SVC philanthropy students award grants to local organizations



Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Southern Vermont College students concluded a spring semester course in philanthropy by awarding grant funds to three local community organizations.

Designed by Professor Jeb Gorham, the course split about 18 SVC students into three teams and tasked them with preparing requests for proposals and scoring applicants before selecting the final recipients.

The course was first piloted in the spring of 2012 and has been funded in both its years by The Bank of Bennington. Each organization received a $1,600 grant.

At an awards ceremony Thursday morning, representing a team of students focused on environmental education, Ryan Long said the Friends of Hiland Hall Gardens was chosen to fund a new gardening program for children between the ages of 5 and 16.

Accepting the award on behalf of the friends group was Matthew Perry, executive director of the Vermont Arts Exchange -- one of last year's grant recipients. Perry said last year's award to VAE went toward training that allowed the organization to offer its summer camp program to 10 children with autism.

Among a group focused on workplace wellness, student Jayman Remington said their recipient would be Bennington County's largest employer: Southwestern Vermont Health Care. Remington said SVHC was chosen because it had a multi-facted program already in place. In a site visit, he said students saw the program focused on changing behaviors.

The $1,600 award will go toward enhancing fitness and cooking classes for employees. The director of nutrition and dining at the health care group, Tiffany Tobin said the funding would also allow raffles for Community Sponsored Agriculture shares to Clear Brook Farm.

"(The grant) takes us to the next level with the programs that we currently have," Tobin said.

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A third award went to the Center for Restorative Justice for its SHOP (Student Hope and Opportunity) Program, an after-school program on Tuesdays for teens that offers activities and help with homework. Student Conner Murray said his team targeted youth enrichment opportunities in Bennington.

CRJ Executive Director Leitha Cipriano said the award would continue and expand opportunities to include field trips and new equipment. "(It's) mostly just to continue the work that we've started," she said.

In the philanthropy class, Gorham said students took the lead in self-directed teams. "The students take the process from the beginning to the very end," he said.

One purpose is to get students engaged and asking how they could give back. "It truly has been a partnership (with The Bank of Bennington)," he said.

A native of Bennington, Remington described the "hands-on approach" in the class and said he appreciated the fact the funds remain within the community.

Through the semester, students met with bank officials and conducted site visits of applicants.

"Giving back is part of who we are," said Jim Brown, president of The Bank of Bennington, in a written release. "We are all part of the Bennington area community and we all benefit by supporting the many nonprofit entities who work to make this a better place to live."

"The SVC students are learning firsthand about social responsibility, philanthropy, and the needs of our community. This is a great experience for them and The Bank of Bennington is glad to be a part of it," he continued.

Students enrolled in the course majored in business, communication, radiologic sciences, and humanities.

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