For Stratton Foundation, the fight against poverty continues


STRATTON — It's often not until a child goes to school that their struggles are revealed.

Most people suffering from poverty don't ask for help, said Tammy Mosher, director of the Stratton Foundation.

"It's a real challenge," Mosher said. "Sometimes we hear through a nonprofit or a neighbor or the schools; we have such a close relationship with the schools. That's where things are first identified."

Over the past year, the foundation raised $208,000 in grants and community gifts to support children and families living at an economic disadvantage in Southern Vermont. Organizations and events such as 24 Hours of Stratton, Snowlight in Vermont, Taste of Vermont, Charity Golf Outing and Why We Give Magazine make it possible for the foundation to carry out its mission.

The Stratton Foundation has provided families with basic necessities such as dental care, food, and shelter. Of grants distributed in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, 56 percent went to innovative education and scholarship, 24 percent helped food assistance programs, 15 percent was distributed to mental health and school dental care, and 5 percent was used for basic needs and emergency assistance, according to the foundation.

Mosher reflected on a time when a school nurse in Townshend called her about siblings who couldn't stay awake in their classes. "You don't just ask, but it's identified through behaviors," she said.

The boys explained that they were sleeping on the floor every night. Their father had died unexpectedly, putting the family into a unfortunate economic situation.

"The simplicity of having a bed and a good night sleep has changed these kids' perspective of doing well in school," Mosher said.

Children with a lack of access to dental care also experience hurdles to education, such as abscessed teeth. To help that, the foundation provided funds for fundamental dentistry equipment to the Chester Family Dental Center and hired a hygienist to go into local schools.

"Numerous kids would have been referred to a hospital. [New equipment] alone helped them get proper treatment," Mosher said. "Kids can't concentrate without proper dental care."

The foundation's Todd Richter First Generation Endowment Scholarship is something that Mosher says is breaking the cycle of rural poverty; children not finishing high school, or getting their GED just to contribute back to the family income. It encourages first generation children to pursue higher education.

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"I don't think a few words can encapsulate the depth of the partnership between the Stratton Foundation and Burr and Burton Academy," Jason Purgament, director of the Student Success Program at Burr and Burton Academy, said in an email. "There are multiple grants and scholarships at play that serve a variety of purposes."

Last week, foundation leaders were on hand as BBA hosted a celebration marking the end of its annual Success camp. The foundation provides participants with backpacks that are fully stocked with supplies for the school year ahead.

The camp helps incoming freshmen get acclimated to BBA's campus, facilities and academic expectations and connect with faculty and older students. It hosted its largest-ever enrollment this year.

Another Stratton Foundation recipient, the Smokey House Center in Danby, allows some local students work as camp counselors, sometimes as a first job, said Executive Director Jess Pyles.

"All these students are from the area who might not have access to employment otherwise," Pyles said. "These kids are pretty excited about eating food that's been pulled out of the ground. For the most part it seems easier because they're involved."

Without collaborating with community partners, the work the foundation does would be hard. Mosher says the extended Stratton Mountain community is passionate when it comes to the various fundraising events.

"The events are what propels that forward," she said. "The first year we had no idea what it was going to mean for the foundation. Instead of writing out different grants, it took $40,000 to make sure organizations were on the ground executing these events."

Folks from out of town who visit Stratton Mountain on a regular basis enjoy giving back their home away from home, and organize fundraisers in their home towns for the foundation, Mosher said. "It's about having that camaraderie that you're all there for the same purpose," she said.

The United States ranks 36th out of 175 nations, between Belarus and Russia, for rural poverty, or events that prevent children from reaching their full potential, according to a report from Save the Children. Roughly 14 percent of children in Vermont are living in poverty, a number the Stratton Foundation is working to decrease.

Grant recipients for 2018 include Blessings in a Backpack, Student Success, Burr & Burton Academy, Currier Elementary School, Jamaica Village School, Interfaith Council Kid's Summer Lunch, Leland and Gray High School, Long Trail School, Manchester Community Food Cupboard, Manchester Elementary School, Parks Place Community Resource Center, Smokey House, Springfield Medical Care Systems Kids Dental Project, Wardsboro Elementary School, Windham Supervisory Union, and the Winhall-Stratton Food Pantry. Grant applications are accepted quarterly.

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