Approved grants strengthen summer activities

The Marietta Community Foundation’s first grant cycle awarded 18 grants to area nonprofit initiatives that ranged from beautification efforts to emergency discretionary funds for domestic violence survivors. As the Foundation receives more applications each cycle, they see the diversity of need in the Mid-Ohio Valley as well as the similarities. Among the recipients of this grant cycle were four organizations who share similar missions to help improve the lives of our area children and adolescents, the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County (BGCWC), the Washington County 4-H Council, the Christian Youth in Action (MOV Work Camp) and the iBelieve Foundation.

The BGCWC welcomes elementary and middle school kids from all over the MOV. Particularly during the summer months, they rely on the ability to transport program participants to and from a variety of enriching activities. Yet their existing minivan was only able to safely transport five students at a time. The club offers engaging activities to help participants learn new talents and life skills while making friends. Over the summer, kids have a new activity or program every hour. This year, participants can look forward to tennis, summer learning loss prevention activities, the Gardening and Healthy Habits Program offered through collaboration with The Ohio State University Extension Office and more. Their grant for a new, 15 passenger van enables them to better complete their mission to never turn a child away as it means they can more easily offer transportation to those who need it. The new van also helps improve safety while lowering overhead costs like gas and maintenance.

The Washington County 4-H Council’s local Robotics Club gives middle school students the chance to explore STEM related critical thinking, design, collaboration and creativity. Through their funding award, the local 4-H Robotics Club purchased two LEGO Education EV3 Sets which will help support students through providing core materials and tutorials.

“The 4-H program Robotics Club teaches basic concepts related to robotic subsystems, such as structure, power, sensors, control and programming,” said Bruce Zimmer, 4-H Youth Development and Extension County Director. “We are excited to introduce hands-on robotics activities with the new EV3 LEGO kits.”

The Christian Youth in Action, or MOV Work Camp, initiative brings together approximately 450 volunteers of teens and adults to paint 25 homes in just four days. Groups of 10 to 12 teens with between two and three adult supervisors spend a combined 18,000 hours painting houses for elderly and underprivileged residents. The effort is all about giving back to those in need. Now in their 20th year, the nonprofit initiative has painted 600 houses to date and helped teach invaluable lessons of collaboration and philanthropy, as well as work skills, to area adolescents. Grant funding for the project enables the purchase of supplies to help keep this effort primed for success.

The iBelieve project collaborates with all Washington County school districts, the Washington County Behavioral Board and volunteers from the Mid-Ohio Valley to provide immersive opportunities designed to strengthen transferrable skills for college and career success. The three-year program provides summer camps, as well as leadership activities and mentorship, from 10th through 12th grade at no cost to students.

The three-year camp helps teach “good communication skills and the value of appreciating peers for who they are,” said one participant. “The program allows everyone to step outside of their comfort zone and be themselves. It is a great camp with great people.”

The grant enables iBelieve camp participation from 13 additional Washington County students, bringing Washington County membership to a total of 37 this year. During the summer camp, students spend 5 days and 4 nights on a regional college campus where they become familiar with campus living, gain experiential learning and hone skills necessary for successful futures. The program boasts an impressive 97% success rate of program alumni who are currently enrolled in or graduates of a higher education program.

With sizzling hot days and nights filled with the soft flicker of fireflies the lazy, hazy days of summer are fully upon us now. But for our area kids that does not mean there is a lack of things to do. As the days grow longer and hotter, our area children and teens are given new opportunities to fill up their summer with fun and meaningful activities offered by nonprofits like these.

The Marietta Community Foundation awarded nearly $55,000 this grant cycle. Of that amount, more than $45,000 came from Unrestricted Funds with the remaining amount comprised of various donor funds. The Foundation has been lucky to see the continued growth of the Unrestricted Fund, yet also continues to see community needs grow. While they were able to provide much needed funding to many great applicants this cycle, there were still needs they were not able to meet.

The decision to approve a grant is both rewarding and fulfilling. The Community Foundation looks to their Unrestricted Funds to help meet area needs during their grant cycles and as emergencies arise organically throughout the year. While the Foundation take pride in the rise of grant cycle funds it has awarded over the years, it also recognizes that there are still needs that go unmet. Through the continued support of donors the Foundation know that it can continue to narrow this gap. Together we can grow stronger. Together we can change lives.

Heather Allender is Marietta Community Foundation president and CEO.

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