Grants inspire, make dreams possible

The Champlin Foundation awards $1.3 million in grants to 12 Warwick non-profits

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Champlin Foundation grants really aren’t all about the money.

Indeed, if it weren’t for the money, many non-profit organizations would be hard pressed to fulfill their mission. But the grants also acknowledge the work of recipients and inspire them to do great things.

That is the case at Pilgrim High School.

“I get shivers thinking about it,” Cheryl DelSanto said Tuesday, brushing her tear-filled eyes. It was DelSanto who initiated a Champlin grant application to fund state-of-the-art equipment for the Makerspace Lab Initiative at Pilgrim High School. She is excited for what the grant will mean for her students.

As she spoke, students continued working on their projects. They were building folding tables, carrying boxes and cutting out ornamental pine Christmas trees. More than half of the class was comprised of girls.

Since coming to Pilgrim two years ago and with the closing of Veterans Memorial High School and the relocation of shop programs and teachers to Pilgrim, the technology education department has seen a dramatic increase in enrollment. About 800 students are taking classes in pre-engineering, electrical, carpentry, robotics and architecture courses, prompting Principal Gerald Habershaw to add two teachers.

“She hustled for this grant, always looking to make the classroom better,” Habershaw said of DelSanto.

Her teaching colleagues are excited about the award and the equipment it will buy. Larry West and Walter Guest joined her to look through a list of machines she has identified for the lab. The prices ranging from several thousand dollars to the tens of thousands made it apparent that without the grant, getting the funding elsewhere would be near impossible.

In her grant application, DelSanto wrote, “the new laboratory will enhance instruction for all students at Pilgrim High School, especially those with a lack of technical experience. Our technology teachers will be able to empower students with skills that can easily transfer to the workplace.”

Now what she dreamed of is going to happen. Her enthusiasm was contagious. West and Guest were energized.

Champlin grants can do that.

Earlier this week, the foundation announced the Pilgrim grant of $83,462 as one of 198 grants totaling more than $18 million. Of that total, 12 Warwick institutions will receive checks for a total of $1,331,760.

“This is really remarkable what Mr. [George S.] Champlin established,” said Nina Stack, the foundation’s director, said of the Warwick industrialist who started the philanthropy in 1932. Since then, the Champlin Foundation has awarded more than $575 million to fund capital projects for Rhode Island nonprofit organizations.

Stack notes that it is no coincidence that the grants are announced at this time of year. When he started, Champlin made his gift anonymously on the holidays.

Today there is an application process that starts in the spring – and which Stack notes took her on 117 site visits. Overall, the foundation received 370 applications. Of the awards, 31 are first-time recipients.

“It’s exciting to push the money out further,” she said.

One of those first-time recipients is Project Undercover, which with its 25 partner agencies aims to serve an estimated 20,000 children under the age of 10 who are living in poverty. In the last year alone, Project Undercover has provided 500,000 diapers, 20,000 pairs of socks, 15,000 new clothing items and one million wipes to this population, said Project Undercover founder Richard Fleischer. The $10,680 Champlin grant will be used for shelving at the Undercover warehouse increasing storage space and improving delivery.

“It’s getting [donations of goods] in and getting it out as fast as we can,” he said.

Grant funds will also be used for electronic inventory control and enhanced warehouse security. While Project Undercover keeps close tabs of the disbursement of goods, Fleischer would like to see improved reporting on the numbers of children served. He estimates that figure at 50 to 60 percent of the Rhode Island children living in poverty.

Lara D’Antuono, executive director of the Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs, couldn’t provide an amount off the top of her head but estimated the foundation has given “millions” to the organization over the years. The latest grant for $32,085 will be used for the repair of a manhole and asphalting at the Oakland Beach clubhouse that has made the facility vulnerable to flooding and has raised safety concerns. The funds will also be used to buy some game tables.

“Champlin has changed our future for the better,” D’Antuono said of the foundation. “It’s a foundational piece of our success.”

She said with three clubhouses in Warwick, the Boys and Girls Clubs is a second home to many kids from kindergarten to 12th grade. She said support like that from Champlin that will keep it “solid and a place to be.”

“By supporting our work, the Champlin Foundation has demonstrated its continued commitment to empower the lives of Rhode Islanders,” said Dan Kubas-Meyer, president and CEO of Thrive Behavioral Health, which was awarded a $94,228 grant.

The funding will be used to develop storage space at Thrive’s building at 2756 Post Road in Warwick into therapeutic session offices and group rooms for individuals experiencing behavioral health issues.

“It is due to the support of our community partners that our staff can continue to deliver recovery-oriented, trauma-informed, and family-focused programs so that our clients can achieve happier and healthier lives,” Kubas-Meyer said in a statement.

In addition to Thrive, Pilgrim, Project Undercover and Boys and Girls Clubs grants, the following Warwick nonprofits received grants:

Hendricken High School, $98,000 for its engineering and technology program;

The Gaspee Days Committee, $3,200 for repair of the Gaspee replica that is set afire to conclude the annual celebration;

The Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England, $300,000 for the construction of a pavilion and re-purposing an existing building at Camp Hoffman;

Ocean State Libraries, $234,000 for people counters for data collection across the consortium and upgraded coin and bill machines for public copiers at member libraries;

Sargent Rehabilitation Center, $125,000 for an ADA compliant front entrance to its neuro-rehabilitation center;

Thundermist Health Center, $88,185 for a silent duress system;

Toll Gate High School, $97,410 to develop a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) program;

Warwick Public Library, $224,000 to renovate the restrooms.

Traditionally, the foundation has requested a single-page letter as an application. Stack said that often amounted to a single page with wording on both sides plus, in some cases, a mountain of supplemental information.

Beginning next year, the foundation will move to an online application process. A series of webinars will precede the application period, which will open on March 1 and close April 30. Information will be available on the foundation’s website, champlinfoundation.org, in early January.

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