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Vet school supports local non-profits

Published: Friday, February 21, 2014

Updated: Friday, February 21, 2014 08:02


Each year, Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine distributes a number of small grants, ranging between $200 and $500, to local non-profits. Started in 2010 by Cummings’ Dean Deborah Kochivar, the Cummings School Service Fund provides grants to groups based in both Westborough and Grafton, Mass. The program is modeled on the Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund (TNSF), which was created in 1995 and funds local community service projects.

“The way it differs from the Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund is that we don’t require that a Tufts employee ... necessarily be involved in the non-profit,” Jean Poteete, the Cummings School’s senior campus planner and manager of the service fund, said.

The Cummings School grants typically fund education-related programs, though groups of any type, size or need, can apply.

“We’ve had requests from local churches [that] sponsor English as a Second Language programs,” Poteete, who has worked with the grant program since its inception, said. “... We had a request from the Westborough High School robotics team for some funding, so they got a grant last year. We’ve had summer enrichment programs that are sponsored at libraries ... support services available locally for elderly folks.”

According to Poteete, Tufts wants to offer financial support to non-profits to expand their relationships within the community.

“They’re all very worthwhile programs,” she said. “[The grants are] really to acknowledge that these other non-profits are our friends and partners in our host communities.”

The Cummings School grants, unlike those of the TNSF, rely on contributions from outside sources.

“The [Cummings] school gets its funding from philanthropic sources, so you could say it’s a philanthropic donation that is leveraged by the school ... whereas the Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund [runs on] donations from employees,” Poteete said.

Community Harvest, a Grafton-based non-profit that grows and distributes fresh fruits and vegetables to local hunger relief organizations, received two $500 Cummings grants in the last two years. According to Community Harvest employee Kristen Bafaro, the institution grew and donated 324,000 pounds — or 1.1 million servings — of produce last year alone.

“We typically ask for money ... for harvesting baskets for our volunteers,” Bafaro said. “The number of volunteers that are coming to our farms and helping out, and the number of acres that we’re farming has increased over the last few years, and so we need a lot of farm supplies to support all of that.”

Last year, Community Harvest brought about 9,500 volunteers to its farm in North Grafton to grow produce, according to Bafaro. Volunteers perform various activities, such as seeding in the spring, harvesting, washing, boxing and preparing for delivery. Community Harvest then partners with local food banks to distribute their produce, Bafaro explained.

“At [Tufts] events, we usually come out and set up a table, and we’re able to spread the word to students and hopefully recruit some volunteers,” she said. “We’re always looking for ways to make connections to students.”

A second non-profit that has received grants from the Cummings School Service Fund is Apple Tree Arts, a non-profit community school for the arts that aims to bring music, theater and visual arts to people of all ages, but particularly children, in the greater Grafton area.

“We do early childhood music [and] keyboard classes for youth,” Apple Tree Arts employee Donna Blanchard said. “We have about 13 productions throughout the year, [we have a] community chorus and we reach about 25 preschools.”

Apple Tree received a $500 grant in 2012 to help support their Head Start music classes, according to Blanchard. The organization offers 10 music classes to children in underserved communities.

“We go to them ... once a week, which is a wonderful relationship that we have with them — to bring music into their lives,” Blanchard said. “Many of the skills of music are like language: If you reach children early, they get a better head start ... Early childhood music is the core of what we do. It’s really important to us and [is] the reason why we started 24 years ago.”

Both Apple Tree Arts and Community Harvest have been able to maintain a steady partnership with Tufts, according to their employees.

“I think Tufts has helped us so much,” Blanchard said. “... Any time they have an event, they support [us]. They donate money to us. We truly appreciate Tufts, for all that they do in the community.”

Bafaro echoed Blanchard’s sentiment.

“[We’re so] thankful for the relationship that we have with the Cummings School and for all of their support over the years,” Bafaro said.

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