Bowdoin Student Committee Awards $17,500 through a Philanthropic Experience

Story posted April 17, 2006

Imagine having $17,500 to give away with the objective of advancing the common good.

Last month, 14 students from Bowdoin College were charged with that very task, and learned of the great work being done by a multitude of local non-profits in the process.

One lesson learned? While $17,500 seems like a great deal of money, it goes very quickly in the face of many worthy causes.

On the evening of April 13, 2006, representatives from ten local non-profit agencies were welcomed to the Bowdoin campus for a ceremony at which each organization was presented with a Common Good Grant Award -- a check to fund a project proposal they had submitted to the students.

The Common Good Grant Program was established at Bowdoin College in 2001 by a restricted gift from an anonymous alumnus concerned with the growing need to provide students the opportunity to learn about grants, foundations and philanthropy while becoming familiar with the work and challenges of non-profit organizations.

Through the program, a student committee allocates $10,000 in grants each year to fund local projects. This strengthens the bonds between the College and the greater Brunswick community and honors local non-profits, while empowering students to make a difference in their community.

"I feel more a part of this community because of this opportunity to make these creative proposals into real positive programs," confirms student committee member Lily Abt '08.

Over 30 agencies applied for funding through the Common Good Grant Program. The 12 students on the committee, together with two student leaders, Doris Ramirez '07 and Bruce Baird '08, developed the parameters of the grant, solicited proposals, evaluated submitted projects and determined the final allocation of funds. Students participated in the philanthropic process from beginning to end.

Ten agencies were selected to receive the 2006 Common Good Grant Awards for a wide variety of projects - from growing food to supporting scholarships for students with disabilities.

* Bath Middle School's Garden Club (Bath) will be able to purchase $500 worth of supplies to support their "Tools Against Hunger" program, where students grow produce to donate to local area food banks.

* The Dorcas Mission Team at Bath United Church of Christ (Bath) will receive $475 in support of a prayer-shawl knitting workshop to introduce their ministry to other area faith communities, thus expanding the benefits of healing, hope, and support.

* Care Net of Midcoast Maine (Brunswick) will receive $2,499 in order to expand and upgrade their "Earn While You Learn" program. The program provides parenting skills to new parents during the first 18 months of their child's life.

* Flying Changes Center for Therapeutic Riding, Inc. (Topsham) will purchase $615 worth of equipment, including a therapeutic saddle, pads, and cushions in order to allow the center to focus on therapeutic horse-riding for challenged individuals.

* Friends of Merrymeeting Bay (Richmond) will split their $1,678 between two "Bay Days" during which local elementary school children will travel to and learn about Merrymeeting Bay's unique and fragile ecosystem.

* Spindleworks, part of the Independence Association (Brunswick), will provide $2,500 worth of scholarships to high school students with disabilities who are interested in a career in the arts. This will allow them to attend a summer art program where they will be able to explore their artistic interests and dreams.

* Patten Free Library (Bath) will continue their participation in the Midcoast Community Read in spring 2007 by using $2,000 to purchase many copies of the selected book to distribute to readers, as well as by hosting events related to the selection.

* Pejepscot Historical Society (Brunswick) will use $2,416 to develop a series of educational programs - including hands-on lesson plans and activities - about groups typically under-represented in the history of the Pejepscot region for local elementary school children.

* Sweetser (Brunswick) will use $2,500 in their Youth Enrichment After-School Program to prepare meals at the Bath United Church of Christ for residents of the Tedford Shelters, and thus learn about nutrition while allowing them to give back to the community in a hands-on way.

* Two Roads Maine (Freeport) will provide $2,317 in scholarships to survivors of life transitions, allowing them to re-establish a personal relationship with the natural world as a way of investigating and encouraging healing.

An increase in the total number of projects funded this year is due to an additional $7,500 added to the grant base. Moved by the number of worthy projects the committee was unable to fund in the past, students founded the Common Good Grant Extension Committee to extend the impact of the grant by raising additional funds.

Working with volunteers from Bowdoin's development division the students on the Extension Committee met with community members serving as donor-mentors who listened to their case, provided feedback on their approach and, when appropriate, added to the grant base with their own contributions. Collectively these community members added $3,500 to the grant pool. In addition, the class of 2005 designated their class gift of $4,000 to the Common Good Grant to benefit the community they had come to know well during their time at Bowdoin.

"This program helps us all better understand what it means to serve the common good," said advisor Susie Dorn, director of the Community Service Resource Center at the College. "Students from a broad perspective of experiences and interests come together to learn about the local community. Working in partnership with both community organizations who are 'doing the work,' and donors who are 'making the work possible,' they are able to explore the ways in which they will use their Bowdoin education to contribute to society in their own way."

Anne Cathcart from the class of '08 echoed what this means to her.

"Because of my participation on this committee, I am more knowledgeable about non-profits and understand the need for philanthropy in the Brunswick community," Cathcart said. "I am even more confident that I will give back to and serve with non-profits throughout my life."

The members of this year's Common Good Grant Committee are Lily Abt '08, Lisa Peterson '07, Andrew Combs '06, Laura Small '08, Wyneicia Hyman '09, Rebecca Van Horn '09, Kim Johnson '06, Suni Vaz '09, Emily Keuthen '08, Taneisha Wilson '07, Katie Kindick '09, and Geoff Yeterian '09. Serving on the Extension Committee were leaders Will Hales '08 and Alicia Wong '07, together with Ben Brennan '08, Anne Cathcart '08, Pooja Desai '08, Jessica Horstkotte '08, Liz Leiwant '08, and Dawn Reibeling '07.

For more information, contact Susie Dorn at sdorn@bowdoin.edu or 798-4134.

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