Grant Awarded to Connect Children with Rescued Animals for Emotional Support

More than $550,000 in Grants Awarded to Nonprofits in Onondaga & Madison counties

July 10, 2018—Many of the animals living at the Haven at Skanda in Cazenovia are endangered and have been abused. Now, with the help of a $20,000 grant awarded by the Central New York Community Foundation, those same animals have been rescued, and are helping children who struggle with emotional and behavioral issues to receive some much-needed support.

While working as a social worker for 7 years, Ellen Beckerman witnessed the challenges children from low-income families faced first-hand, especially during the summer months. That is when they are without the supportive structure of school and a lack of access to community programs, leaving many to struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts and drug use. So Beckerman helped institute an alternative way for them to receive support: through interaction with animals.

Beckerman, executive director of the Haven at Skanda, helped launch the Summer at Skanda program last summer for children ages 7-12. The Haven immerses children in direct interaction with the animals that reside on the farm. Daily activities include animal feeding, grooming, bonding time, arts & crafts, recreational games, nature walks, gardening and team-building games.

“Children who struggle with emotional and behavioral issues or come from low-income families are especially vulnerable during the summer,” said Beckerman. “With a supportive, inclusive, and empowering program that caters to their specific needs, these kids can make gains during the summer that have long-lasting, positive effects on their functioning in school and at home.”

The organization works in collaboration with the ASPCA and other rescue shelters to provide comfortable homes for endangered and abused animals. Children have the opportunity to interact with all the animals living at the Haven including horses, goats, mini donkeys, chickens, ducks, bunnies, pigs, roosters and more. As the children learn to care for the animals, they develop mindfulness, peaceful conflict resolution, teamwork and leadership skills.

“When kids connect with animals like goats, miniature donkeys, and ducks, they can see the brilliance of all animals, not just cats and dogs,” said Beckerman. “The diversity provides each child with ample opportunity to find that special animal to connect with.”

Last year, the Haven at Skanda partnered with the Madison Elementary School to invite its at-risk youth to participate in the program. The school’s principal, Brian Latella, has already seen a positive change in his students.

“Summer at Skanda teaches our students a very important character trait that is often overlooked – empathy,” said Latella. “The experience working with and taking care of animals helps them learn how to handle peers when they find themselves in a challenging emotional situation.”

The Community Foundation’s $20,000 grant will help to expand Summer at Skanda to reach more children within and beyond Madison County.

“We’re thrilled to support this program to help combat depression that many of our youth experience and the risky behavior that can result from this and other mental health and behavioral issues,” said Danielle Gill, director, community grantmaking at the Community Foundation. “Children that have gone through the program have demonstrated increased empathy, leadership and conflict resolution skills.”

This year, the program will serve 18 families. Beckerman hopes that this growth will allow them to double the amount next summer.

The Community Foundation awarded the following grants to local nonprofit organizations:

Building Men received $20,750 to expand its Building Men program in Syracuse City School District high schools. The program provides young men with character building, resume and cover letter writing, interview, time management and goal setting skills.

Clear Path for Veterans received $35,075 to track and measure outcomes of client participation. This will allow staff to identify service gaps and make necessary programming adjustments.

Dunbar Association received $15,000 to replace furniture and purchase equipment for its Youth Esteem program space. This includes the purchase of a smart-board to provide interactive instruction in its after-school sessions.

The First Tee received $32,000 to purchase an environmentally friendly tractor for its grounds. The new tractor will prevent future waste and support the organization’s sustainability.

Haven at Skanda received $20,000 to expand its Summer at Skanda program for at-risk youth that are behind their grade level in social development. The program empowers children with daily leadership and decision making activities.

Heritage Farm received $2,055 to purchase equipment that will enable overnight respite services for clients with epilepsy.

Izaak Walton League received $2,476 to expand the Young Naturalists of CNY environmental education program to libraries in the City of Syracuse.

Madison County Department of Emergency Management received $10,000 to purchase and distribute smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to residents.

Matthew 25 Farm received $15,000 to construct a second in-ground greenhouse to increase distribution of its produce for local food pantries.

Liberty Resources received $50,000 to expand the services and hours of operation at its Integrated Care Clinic, as well as begin a pediatric program. This expansion will provide families with increased access to healthcare services in one central location.

Light Work received $6,500 to launch a digital photography workshop in collaboration with the LaFayette Big Picture School. Students will learn creative ways to participate in civic engagement and hone their craft.

National Audubon Society received $9,440 to launch STEM programming for Syracuse City School District students.

Natural Heritage Trust received $25,000 to develop and install interpretive exhibits at Green Lakes State Park. The new exhibits will provide guests with observational tools to enhance learning and exploration.

New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation received $35,000 to hire a project manager to lead a newly launched civic engagement campaign around I-81 replacement and repair.

PEACE, Inc. received $75,000 to replace the roof at its Eastside Family Resource Center.

The People Project received $25,250 to purchase kitchen equipment for Hope Café, which offers programming and support for people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, job loss, mental health issues and more.

The Reading League received $20,523 to initiate training for reading coaches in Central New York schools. This will provide teachers with the necessary skills to further support children that have difficulty reading or writing.

Skaneateles YMCA received $9,268 to replace strength equipment in its fitness area. The new equipment will ensure that members have full access to health improvement and preventative wellness needs.

Symphoria received $30,000 to launch a series of performances featuring the work of women composers. The series will highlight the role of women as change makers with a focus on the suffrage movement.

Syracuse City Ballet received $21,942 to purchase storage and in-house performance equipment to create a more transformable space.

Syracuse Jewish Family Services received $25,000 to implement a Mind Aerobics program that will provide brain health services for elderly residents.

Vera House received $25,000 to purchase a generator to prevent disruption in critical services.

Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County received $40,500 to hire a consultant to conduct an internal audit to revise practices and policies with a focus on anti-racism to improve the workplace, and develop a comprehensive anti-racism training for the legal community.

These grants were awarded by the following field-of-interest funds, administered by the Community Foundation:

Anonymous #33, Shirley M. Aubrey, Charles F. Brannock, Carriage House Foundation, Community, Cohen for Early Childhood Development, Coon, Mary Louise Dunn, M. Harold & Frances M. Dwyer, John & Mary Gallinger Memorial, Holstein Family Fund for Civic Engagement, Robert C. & Flora M. Hosmer, David Kilpatrick Memorial, Francis C. and Albert C. Knight, George & Luella Krahl, John F. Marsellus, Martha, P-D, Donald W. Ryder, Ralph Myron and Sophrona Davis Sayer, Small Grants, Spanfelner, Syracuse Dispensary, Walter A. Thayer and the William & Mary Thorpe funds.

The Central New York Community Foundation was established in 1927 to serve as a permanent community endowment built by the gifts and charitable legacies of individuals, families and businesses for the betterment of the region. It is the largest charitable foundation in Central New York with assets of more than $272 million. It has invested more than $190 million in community improvement projects since its inception. As a grantmaker, civic leader, convener and sponsor of special initiatives, the Community Foundation strives to strengthen local nonprofits, encourage better understanding of the region and address the most critical issues of our time.  Its vision is to create a vibrant Central New York community that provides opportunity for everyone and builds a hopeful, prosperous region for future generations.

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