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August 7, 2023

Maine Community Foundation awards record $1.67M to community organizations

The community building grant program of the Maine Community Foundation in Ellsworth has awarded a record-high $1.67 million across 200 grants to organizations and projects throughout the state. 

The foundation’s largest grant program supports a broad range of projects and organizations across Maine, including ones in the arts, education, environment, economic development and human services. MaineCF receives more than 400 applications annually. Volunteer county and regional committees make decisions on grant awards that are funded by the foundation’s county funds and other associated funds.

The foundation also awarded $533,263 across 72 donor-advised grants. Donor-advised grants fund proposals that meet specific interest areas. 

Together, the 272 grants totaled $2.2 million.

Playgrounds and empowerment

In the town of Monroe, the Friends of Gesner Park has been actively working to improve the park to better meet the needs of the growing community. Through a needs assessment process, the group has been building community buy-in and interest in maintaining the historic recreational spot and gathering place. 

Courtesy / Friends of Gesner Park
Monroe’s Friends of Gesner Park recieved $10,000 for playground equipment, an equipment shed and basketball court improvements.

With a growing youth population and the nearest playground a significant drive away, finding ways to make the park work better for children and families was a high priority.

The Waldo County Fund Committee provided a $10,000 project support grant to help the town install new playground equipment, spruce up the aging basketball court and add a community equipment shed. This investment in community improvement is expected to help broaden the park’s appeal for all residents.

Grants were awarded in every county. 

In Androscoggin County, nine of 32 applications received grants that averaged $6,667 each, for a total of $60,000. Among the recipients were the Franco-American Heritage Center, for performing arts and heritage programs; Her Safety Net, to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence and for outreach to underserved communities; and Maine Community Integration, to empower Black immigrant women and girls to advance park equity.

In Aroostook County, 14 grants were awarded out of 17 applications received. The average award was $7,451. Recipients included Albiston Foundation, to increase access to recreational programs for people with disabilities; Aroostook Area Agency on Aging, to create a Memory Care Center to support older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia and their caretakers; and the Aroostook Arts and Education Center, to empower local youth, adults and families to express themselves through affordable arts programming.

From organizations in Cumberland County, the foundation received 91 applications and awarded 16 grants. The average award was $9,397. Recipients included Birth Roots Center for Community Supported Parenting, to provide prenatal and postnatal programming to new and expectant parents; Casco Library Association, for infrastructure improvements; and the Community Conservation Initiative, to collaborate with statewide, regional and local nonprofits, local governments and businesses to advance cooperative solutions.

Marine-related programs were a theme of some recipients in Hancock County, which sent in 72 applications, of which 27 were awarded. Among the recipients were Islesford Boatworks on the Cranberry Isles, for traditional wooden boatbuilding and community-building programs; Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries in Stonington, for a summer intern/guide for the Discovery Wharf climate change exhibit; and the Traditional Small Craft Association Downeast Chapter, for a festival to educate visitors about the maritime heritage and significance of Blue Hill Bay. 

In 2023, the foundation received a record 544 requests through its community building program and hasn’t been able to meet all of the demand. 

Populations served 

For the first time in 2023, the foundation asked applicants to select up to three populations that their proposals would serve, with the goal of tracking grant impacts on specific populations over time. Identified populations served by grant awards in 2023 included low-income children, older adults, people with disabilities, immigrants/refugees/ asylum seekers, young children, multi-ethnic and/or multiracial, incarcerated or formerly incarcerated, Indigenous/Native American, Latino/Latinx/Hispanic, and LGBTQ+.

Looking ahead, the staff is reviewing the community building grant program and considering revisions for 2024. The program will reopen Nov. 15 and the application deadline will be Feb. 15, 2024. Feedback for the program is welcome. For more information, click here.

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