The Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth at the Vermont Community Foundation Announces Grants to Support Bennington Area Youth

From VCF –

The Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth at the Vermont Community Foundation recently awarded $27,203 in grants to support dynamic and innovative youth programs in Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, and Woodford. Three community members who live and/or work with youth in these five Bennington towns participated on the review committee.

In 2023, the fund prioritized projects that focus on one or more of the following goals:

  • Elevate youth voice, leadership, and empowerment in the community and youth-serving institutions, especially of historically marginalized youth
  • Provide opportunity and access for youth facing hardships related to poverty, marginalization, violence, and other traumas
  • Expand youth engagement in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) activities and increase youth exposure to STEAM careers
  • Advance youth workforce development and rural entrepreneurship

“It’s exciting to have a sustaining grant program that focuses solely on youth,” said Holly Morehouse, vice president of Grants and Community Impact at the Vermont Community Foundation. “This year’s grantees highlight the creative programming developed to support youth in the Bennington area and engage them with their communities—from workforce development to gardening and food production education.”

Elisabeth Marx, a senior philanthropic advisor at the Community Foundation, noted that “VCF invites a small group of residents from the Bennington area to review the proposals each year to bring a community-based perspective to our review of proposals. Each reviewer has experience working with youth and/or raising youth in the region. A few have multi-generational roots.”

The fund was formed in 2018 with the goal of ensuring a permanent source of revenue for youth programs in the Bennington area. Growing the number and size of youth development programs can play a vital role in keeping families in the area and attracting families to the region. The program has awarded over $125,000 to youth-serving programs in the Bennington area since its launch in 2018.

Visit to learn more about the Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth.   

2023 Grant Recipients

The Bennington Free Library received $2,550 to support Check It Out!, a chess program that will promote the game of chess to students in sixth to 12th grade and include both basics and strategies needed to compete in tournaments.

Bennington Martens received $3,500 to develop a new AAU program for young female basketball players that offers training and coaching to help them achieve athletic excellence, with the goal of helping players earn athletic scholarships and attend college.

The Center for Restorative Justice (CRJ) received $3,173 to support a summer program for middle school youth, Gardening Project – Learning, Growing, and Giving Back to the Community. The youth will develop and maintain raised-bed vegetable gardens and donate any produce grown to the community.

Friends of Hiland Hall Gardens received $3,500 to support its Garden Farm to School Program. Educational opportunities include teaching elementary students how to grow, harvest, and prepare healthy foods. The Village Camp summer program extends those opportunities throughout the summer and allows campers to grow produce to donate to Meals on Wheels and a local food pantry.

Gallop to Success received $2,000 to support its 2023 Summer Camp. Gallop to Success offers overnight and day-camp sessions at an equine farm for at-risk youth. Instruction emphasizes building social and leadership skills along with self-esteem.

Governor’s Institute of Vermont received $3,500 to support academic and artistic enrichment for underserved, rural teens in the Greater Bennington Area. Funds will provide youth with opportunities to explore career pathways and engage with like-minded peers and subject matter experts.

Paran Recreations received $3,480 to support summer workforce development for high school-aged youth. The organization will provide a summer workforce experience for two high school camp counselors that includes comprehensive training in their career field of interest.

The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union received $3,500 to support a Southern Vermont Juneteenth Festival, a free event open to the public that will be educational and entertaining in its format and provide an open door to all community members to learn about the newest federal holiday.

The Vermont Arts Exchange received $2,000 to support the Bennington Music Exchange, which will bring two musical education groups, ZUMIX and Moose, Jr., to the Vermont School for Girls and the housing communities of Beech Court and Willowbrook to host musical education workshops. A focus on music technology, songwriting, singing, and performing will culminate in public and private performances.

The Vermont Community Foundation was established in 1986 as an enduring source of philanthropic support for Vermont communities. A family of more than 900 funds, foundations, and supporting organizations, the Foundation makes it easy for the people who care about Vermont to find and fund the causes they love. The Community Foundation and its partners put more than $60 million annually to work in Vermont communities and beyond. The heart of its work is closing the opportunity gap—the divide that leaves too many Vermonters struggling to get ahead, no matter how hard they work. The Community Foundation envisions Vermont at its best—where everyone can build a bright, secure future. Visit or call 802-388-3355 for more information.