Students Practice Philanthropy in Common Good Grant Program

Common Good Grant student participants

The McKeen Center recently hosted the Common Good Grant Awards Ceremony and Reception in Moulton Lounge to distribute grants to eight local organizations.

The Common Good Grant Committee is a student-driven program that provides grants to nonprofits in the greater Brunswick area. Since 2001, the committee has given out more than $240,000 in grants to over 85 organizations.

The awards ceremony brought together students, grant recipients, community partners, Bowdoin staff, and donors. Common Good Grant fellows Zenzele Best ’17 and Monique Lillis ’17 introduced the two student groups that comprise the program: the grant committee and the development committee. The latter, which focuses on fundraising, was added in 2004 due to the high volume of grant requests. This year, the program received an unprecedented 43 grant proposals.

“In addition to gaining valuable experience in fundraising and donor cultivation, the development committee has had a huge impact on expanding the scope of the program,” Best said. This year, the students raised $12,510. This is in addition to the $10,000 the program gets each year from an anonymous donor.

Audrey Leland ’18 has served on both the grant committee and the development committee during her time at Bowdoin. “As a part of the program, both committees spend the first semester learning about local nonprofit organizations, the issues they address, and what the role of philanthropy should be,” she explained. “Later, during the spring, the grant committee reads all of the submissions for the grants, performs site visits, and ultimately decides who the grant recipients will be.”

Sara Caplan ’20, a member of the development committee, highlighted the educational benefits of serving on the committee. “Members engage with nonprofits through both guest lectures and workshops,” she said. The program also emphasizes the intersections of education and the common good. Caplan recognized the 2016-2017 donors and the positive effect the grants would provide throughout the coming year and the future.

A series of students then introduced each nonprofit, recounting their own experiences and involvement with the organizations. This year’s Common Good Grants, totaling more than $22,000, were divided among eight organizations: Bath Housing, Gardeners Growing Healthy Communities, The Gathering Place, Merrymeeting Food Council, Needle Exchange Program, New Ventures Maine, Opportunity Alliance, and Tedford Housing.

“We are grateful for the hard work and diligence of the grant committee, which faced a daunting task of evaluating so many impressive applications,” Best said. “We are also grateful for the dedication and poise of the development committee, whose fundraising efforts more than doubled our initial base and enabled us to award a total of $22,510 to eight incredible organizations this year.”

2016-2017 Common Good Grant Committee members: 

Grant Committee: Hailey Blain ’18, Olivia Erickson ’18, Caroline Goodrich ’17, Caroline Kranefuss ’20, Audrey Leland ’18, James Lemkemeier ’19, Seohyun (Sarah) Lim ’18, Chloe Mills ’20, Hannah Pucker ’19, Emma Roberts ’17, Annie Rose ’20, Nicolas Valette ’20

Development Committee: Maurice Asare ’19, Sara Caplan ’20, Charlotte Hall ’20, Elise Morano ’20, Marysol Newton ’17, Justin Pearson ’17, Marina Stam ’19, Katherine Torrey ’19

This year’s grant recipients:

Bath Housing (Bath, ME) to build fencing to enclose its larger garden and create wheelchair-friendly paths around their ADA accessible garden beds.

Gardeners Growing Healthy Communities (South Paris, ME) to add irrigation, landscape fabric, and a blueberry crop to its gardens that will improve the quantity and reliability of the overall harvest and increase volunteer gardeners’ efficiency.

The Gathering Place (Brunswick, ME) to provide materially poor and homeless individuals with daytime shelter by expanding its hours to Saturdays.

Merrymeeting Food Council (Brunswick, ME) to purchase a cold storage trailer to allow the organization to expand the provision of local produce to food insecure households, by storing food between gleaning and delivery dates.

Needle Exchange Program (Portland, ME) to continue offering naloxone, an overdose prevention drug, and related trainings for community groups and members in the Greater Portland area.

New Ventures Maine (Brunswick, ME) to help support its program, “Enhancing Career & College Success,” which helps to provide individuals with the means to move from poverty to economic stability by focusing on educational and career goals.

Opportunity Alliance (Portland, ME) to help cover the costs of a part-time coordinator who will organize meetings for mediation services for families in the greater Brunswick area.

Tedford Housing (Brunswick, ME) to cover the costs of miscellaneous needs for clients, including transportation to and from job interviews, work boots for employment, or fees to submit a housing application, in order to help clients attain greater self-sufficiency.

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