By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Thanks to the Tufts Community Grants Program, four local Grafton nonprofit organizations can breathe a little easier in these tough times. Each year more than 30 applicants are awarded funding to continue their charitable work in the communities where Tufts has facilities – Boston, Grafton, Medford and Somerville. This year Apple Tree Arts, Community Harvest Program, the Grafton Senior Center and St. James Church each received grants of $1,000.
“Tufts University has always prided itself on civic engagement, community-based research and its lasting partnerships with local organizations in our host communities,” noted Rocco DiRico, director, government & community relations at Tufts University. The Tufts Community Grants program is an important way in which we support the volunteer work of our students, faculty and staff in the communities that we call home. More than 1,000 Tufts volunteers support local organizations.”
In addition, he said, Tufts Cummings School faculty members have developed STEM-related outreach programs that engage K-12 students in local communities with veterinary-based projects emphasizing science and engineering, including an annual program on veterinary medicine that is delivered to fifth-grade students at Grafton Elementary.
According to Jan Barlow, early childhood music director at Apple Tree Arts, their $1,000 grant will be used for their weekly music program at the Head Start program in Southbridge.
“Music is crucial to early development. This will fund some faculty and be used to buy new percussion instruments,” she explained.
During the pandemic, the teachers have resorted to sending weekly videos to the parents’ cell phones so that the children, and even their siblings and parents, can play and sing along, and, of course, listen again and again.
“Nothing beats in-person interaction, but this is a nice option at least,” she said.
The Community Harvest Program will use their gift for soil fertility to improve nutrient management and increase output at their farms. Over the last five years, the Community Harvest Program has donated over one million pounds of food and utilized the services of over 8,000 volunteers annually.
The Grafton Senior Center has used past grants for medical rides for senior citizens.
“This time it will go directly to our fund to buy a new van,” explained Director Barbara Connelly. “Last year we provided over 8,000 rides to employment, banks, shopping and medical appointments. We are so thankful for all Tufts does to support the Grafton community.”
St. James Church has an outreach program that helps South Grafton families in need, sometimes purchasing school supplies, helping with swim and piano lessons, or emergency food deliveries, among other things.
“[The Tufts grants] really help us meet the needs of the Grafton families we serve, we couldn’t do nearly as much without their help,” remarked Phyllis Agin.
The application process will begin again in February for nonprofits in Tufts’ host communities who have at least one Tufts student, faculty or staff as a volunteer. Learn more at https://communityrelations.tufts.edu/.