Neighborhood fund awards grants to community nonprofits
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 01:02
The Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund (TNSF) in December awarded 32 grants, totaling over $20,000, to nonprofit community organizations surrounding Tufts’ Medford/Somerville, Grafton and Boston campuses.
According to Assistant Director of Community Relations Susan Fuller-DeAmato, every year the Tufts Community Appeal gives staff and faculty members the opportunity to donate to various organizations including Tufts Financial Aid, charities of preference and the TNSF. The TNSF was established in 1995 and is made possible by these annual donations from Tufts faculty and staff.
“It’s important for people to understand that it’s not the university giving away money,” Director of Community Relations Barbara Rubel said. “This is people who work for Tufts putting their money into the fund. They appreciate that recipients are local and involved with the university.”
Fuller-DeAmato said that in 2012 the TNSF received 49 applications. The number of applications matched 2011’s total, and the $20,380 available to give away was an increase from the 2011 amount of $19,500.
The largest grant for the year was $2,000 to the Community Cupboard Food Pantry of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Medford for needs such as paying off increased operational and fuel costs in the winter months and accommodating a higher number of clients. Some other Medford/Somerville organizations that received funds were Medford Family Resource Coalition, Community Action Agency of Somerville and Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services.
The Community Harvest Project in Grafton, an organization dedicated to growing and donating fresh produce for hunger relief, received a $500 grant, which allowed the organization to improve its automatic irrigation system, according to Executive Director of the Community Harvest Project Kristin Bafaro. Last year, the Community Harvest Project donated 250,000 pounds of produce to the local community, she said.
“Upgrading our irrigation system helps us in becoming more energy efficient,” Bafaro told the Daily. “The grant gave us money to replace irrigation sensors out in the field. New sensors will tell the computer system when the soil is dry. We also hope the new system will increase what we are able to donate to hunger relief.”
Nonprofit organizations must meet certain qualifications before they can submit the one-page grant application for the TNSF grants, Fuller-DeAmato said.
“Organizations that apply must be nonprofits in one of our Tufts communities — Medford/Somerville, Grafton and Chinatown — and need to have Tufts students, faculty, staff or alumni volunteering there,” she said.
Grant recipients vary every year and serve a wide range of causes, Rubel said. In the past, funded projects have included environmental education programs, wig banks for cancer patients and musical instruments for a youth marching band. The TNSF committee, composed of faculty members from departments throughout all three campuses, selects which projects will receive the grants.
According to Rubel, most proposals initially came from organizations located around the Medford/Somerville campus, but, over time, proposals from the Grafton and Boston communities have increased. In 1995, the Grafton campus only received two proposals, but this year received nine, she said.
Since the beginning of the economic recession, Rubel said, it has been difficult for the TNSF to attain funds. This difficulty has continued even into this year, she said.
“This has been a tough year to raise money,” she said. “It has been hard for the community organizations we fund, and for faculty and staff to make generous donations. Unless there is some serious windfall, we will only have $18,000 for next year.”
The most the TNSF has been able to distribute in a given year is $24,000, Rubel said. Specific project proposals tend to be funded more frequently than nonprofits’ personnel or operational costs. Donations to organizations range from $250 to $2,000, and the larger donations most frequently go to food pantries and funds for the homeless, where the TNSF committee believes there is the greatest need.
“The committee wants to give money where they think it will do the most good,” Rubel said.