LACONIA — A youth center will be able to expand its after-school program, a park will allow kids to ski or play golf for no charge, and a food pantry will be able to lower its operating expenses. Those, and many other programs, all received a boost last week when they received a check during a ceremony held by the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction.
The ceremony, which took place at the Leavitt Park Clubhouse, welcomed representatives from more than 60 nonprofit organizations that benefit children in the Lakes Region. An earlier ceremony had issued grants to organizations that had an urgent need for funding, and between the two distributions, more than 70 local organizations received a total of $561,400 from the annual Children’s Auction, which has taken place every December since 1982.
Jaimie Sousa, auction chair, noted that this year’s list of grant recipients included some community partners that were familiar to the auction board, as well as some nonprofits that received grants for the first time.
“This was our first grant from the auction, which was wonderful news to us,” said Zachary Porter, interim director with the Kingswood Youth Center in Wolfeboro. His organization serves just over 200 young people over the course of a school year, including an after-school program, a summer program and a mentoring program for middle school. They are also expanding a program, called “Beyond the After-School” – “BTAS” for short – for teens sdeeking a positive way to spend hours in the evening, on weekends and during school vacations.
The Kingswood Youth Center received a grant for $4,000 from the Children’s Auction.
“We are going to put that right toward our BTAS program, a program we’ve been growing over the past couple of years. It has really filled a need for a whole bunch of students,” Porter said. The BTAS program includes an evening meal, as well as what Porter called a “focused agenda” of programming. The evening program rotates through a range of experiences: trivia games, snowshoeing, community service, musical performances – even an escape room.
“We try to offer that variety to give a big range of exposure to different opportunities,” Porter said. He said he was grateful to the Children’s Auction, adding that he was impressed by the community pride that was on display during the ceremony. “We’ll make the dollars go a long way,” he said.
Straddling the line between Laconia and Gilford, Bolduc Park offers golf in the summer and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. Bob Bolduc said the volunteer-run, nonprofit park was designed with local children in mind.
Bolduc Park is build on 40 acres, and features 10 kilometers of trails suitable for new skiers. Bolduc said the $4,500 grant will help keep his grooming equipment fueled and operational.
“I allow kids to come here if they have money or not,” Bolduc said. He’s welcomed visits from the Boys and Girls Club, local scouting groups, camps and schools. He recently had a group of 50 schoolchildren visit, and only one had ever been on skis before.
“There should be no kid in Laconia that hasn’t been on skis, skates or snowshoes,” Bolduc said. “That’s going to change.”
In Moultonborough, Agape Ministries has been operating a food pantry, thrift shop and church since 2017. The organization also runs a similar site in Ossipee. Kevin Strong, of Agape, said the Moultonborough location records between 300 and 350 family visits to its food pantry each month, reflecting either single or multiple visits from between 175 and 200 families.
It has been a challenge to ramp up its operation to meet that demand. Strong said the food pantry had been using 10 freezers and five refrigerators to store its food, and recently received a grant from the Bald Peak Colony Club that will allow it to purchase a walk-in food storage unit. The walk-in will operate more efficiently, but the food pantry still needed to find a way to pay for its installation. That’s where the $2,500 grant from the Children’s Auction will come in.
“This grant will help us finish that up,” Strong said, as well as allow him to turn his attention toward the organization’s next big need, a box truck for food pick-ups.
The most recent Children’s Auction raised a record-setting amount, nearly all of which is already at work in the local community. Yet, said Sousa, the total amount of requests was $945,000 – almost double the amount that the auction handed out.
Sousa said she is happy to see the requests come in, “because we want to know what the need is out there. If we had a million dollars, we’d fund them all.”