NEWFANE, Vt. – Vermont foundations have been and continue to be the bandage our communities need as the availability of federal funding fluctuates daily. A summer camp in Newfane, which faced certain debt if it were not for the aid of local donors, is just one example why these foundations are vital to our community.
This summer was a trying time for school aged children who went months without peer interaction, making many parents and professionals wonder what effect the pandemic would have on their social and emotional health. A few students across the state, however, benefitted from the few organizations bold enough to hold summer camps, one of the first monitored attempts to bring children together since school dismissal. The NewBrook summer camp, Explorer’s Camp, saw early on the trials and troubles many schools are likely facing now in regards to social distancing, sanitization of common areas, and attempting to enforce mask wearing. What was even more difficult to prepare for, however, were the unbudgeted expenses.
Camp director Kiley Boyd says, “PPE, additional supplies, and mainly staffing wages, were all necessary to ensure that our camp would be successful.” And yet, she says, the camp waived enrollment fees, “[It] was hard on our budget but crucial. We felt that our families had already been hit so hard by the pandemic and all that really mattered was for our kids to get back to some sort of normalcy without the stress of a financial barrier hanging over our families heads.”
Much to Boyd’s relief, however, the camp program will not end in a deficit. Various donations from small foundations are fulfilling the fiscal need that left so many other summer programs unopened. In addition to the 21st Century School federal grant, which the camp is mostly funded through, they received much needed funding from the George W. Mergens Foundation, the Special and Urgent Needs grant from the Vermont Community Foundation, the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation, the Stratton Foundation, and Rise Vermont. Grants ranged from $900-$5,000 and collectively have covered most of the Covid-19 related costs.
We will undoubtedly continue to see the impact of these Vermont foundations and others on our communities, schools and, most importantly, our children, as we all strive for a sense of comfort, if not normalcy.