Foundation issues youth grants

Craig-Sheckman family distributes $130,000 to numerous local groups

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Ian White, a participant in the Community Cultivation program at the Yampa River Botanic Park, cuts away parts of dead daffodils Thursday. The Community Cultivation, a new program this year, works with disabled and at-risk youths to develop vocational and social skills by tending a plot at the park. Fruits and vegetables raised there will be sold at the MainStreet Farmers Market later this season.

Grant recipients

Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition

Community Action Network

Community Cultivation

Grand Futures Prevent Coalition

Hayden School District (Hayden High School)

Steamboat Springs School District (ELL)

Northwest Board of Cooperative Services (BOCES)

South Routt School District

Humble Ranch and Education Therapy Center

North Routt Preschool

Totally Kids

Yampatika

Yampa Valley Autism Program

First Impressions of Routt County

Partners in Routt County

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

— From dental care to horse therapy, the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation distributed $130,000 worth of grants last month to 16 different groups in an effort to help youths in Routt County.

It's the largest distribution in the organization's history.

The group also will distribute an additional $30,000 in November. All of the money is designated to help special needs, low-income or at-risk students.

Recipients of the grants include state agencies, school districts and nonprofit organizations.

"We don't just give the money and walk away," said Sara Craig-Scheckman, executive director of the foundation. Instead, the organization helps groups to apply for the money and later conducts site visits.

Grants range from $1,000 to $13,600 for specific projects. The three agencies receiving general operating support - First Impressions of Routt County, Partners in Routt County and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - each received $25,000.

Craig-Scheckman, who started the foundation with her husband Michael in 2005, said she also encourages the recipient groups to apply for other grants from larger foundations in the future, a process she often helps with.

Several new groups were funded this year, including Community Cultivation, a group that works with disabled and at-risk youths to grow vegetables and flowers at the Yampa River Botanic Park.

Beth Davison, one of the creators of the program, said participants will go through three courses, each about five weeks long, to learn how to work in a garden.

"It's focused on vocational and social skills," she said. "These kiddos, this is part of the skill base they don't have. We can get them to come in and work off a check list, but often it's that social piece that's missing."

The group is organized with the Yampa Valley Autism Program, but participants in the program, ages 16 to 25, aren't all autistic. In each session, there are several at-risk youths, called expert learners, who model acceptable behavior.

The group has finished the first of its three sessions, starting the seedlings indoors, and they plan to put the seedlings in their garden plot at the park soon. They will then tend to the plot, volunteer at the park and, eventually, harvest the goods to sell at the weekly MainStreet Farmers Market in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Davison said the group has a long-term goal of building a greenhouse so the program can continue year round. The program is funded primarily through the autism program and received scholarships from several state agencies.

The Craig-Scheckman foundation provided a $5,000 grant for the youth in the program.

"We try to help agencies be as proactive as they can to help kids," Craig-Scheckman said.

Other support during this funding cycle went to a treatment program at the Hayden High School, a summer day camp by Totally Kids for children who might otherwise be left home alone, and a grant to purchase dental equipment for the Northwest Colorado Dental Association, which provides free dental care to those who need it.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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