The Stratton Foundation is changing lives with its 2016 Campaign for Kids initiative.
By Anita Rafael
Who goes hungry in Vermont?
It is difficult to imagine that anyone does, looking at the abundance around us. Productive farms and fruitful orchards, clean air and fresh water, thriving resorts. Yet, statistics about our neighbors and friends paint a portrait of food insecurity in stark realism.
Consider: more than one-third of families in the state depend on food banks and school lunches as their main resource for meals for their children.
We know that at one elementary school, just a few miles from Stratton, 7 out of 10 students are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch five days a week because their parents cannot afford the fee. At one local middle and high school, the situation is only slightly better; there, almost half of the 300-plus students qualify for low- or no-cost meal programs. By all appearances, Vermont, with its steadfast rural character and small, close-knit communities, looks like the ideal environment in which to raise a family. Yet, the stories of the mothers, fathers, and children who must rely on weekly and daily food programs prove otherwise: hunger is on the rise in the state.
If food insecurity is an immediate concern for many working Vermonters, then so is access to doctors, dentists, mental health workers, and social services. Add to that a pressing need for affordable places to rent or buy. And consider, as well, the essentials — do you know for sure if every child in the area’s towns and villages waits for the school bus wearing good winter boots and a warm jacket? In fact, many do not. Much of the communication about families’ unmet needs comes from the school system, through teachers, counselors, and principals. When a teacher confidentially tells a school principal about a student who comes to class unfed, poorly dressed, or, say, with a toothache, then the wheel can begin to turn toward those organizations within the community itself that can offer help at once.
At the grassroots level though, helping promptly comes down to available funding.
As The Stratton Foundation launches the Campaign for Kids, its 2016 fundraising initiative for helping families and improving the lives of children, it is building upon a substantial legacy of philanthropic work. Now marking its 20th anniversary, The Foundation has long been collaborating with myriad nonprofit organizations in nearby towns fulfilling the original mission of its founding directors — Michael Cobb,Bob Fries, Kimet Hand, Rick Hube, and Carl Williams. Their idea was both genuine and generous: work together to enhance the quality of life for friends, neighbors, and visitors.
The Stratton Foundation maintains strategic alliances with numerous local programs and organizations in the Stratton Resort area that assist families caught in what sociologists call “generational poverty.” Its door is always open so that any organization’s administrators and volunteer workers can directly relay information they gather firsthand. “The Stratton Foundation has become this giant umbrella to care for those who need to stand under it,” says Executive Director Tammy Mosher, “and those holding the umbrella includes Stratton homeowners, donors, sponsors, staff, and volunteers. It’s a wonderful thing. I don’t think a day goes by when someone doesn’t call to advocate for a neighbor in need, or bring to light a community crisis, such as the many children who are not receiving dental care, or the need for emergency funding to stock a food cupboard serving hundreds of families.”
The Stratton Foundation’s directors are committed to leverage their resources among multiple and diverse partnerships. Using contributions to the Campaign for Kids, The Foundation can continue to award grants across a broad range of services wherever supplemental or emergency funding is needed — for food, health, necessities, such as clothing, social services, learning programs, educational task forces, and direct financial aid in the event of disasters or emergencies. At times, the need is serious and urgent. When even one family’s wellbeing is in jeopardy from one day to the next, for example, due to lack of shelter, The Foundation is poised to respond. Among the many letters of gratitude The Foundation has received to date, is one written by a representative from South Eastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), a nonprofit agency chartered during the 1960s “war on poverty.” It read: “We are pleased that we were able to get this homeless family housed and provide some electric assistance. With the help of The Stratton Foundation [the mother and children] will be able to move forward. It is so wonderful to see this come together. It’s a tough road ahead, but will be a little less difficult with a roof overhead.”
Carolyn Blitz, the president of The Stratton Foundation Board of Directors, says, “The increased awareness of the problems and challenges has been a call to action and our homeowners have responded with generous, charitable gifts. Many of our donors are second homeowners, but they share a love for the community, as all those in Vermont do, and have shown an important willingness to be part of our efforts to improve the lives of children and their families. The generosity of our donors means we can support the community organizations that are making a difference.” She says the success of the fundraising through the Campaign for Kids, beyond the current rollout and continuing on its multiyear pledge drive, depends on donors who fully understand the issues that children and families face in the Stratton area.
“We are very grateful,” Blitz says, confident that understanding and generosity will spread in equal measure. Early momentum for the Campaign for Kids is coming from individuals as well as from business donors. In addition, over the past three years, The Foundation has benefited from the proceeds of major public events and through goodwill and partnership with Stratton Mountain Resort.
As executive director, Tammy Mosher has countless opportunities to meet children who receive meals at school, over the summer, and during holiday vacations. “I have seen their smiles of joy in wearing a warm coat or new winter boots,” she says. “I have heard the gratitude in a mother who humbly accepts a gas card to drive her child to the dentist, and I have held the embrace of a family expressing their relief at having heat in their home all winter. I sat and talked with a girl who is the first in her family to graduate high school.” Mosher says people generally understand why a capital campaign is needed when money is raised to build something, perhaps, a new wing on a hospital. What The Stratton Foundation does, she says, is “invest in human capital.”
Consider: a backpack.
Every Friday afternoon at a grammar school not far from Stratton Mountain, a student, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, puts on a loaded backpack as the school day ends. It is filled with wholesome food, enough to last two days. On Monday morning, the backpack is returned empty. On Friday afternoon, it is filled again. It’s called the Children’s Nutritious Weekend Backpack Program. Not just one, but many children from this school, and many other schools, take home food backpacks.
One backpack of groceries is such a small, simple way to fight hunger, but it takes big philanthropy to make it work. In the coming weeks, look for a Campaign for Kids appeal in your mail or inbox and watch for “Save the Date” notices to RSVP for The Stratton Foundation’s public and private fundraising events.
Applying for a grant
The Stratton Foundation’s grant eligibility information is available online, so program directors need not slog through the usual quagmire of bureaucratic red tape. Requests, which can be presented and detailed in a letter combined with supporting documentation, require that the organization or family seeking a grant must be located within or reside within The Stratton Foundation’s “footprint,” and that the funds allocated directly help children overcome the challenges associated with poverty.
The Stratton Foundation created the Angel Outreach Network to respond to requests for things such as supplies for home emergency repair, appliances or household items, personal necessities, books and school supplies, and services. The Angel Outreach Network is a proud partnership of community businesses and individuals willing to donate goods and services or offer discounts in times of need. Last year, for example, The Foundation received a vehicle as a donation,
which in turn was gifted to a family in need of transportation. The list of “angels” is ever-expanding. Langway Motor donated winter tires so the family could use the car, which allowed their children to participate in sports and for the parents to attend parent-teacher conferences and drive to the grocery store rather
than walk. r.k. Miles and The Home Depot donated materials for a family in need of making repairs to their home so it would be safe and secure for their children. Equipe Sport facilitated and generously helped to order, purchase, and deliver 100 pairs of boots for an initiative called Boots4VTKids. Vermont Pest Control and Cota & Cota have also become “angels,” providing cost estimates and assistance at the request of The Stratton Foundation.
—Tammy Mosher, executive director; notes from The Stratton Foundation Winter 2016 newsletter
GOOD WORK! $1.6 MILLION!
Good work! $1.6 million! That is how much The Stratton Foundation has distributed since 1996 to better the health and well-being of those who live, work, and raise their children in the resort area’s communities. Between 1997 and 2010, The Stratton Foundation provided $640,000 in grants to support programs in the mission to improve the quality of life in the Stratton Mountain region. Grants from $250 to $5,000 supported the arts, sports, camps, education, food, medical, and community-service organizations. In the last five-year period, The Stratton Foundation tallied $975,000 in community giving. The Foundation raised and distributed $450,000 to rebuild, repair, and recover from the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene. In some cases, funds went directly to families who lost their homes, to businesses that suffered losses, and to schools to provide emergency food and supplies. Additionally, since 2011, $525,000 was distributed with a
focused mission to address the challenges of poverty, to directly assist families in crisis, for heat assistance, and to facilitate critical services in amounts up to $65,000. The Foundation took the lead in various goodwill campaigns, such as Boots4VTKids and Pass It On Clothing Drive.
Campaign for Kids is a major fundraising initiative of The Stratton Foundation.
Visit their website to watch a poignant film called The Heart of Stratton, to read the annual report, or to securely donate online: www.strattonfoundation.org/campaign-for-kids or email: [email protected]
P.O. Box 523
Stratton Mountain, VT 05155