New Genesis Theater in Shokan received a grant to conduct theater programs in schools and help fund its summer Shakespeare plays performed by children. The TMI Project’s grant supported a teen storytelling workshop in Kingston. Crellin Park in Chatham used its grant to help kids grow vegetables in a community garden.
These are just a few of the non-profit groups that have received grants of up to $2500 each from the Hudson Valley Foundation for Youth Health (HVFYH). The foundation will hold its Annual Dinner and Auction in Kingston on May 7, offering the organizations they assist an opportunity to learn about each other’s youth programming.
“Each year, we give funding to over 32 organizations for projects that benefit the physical and emotional well-being of children and teens,” said HVFYH president Barbara Mansfield. “We fund a lot of things annually — Family of Woodstock, YMCA of Kingston. We do mini-grants, so we’re also interested in reaching out to smaller organizations.”
HVFYH was formed in 1994, when New York State’s first nonprofit HMO, Wellcare, folded, and the foundation was organized from the remaining assets. It services the geographic areas covered by the HMO, including the counties of Ulster, Delaware, Greene, Columbia, and northern Dutchess. The founders felt that felt more impact could be made by making small grants to more organizations, rather than a few large grants. Every grant is distributed through the volunteers who serve on the board of directors and research the needs of the communities.
The foundation is unusual in that two of the eight board member positions are designated to be filled by teens, who have voting rights equal to those of the adult members. Guidance counselors at local high schools are seeking a student to fill one of the teen positions, which is currently vacant. “Some of best stuff we learn about comes from the teen board members,” said Mansfield. “And they can talk about kids’ needs in a way that adults can’t.”
George Sisco, who orchestrated the structuring of the foundation, is still on the board, but he’s retiring next year. “He’s been the heart and soul of the organization,” said Mansfield. “He’s guided the grantmaking and the financial stability.”
With a background in finance, customer service, and education, Sisco has been devoted to the mission of helping youth. He plans to turn next to mentoring young people in entrepreneurship and investment. “The world of kids today is a lot different from when we were kids,” he said. “The chances of working with a company to retirement and getting a pension is very slim.”
Mansfield works as a consultant for non-profits and enjoys having the chance to give out money instead of asking for it. “I like being able to help organizations start something new,” she said. “The Center for Photography in Woodstock, for instance. They’re at the epicenter of Woodstock. A lot of teens hang out there, but their doors are not open in the afternoon. So we funded an afternoon drop-in program for teens to come in and share their photos and learn about photography. Once the organization dips their toes in, it might expand into more programs.”
The May 7 dinner will be attended by all the organizations funded in 2015. Each group will present its project, many of them sending young people to speak about how they benefitted from the program. “We’re interested in groups partnering with each other,” said Mansfield. “There’s also an auction of local crafts to help pay for the dinner.” A few tickets remain for anyone interested in the foundation’s work.
For non-profit groups that want to apply for grants, Mansfield suggested going to the HVFYH website and emailing the director listed for the appropriate region. The foundation’s Facebook page is a good source of information on recent projects.
For more information on the Hudson Valley Foundation for Youth Health, visit https://www.hvfyh.org. The Annual Dinner and Auction will be held Saturday, May 7, at 6 p.m. at the Best Western Plus in Kingston. Tickets are $60 each and may be purchased on the website.