REGION: It has been an exciting year for the United Way of South Central Massachusetts. After a merger at the beginning of a global pandemic, the United Way has been able to raise funds that support local programming for health, education, and financial stability services in the towns of Charlton, Dudley, Southbridge, Sturbridge, and Webster.
United Way of South Central Massachusetts (UWSCM) has distributed $1,085,000 in funds to 25 local agencies and school systems through two grant programs. The grants supported programs that target pressing community needs and offered after school and out-of-school time activities for children and youth. Since October of 2021, UWSCM has raised over $500,000 from generous individual donors, corporate gifts, and workplace campaigns and another $650,000 from state education grants.
The Community Investment Grant is a long-standing UWSCM initiative that supports programs that address the region’s highest priorities in the areas of Early Education and Youth Development, Basic Needs and Economic Opportunity. Through its Community Investment Grants for 2021-2022, UWSCM awarded $435,000 to 22 organizations, funding 27 programs.
This year’s grants created a positive impact for nearly 17,500 people, spanning the towns in our service area. Recipients ranged from the YMCA’s Childcare Development Center in Southbridge to Tri-Valley, Inc’s Meals on Wheels program in Dudley, Youth Development at the Boys and Girls Club in Webster-Dudley to Telehealth for seniors through Care Central VNA.
During the Spring and Summer months, UWSCM distributed $150,000 to 4 agency and school programs through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) After School and Out-of-School Time (ASOST) programs. These funds were made available through a $4.5 million grant awarded by DESE to a regional effort of United Ways located in Central, North Central and South Central Massachusetts with the goal of helping after school and out-of-school time programs rebound from impacts of COVID-19. Programs included growing a hydroponics garden, literacy improvement, youth job skills training, and a STEM and robotics camp. “We are very grateful for the UWSCM’s investment in the literacy program. In just eight weeks, we observed kids grow in reading, comprehension, and writing skills. This program helps address unfinished learning that occurred during the pandemic and prepares our kids for the new school year.” stated Liz Hamilton of the Boys & Girls Club of Webster-Dudley.
Through the assistance of UWSCM and United Way of Mass Bay, an additional $500,000 was awarded to Southbridge’s Eastford Rd. Elementary and Sturbridge’s Burgess Elementary for the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) Summer Step Up grant. This is managed by United Way as an innovative, statewide effort to provide extra support to young learners entering school in the fall.
“As a result of receiving an incredibly generous grant from the United Way’s SSUP program, Burgess Elementary School has been able to offer a greatly expanded summer program free of charge to all interested students grades K-6. Students were provided with transportation as well as snacks and lunch to bring home. Over the course of five weeks, 275 students were able to participate in classes including Reading Camp, Book Club, Author Study, Literature Based Crafts, Theater, Math Bootcamp, Learning through Games, Patterning with Handcrafts, Art, Recycling and Upcycling, Yoga and Mindfulness, Fitness and Wellness, Dance, French, Spanish, American Sign Language, ELL, Video Production, STEAM, and Coding. As one student said, “I didn’t know school could be that fun!” It has been an incredible experience for students and teachers alike. I know I speak for the entire Burgess community when I say how truly grateful we are for this opportunity!” said Bethany Wuelfing, Burgess Summer Programming Coordinator.
The latest round of funds supports 2022 school-year programs ranging from a pre-school lending library and Smart Start for elementary aged children to a running club and behavioral health program for teens.
Speaking about all the recent grant distributions, UWSCM Executive Director Mary O’Coin adds, “Supporting these critical programs through our Community Investment Grants and the expanded partnerships with DESE, EEC and our colleagues at United Way of Central MA and United Way Mass Bay, have enabled us to more than double our investments in community programs when the demand for services is at an all-time high. We thank our volunteers, donors, and community partners for their dedication and look forward to our continued work together to support those most in need.”
Local agencies awarded grant money from the Community Investment Grant: