Portland, Bath, Brunswick nonprofits share in Quimby foundation grants

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FREEPORT — Arts Are Elementary will continue to send artists into Brunswick elementary school classrooms to provide enriching arts experiences after the nonprofit received a $7,500 grant from the Quimby Family Foundation, the group’s executive director, Kristi Hatrick, said Monday.

The Brunswick organization was one of 68 nonprofits in Maine that was awarded some of almost $1.3 million in grant money at the foundation’s eighth annual luncheon on Aug. 24.

“This was the first time we applied, and it was a fantastic process,” said Hatrick, who added that the grant represented a rather large chunk of the nonprofit’s $40,000 annual budget.

The celebratory tone at the Freeport event, held at the Harraseeket Inn, represented a change for philanthropist Roxanne Quimby and her family compared to just three days earlier, when the Penobscot County commissioners became the latest government officials to line up against Quimby’s proposed Maine Woods National Park in the Katahdin region.

Dan O’Leary, CEO of both the Quimby Family Foundation and the affiliated Elliotsville Plantation – the Quimby organization focused on establishing the 70,000-acre national park – acknowledged that Quimby most often appears in the news because of the proposed park, which some politicians and locals have opposed, saying it would infringe on the region’s traditional economic and recreational uses, including logging, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing.

O’Leary said he preferred not to answer questions about the park. Rather, Friday’s event was focused on the work being done by grant awardees, he said.

“This year, for the first time, we were able to visit all 84 grant finalists,” O’Leary said, noting that nearly 300 organizations applied during this eighth wave of annual foundation awards. “The board agonized over these decisions.

“It really makes you proud to be part of Maine (to see the work being done by all the grant applicants),” he continued. “The whole family, Roxanne included, is really proud this is part of their lives. These are real people doing real work because they want to make a difference.”

The former Portland Museum of Art official said the foundation’s grant awards and annual luncheon are unique in Maine because they offer personal networking opportunities between not only foundation officials and donors, but also other grant recipients. Most grant programs, he said, are administered exclusively from a distance through application mailings, email and maybe follow-up telephone calls.

The Quimby Family Foundation grant program is also different because it allows its money to be used to cover operational costs, said grant recipient Jamie Silvestri of the Bath-based mobile art therapy program ArtVan.

The ArtVan was awarded $10,000 from the foundation this year, Silvestri said, and the organization, which brings after-school art programs to kids in low-income housing developments in the southern midcoast, Lewiston-Auburn and Biddeford areas, will use the money to cover administrative costs during periods of time when the group isn’t conducting or getting paid for programs.

Those periods add up to about 10 weeks each year, she said, and typically are spent marketing the programs and planning. Silvestri said the grant money also will allow ArtVan to hire a fundraising and development specialist, Luanne Schoninger.

“There aren’t a lot of foundations that support operational costs,” Silvestri said. “Most foundations focus on projects.”

Andrew Goode of the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s Brunswick office said the $30,000 grant they received will allow them to work on the construction of fishways at Pushaw Lake near Orono along with funding the engineering and permitting work needed for the construction of another between the Davis and Holbrook ponds.

“The structures will help the restoration of migratory species like the alewife and Atlantic salmon,” the vice president of U.S. programs said.

This is the second time the Atlantic Salmon Federation has received a grant from the Quimby Family Foundation, Goode said, and they are still using funds from their initial $30,000 grant in 2010 for other projects.

The vice president said unlike some other grant programs, the Quimby Family Foundation’s process is more streamlined and involved, and it gives an opportunity to put some faces to names who make work like this possible.

Portland’s A Company of Girls teaches young girls and teens to feel empowered through theater and music, but it’s not too much of an overstatement to say the group might not have survived without the Quimby Family Foundation, said managing director Devin Dukes.

Dukes said that after the group learned it was losing $45,000 in state money due to Department of Health and Human Services cuts, the $20,000 award from the Quimby Family Foundation was enough of an offset to help keep the company afloat.

“This is something that keeps us going,” Dukes said. “We are relieved, to say the least.”

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @dylanljmartin.