MVYouth expansion grants go to projects that promise ‘wide impact’

From left, Beth O'Connor, Peter Lambos, Geoghan Coogan, Michael McCormack, Peter Rosbeck, Jeanie Ogden, Scott Anderson, and Tim Kelleher accept a grant for the MV Ice Arena. — Stacey Rupolo

MVYouth gave $1 million to the Ice Arena and $350,000 to Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in this, the third year of their expansion grant awards. Ron Rappaport, the chairman of the trustees of MVYouth and an Edgartown attorney, told a full room at the West Tisbury Public Library Tuesday that MVYouth looks for “projects that will go somewhere … healthy organizations with a wide impact.”

Lindsey Scott, executive director of MVYouth, described the Ice Arena’s beginnings as an open-air rink. It then got a roof made from a tarpaulin, and eventually became a fully enclosed structure, which then fell into physical decline. Over the past few years, she said, the arena supporters have rehabilitated the building. The MVYouth award will supplement a $2.6 million capital campaign by the arena that has led to the replacement of the building’s roof and the development of an alliance with the YMCA.

“The feedback that we got,” said Ice Arena board president Geoghan Coogan, “and the guidance that we got [during the MVYouth application process] got us here today.”

“This is a safe arena for the youth of Martha’s Vineyard,” said retired Dukes County sheriff and board member Michael McCormack. “When they are there, they are not involved in other nefarious activities.”

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary will put its award toward renovating and winterizing its education and camp barn, which will become the home of a nature-based preschool. Ms. Scott presented a thumbnail history of the 52 years of sanctuary history, including remembering the work of the late Anne Hale, a hugely committed supporter of Felix Neck, approaching the owners of the property for permission to use it for nature programming, not just as a conserved property; the 36 years that Gus Ben David was director; and the “explosive growth” that the Mass Audubon sanctuary has experienced since 2006 under director Suzan Bellincampi.

“We’re raising generations of kids to be stewards of nature,” Ms. Bellincampi said, pointing out some adult members of the audience who had attended Felix Neck programs in their youth. “We raised $200,000 [for the barn project] in five months.”

Josey Kirkland, the education director at the sanctuary, called the MVYouth award “a game-changer.”

Mr. Rappaport called the interview process and application requirement associated with selection of the recipients rigorous. In the round that yielded these two beneficiaries, he said, trustees narrowed the field from six to two. Ms. Scott said she is confident that this year’s recipients will “make a measurable impact.”

Mr. Rappaport asked the recipients how many children they reached each year. Peter Lambos, general manager of the Ice Arena, said that 500 to 600 kids use the rink every year. Ms. Bellincampi said Felix Neck runs 170 school programs, hosts 400 children for camp, and gets many thousands of visitors each year.

MVYouth was begun in 2014 when 40 families committed to donating $25,000 per year for four years to accumulate $4 million. There are now 57 families involved.