MVYouth awards 2016 expansion grants to three Island nonprofits

From left, Nick Briggs of the Martha's Vineyard Skate Park Association, Peter Lambos of the Martha's Vineyard Boys & Girls Club, and Nora Nevin of the Martha's Vineyard Chamber Music Society pose with MVYouth executive director Lindsey Scott after accepting checks on behalf of their organizations. —Photo by Sam Moore

Updated 10 am, Friday.

Grants awarded by MVYouth totaling $510,986 to three local nonprofits will fund an upgraded youth club facility, completion and expansion of an Oak Bluffs skate park, and additional stringed instruments for cost-free loans to students.

In a ceremony held at the West Tisbury library Monday night, the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club (BGC) received $229,514; the Martha’s Vineyard Skate Park Association (SPA), $252,172; and the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (CMS), $29,300. MVYouth executive director Lindsey Scott and advisory board chairman Ron Rappaport presented oversize checks to the three organizations’ very grateful representatives. About 30 people attended, most of them grant recipients and MVYouth advisory board members.

“The point of the gift is to be transformational and to elevate an organization up to the next level,” Mr. Rappaport said. “And so that’s really the goal; we want to give to strong organizations who serve a broad base of Vineyard youth, but to whom this money would be transformational.

He added that the grants allow organizations to avoid spending their time on “things that everybody hates doing, which is fundraising.”

This is the second year that MVYouth awarded the expansion grants. Ms. Scott praised the 2016 recipients for a fantastic job of presenting their proposals to MVYouth’s advisory board and board of trustees.

“We’re confident, because of the diligence we have done in looking into your organizations, that you will accomplish the goals that you’ve set out to do, and enrich the lives of Island youth,” she said.

M.V. Boys and Girls Club

The BGC plans to use its grant in support of its ongoing “Cleaner, Greener, Safer Club” campaign to repair and upgrade its facility off Robinson Road in Edgartown. Projects will include replacing the roof, shingling and insulating exterior walls, repairing and resurfacing the gym floor, installing a heat pump system, and adding windows to the game roof, Ms. Scott described.

The club, founded 79 years ago, provides services to about 550 children annually, with an annual membership fee set at $20 to make it affordable. It offers an afterschool program for all Island elementary students in kindergarten through grade six (including home-schooled children), and a summer drop-in camp for Island and seasonal residents. The club also partners with other Island organizations to serve an additional 250 youth.

BGC executive director Peter Lambos, who wrote the grant application, accepted the check with board president Joe Forte, vice president Stephanie Burke, and secretary Sydney Mullen.

“I’ve kind of grown up in the club, as a kid and professionally,” Mr. Lambos said, “and have dedicated the adult portion of my life to make sure we sustain the club and the organization for the hundreds of kids we serve today, and the thousands of kids we’ll serve tomorrow.”

M.V. Skate Park Association

The SPA is a nonprofit group that oversees the Oak Bluffs Skate Park, across the street from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. The high school leases the land long-term to the town of Oak Bluffs, which manages the property and provides insurance, trash pickup, and security.

The SPA will use its grant to support the completion of the park’s original design, created in 2002, and also its expansion. The project’s final phase will replace temporary wooden structures removed in 2015 with permanent concrete structures. The plan also includes lighting, webcam technology, landscaping, and signage.

Construction is slated to start in October 2016 and take four to six weeks. The project also includes funding for an expanded website and the distribution of free helmets and pads to the public twice a year.

SPA vice president Nick Briggs accepted the grant check with Alexandra and Eliot Coutts, who run instructional programs, and treasurer Richard Hammond. The SPA estimates 300 to 400 children and teens participate in a summer drop-in skate program that Mr. Coutts started in 2008.

“We’ve been focused just on finishing the park and designing it, and now we’re going to create a better design than we ever imagined,” Mr. Briggs said.

M.V. Chamber Music Society

The CMS will use its grant, in support of its “Access and Inspiration Strings” program, to fund the purchase of 20 new violins and violas. Its free lending program enables elementary string students to borrow instruments and graduate into larger instruments as they grow.

About 200 elementary school students participate in the strings program annually, taught by Nancy Jephcote and Chelsea Pennebaker. The lending program, run by CMS board member Kim Baumhofer, currently has 40 instruments, all in use.

The grant funds will also support three years of an Artists-in-Residence program, to give students in the strings program an opportunity to work with professional musicians and to offer some concerts during the school year.

“It’s a small amount in comparison to the other groups, but for our organization, this is a huge amount of money,” Ms. Baumhofer said in accepting the grant check with CMS president Nora Nevin, treasurer Tony Nevin, and past president David Rhoderick.

How it works

MVYouth received eight applications from local youth organizations last October. The advisory board evaluated each of them based on the criteria of leadership, plan, finances, impact, collaboration, sustainability, and readiness.

As Mr. Rappaport explained in his opening remarks, MVYouth is an innovative nonprofit organization with a collaborative funding model, founded in April 2014 by businessmen and seasonal Vineyard residents Daniel Stanton and Jim Swartz. They developed the concept of a charitable organization dedicated solely to funding exceptional Island organizations that serve children, teens, and young adults, from birth to age 25, through a two-pronged approach: expansion grants and scholarships.

“Their goal was to raise $1 million a year and to give it all away,” Mr. Rappaport said.

Mr. Stanton and Mr. Swartz achieved their goal to create MVYouth by August 2014, raising $4 million with the support of 40 Vineyard families as “founding donors.”

The donors each pledged $25,000 annually for at least four years. In addition, the founders’ group underwrites all of the administrative and fundraising expenses for MVYouth, allowing 100 percent of the donations to go directly to the causes. Since August 2015, an additional 15 donors have joined, and the total funds pledged amount to $5.5 million, according to a press release.

Recipients of MVYouth’s college scholarships, fully funded for four years, will be announced in late April.

An earlier version of this story reported that the MV Boys and Girls Club summer programs does not serve Chilmark children. The program does in fact include all Island children.