Collaborative Leader Awarded $24,000 Environmental Funders Network Grant | Business

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Collaborative Leader Awarded $24,000 Environmental Funders Network Grant

BETHEL - The Bethel Area Non-profit Collaborative (BANC) has devoted more than two years to building a meaningful and functional network among the Greater Bethel Area’s non-profit organizations.  These efforts were recognized this month by the Environmental Funders Network (EFN), through the award of the first year’s $24,000 of a two-year Quality of Place grant.
This funding, awarded by EFN to support Quality of Place goals, will allow BANC to take important steps forward in its mission of helping area nonprofits enhance organizational efficiency, expand fundraising opportunities, strengthen impact in the community, improve ability to meet organizational mission and build trust and capacity in the community.  A Network Facilitator, or “Team Captain,” will be hired through the funding administered by the Mahoosuc Land Trust, the fiscal agent of the grant.
The EFN, a joint project of the Maine Community Foundation and the Maine Philanthropy Center, provides opportunities for education and sharing of information, encourages networking, and identifies opportunities for individual or joint funding of initiatives to address the most pressing issues facing Maine's environment. The EFN’s Quality of Place Initiative seeks to support projects that “strengthen the link between the natural and built environments, emphasize public engagement, and take seriously the process and action elements required to build and sustain collaborations.”
 In 2010 The EFN awarded $526,400 in Quality of Place grants through its collaborative funding initiative, “From Vision to Action: A Commitment to Maine’s Quality of Place.” Fifteen grants ranging in size from $15,000 to $50,000 were made to each of the first year (2009) grantees and as well as to: Androscoggin Land Trust, Friends of Midcoast Maine, Keeping Maine’s Forests, Mahoosuc Land Trust (the fiscal agent for the BANC), Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association, and The Nature Conservancy.

The BANC Network Facilitator will create and strengthen links among the Bethel area’s non-profit community by facilitating and formalizing BANC’s strategic planning; expanding opportunities for collaborative ventures; enhancing existing, and developing new, communication strategies among the group; securing funding to ensure BANC’s sustainability; and engaging the public in BANC’s efforts through public forums, traditional and social media, and volunteerism.

Over the past two and a half years, the BANC has:
• studied collaborative models and processes and sought effective ways of increasing community impact;
• successfully implemented a development grant from the Betterment Foundation through the Institute for Civic Leadership;
• developed an inventory of Bethel Area  non-profit organizations and completed an electronic survey of area  non-profit organizations which measured interest in collaborative possibilities;
• initiated plans for building a dedicated internet network for area non-profits;
• produced a community forum which convened 80 people from nearly 60 area nonprofits and spawned several collaborative projects;
• created a focus group to hone in on new collaborative initiatives; and
• successfully applied for the EFN grant to further collaborative work through a BANC facilitator.

The collaborative energy nurtured by BANC has spawned several community projects.  The Bethel Trails Project has been supported by the Mahoosuc Land Trust and the Androscoggin River Watershed Council and assisted by Maine Handicapped Skiing, Upper Andro Anglers Alliance, local businesses, state and federal agencies, and private landowners.
The Mahoosuc Arts Council has collaborated with several organizations to produce heritage and arts programming in the schools and community: Gould Academy, Crescent Park School, Telstar Middle/High School, Woodstock Elementary School, Andover Elementary School, Western Mountains Senior College, Bethel Performing Arts Project, Friends of CPS, Mahoosuc Kids Association, and local businesses.
In its efforts to create a downtown outdoor heritage, recreation, and community center, the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce has received help from the towns of Bethel and Newry, the Bethel Historical Society, Mahoosuc Land Trust, Androscoggin River Watershed Council, Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, Upper Androscoggin Anglers Association, Sunday River Resort, and other local businesses.
One exciting initiative has been increasing community and student involvement in local foods production and distribution.  The G.O.T.  Farms? (Greenhouse of Telstar) project has involved Telstar Middle School, Bryant Pond 4-H Camp & Learning Center, Mahoosuc Kids Association, SAD # 44 Adult Education, the Western Mountains Senior College, Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church, and many local businesses and volunteers.
New members are always welcome in the BANC. Current members include the Western Mountains Senior College, Bethel Area Historical Society, Mahoosuc Kids Association, Bethel Area Trails Committee, Mahoosuc Land Trust, Mahoosuc Arts Council, Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, Bryant Pond 4-H Camp and Learning Center, Telstar High School, River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition, Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, and Androscoggin River Watershed Council. 
For more information contact the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce: 207-824-2282 or info@bethelmaine.com.

Bethel Businesses