A group that provides educational opportunities to inmates, an organization dedicated to cleaning up Casco Bay, a program offering enrichment activities to at-risk middle school students, a therapeutic riding center and a hunger prevention initiative: these are just some of the recipients of the latest round of Common Good Grants. In all, nine nonprofits from the greater Brunswick area have benefited from grants totaling more than $21,000, thanks to the program which is organized by the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good and led by Bowdoin students.
The Common Good Grant Program has been operating since 2001, involving students in all aspects of the grant-giving process. “Throughout its history, the program has distributed about $240,000 to more than 90 nonprofits, and involved about 300 students,” said Nhi Nguyen, Assistant Director at the McKeen Center, who runs the program. Furthermore, she said, it provides students with a unique educational experience, whether they’re writing grant applications, reaching out to donors, “or dealing with the non-profits themselves and learning about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running a nonprofit organization.”
Bowdoin students, staff, donors and grant recipients gathered at a ceremony on campus on the evening of April 19th to celebrate the latest awards. Among those in attendance was Richard Hodges, coordinator of the “Teen Ag” program at Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport, which was among the several non-profits receiving the maximum $2500 grant. “We work with teenagers, mostly high school students, throughout summer and into the fall,” he said, “teaching them about sustainable agriculture and growing produce. We donate a large quantity of it to local food pantries, so this grant will help us continue the program and do more outreach to local food pantries. It’s great.”
Olivia Pfeifer ’16, an Earth and Oceanographic Science major, is on the Grant Committee, “which means I do site visits and get to know the organizations that have applied.” This all culminates in a five hour meeting, she said, “where we get together and talk about the pros and cons of different groups.” Hailey Blain ’18 also sits on the committee. “Deciding who gets the money was incredibly difficult because we all had our own passions and ideas about which nonprofits to fund,” she said. “We had to carefully weigh the effect the grant money would have, who needed it the most, and how much to give, she said.” Thirteen groups submitted applications, nine were successful.
Emily Snider ’16 is one of the two Common Good Grant Fellows who facilitate the project. The other is Alexa Sadler ’16. “This is my most important extra-curricular activity,” said Snider. “It’s a big time commitment, 90 minutes once a week on school nights, but it’s a great way of getting experience in the more business and academic side of community service.” Most community service groups, she said, tend to offer help of a more direct, physical nature. “‘So instead of going and building or renovating a house for example, which don’t get me wrong is a great thing to do, we’re writing up grant proposals, talking to donors and tallying up numbers. So it’s a great way of using skills we learn in the classroom to help the community.”
List of 2016 Common Good Grants recipients:
Bowdoinham Community Development Initiative (Bowdoinham) to support BCDI’s operational and administrative funding for community development projects.
College Guild (Brunswick) to support programming costs for a fall 2016 Social Justice campus event on mass incarceration and social injustice.
Friends of Casco Bay (South Portland) to launch the Nitrogen Nabbing Initiative to collect samples in Casco Bay during a one-day event involving 100+ volunteers.
Maine Boys to Men (Yarmouth) to fund its flagship program, Reducing Sexism and Violence (RSVP), for middle and high schools in Brunswick and surrounding towns, and to support the screening of a film and a workshop for parent debrief.
Marine Mammals of Maine (Bath) to standardize public outreach materials for the Training Environmental Stewards of Marine Mammals program, which educates the public on the marine mammals of Maine and increases awareness of potential human impact.
Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program (Brunswick) to provide free meals for adults who bring children to summer meal sites through the Summer Meals Program, in order to reduce adult food insecurity and build family bonding.
Riding to the Top Therapeutic Riding Center (Windham) to purchase materials and equipment for a round pen for their Equine Assisted Learning therapy program.
Seeds of Independence (Brunswick) to support additional experiential and enrichment activities for Program Grit, an afterschool program featuring academic support and extra-curricular activities for at-risk 6th graders.
Wolfe’s Neck Farm (Freeport) to support Teen Agriculture: Raising Farmers, Feeding Maine, an agriculture production program that supports five SNAP CSA shares through youth involvement in agriculture science, food production, and hunger education.