and non-residents in order to develop a vibrant town.

Chittenden County

The Friends of the Fletcher Free Library ($2,500) is partnering with Champlain Valley Head Start to increase kindergarten readiness and build literacy skills for children ages zero to five. This pilot “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program strengthens out of school learning opportunities by connecting preschool, library, and home. It will also bring services to families that have difficulty accessing in-house programs due to transportation, schedules, or other factors.

Spectrum Youth & Family Services ($3,250) will bring 120 multicultural youth, including many from immigrant and refugee communities, together for a daylong conference to learn and practice leadership skills, increase resilience and self-determination, and nurture peer connections.

The Turning Point Center of Chittenden County ($3,000) will collaboratively create, with recovery community participants, a 15’ x 5’ wall sculpture and individual art pieces. The sculpture will convey how each individual recovery connects and enriches another and will be located at the Turning Point Center of Chittenden County.

Essex County

TheBrighton Community Forum ($3,000) is teaming up with Catamount Arts to make its Independence Day weekend concert series an even bigger attraction. Community events and economic development go hand-in-hand in this Northeast Kingdom town and the larger concerts can help improve Brighton’s economic health and social vibrancy. 

Lamoille County

Lamoille Union High School ($2,850) offers its EPIC Academy, where students devote half of their traditional class time to completing self-determined, long-term academic projects driven by their own interests. This grant supports the purchase of photography equipment, art and design supplies, and project planning tools that EPIC students will use to create and present their final projects.

Orange County

The Cross Vermont Trail Association ($3,000) will reestablish two trails between the Blue Mountain Union K-12 School and existing nearby nature preserve and bike path. One trail will be bike accessible for all, providing opportunity for students to commute to and from school. The second trail will be “steep and challenging,” as requested by students, providing the community with a new option for outdoor recreation.

The Special Needs Support Center ($3,000) manages “Aspire,” a year-round recreation program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children enjoy activities that encourage development of communication and social skills through modeling and practice. Individualized skills and goals are worked on through play and exploration in the community. Grant funds will double its recreational field trips per year (to 48) and increase the number of families served by 25%.

Orleans County

The First Universalist Parish of Derby Line ($1,600) will bring people together through the monthly Justice Film and Discussion Series. This series will provide a safe place for discourse and learning, where community members can explore large topics and think through their own local needs and responses. The program includes facilitated conversation with experts as well as filmmakers.

Newport Wireless Mesh ($3,000) is building a community supported wireless internet system in Newport’s poorest neighborhood. The project demonstrates that neighbors working together have the power to get what they need to succeed.

ReNewport Events! ($2,500) will help Lake Memphremagog echo with the joyous sounds of African drums as Newport youth perform traditional rhythms and dances following this summer’s Aquafest parade. The grant supports the Newport Parks and Recreation Department in hosting the Burlington-based West African Drummers group Jeh Kulu for a weeklong workshop for youth. Professional performers from Guinea, Senegal, and Mali will teach traditional drum and dance and share their West African cultural values which emphasize the importance of family and community.

Rutland County

Wallingford Day ($2,500) is reviving and renewing a formerly annual tradition of bringing together its community and neighbors to celebrate the town with outdoor activities, local food, entertainment and a fireworks display. Wallingford Day 2019 takes place on July 20 and will include representatives of local organizations and services.

Washington County

SafeArt ($3,000) will organize a mural painting summer camp for at risk youth at The Basement Teen Center in Montpelier. The youth will design and paint a mural that explores topics related to trauma, resiliency, healing, and social change while incorporating self-care tools for addressing trauma.

Windham County

The BF Community Bike Project ($2,997) is expanding its Summer Bicycle Camp by adding a Fall Afterschool program for the Bellows Falls middle schoolers it serves. The students learn repair and maintenance skills and have the opportunity to earn their own free bike—providing mobility and independence.

The Vermont Community Foundation inspires giving and brings people and resources together to make a difference in Vermont. A family of hundreds of funds and foundations, we provide the advice, investment vehicles, and back-office expertise that make it easy for the people who care about Vermont to find and fund the causes they love.

The heart of the Community Foundation’s work is closing the opportunity gap—the divide that leaves too many Vermonters struggling to get ahead, no matter how hard they work. We are aligning our time, energy, and discretionary resources on efforts that provide access to early care and learning, pathways to college and career training, support for youth and families, and community and economic vitality. We envision Vermont at its best—where everyone has the opportunity to build a bright, secure future.

Visit vermontcf.org or call 802-388-3355 for more information.