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‘Learn, Play, Create: Supporting Our Kids’ Grant

$3 Million available for children’s non-profits
affected by pandemic

Poughkeepsie … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro will direct $3 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to the new Learn, Play, Create grant program, following approval from the County Legislature, as part of “Dutchess Invests” – Dutchess County’s initiative to invest the one-time federal ARP funding for long-term benefit for Dutchess residents.

The Learn, Play, Create program will provide one-time grants to local non-profit youth organizations that were deprived of a year of fundraising or participation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding will be available to non-profit youth organizations that directly serve children and families in each of the following categories: arts, libraries and athletics.

County Executive Molinaro said, “The last year and half has been tough on all of us, but our kids have felt so many of the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – they have lost a year of opportunity and development as a result of the quarantine and stay-at-home orders necessitated by COVID-19. Our Learn, Play, Create grant program invests directly in our young people to help them regain some of what they lost, so they can again enjoy the fun of being a kid. I encourage organizations of all kinds that directly serve children to apply and help Dutchess County foster these children’s development. Let’s help our kids enjoy being kids again – whether they want to play ball, create a work of art or learn a new skill – we want to make it happen!”

Funding will be available in grant awards up to $20,000 per arts or sports organization for specific purchases or needs, including equipment, supplies or other one-time expenses to help enhance program offerings, as well as make the program more accessible for families. Libraries will be eligible for purchases or needs up to $50,000.

Amy K. Smith, Head of Programs & Youth Services for the Red Hook Public Library (RHPL), said, “Through the pandemic, public libraries have worked hard to be resources for families, providing tools like hotspots & computers to facilitate education and programs for fun and relaxation. At RHPL, we’re grateful that Dutchess County is including public libraries in its Learn, Create, Play grant program. We’re excited to see all the opportunities and innovative programs this initiative will create for our communities’ kids who’ve so often struggled and had to be so patient with these trying times.”

Examples of possible funding awards include:

  • A youth sports league’s purchase of new uniforms for its teams, enabling the league to lower its registration fee and making it more affordable for families whose income was negatively impacted by the pandemic or offer a skills clinic for player development at no cost to participants.
  • Scenery and sets for a youth theater organization unable to fundraise for their cost during the past year;
  • Materials and/or supplies for a library to market a “pop up” educational event/program, such as back-to-school prep, or new skill development, such as computer coding; and
  • Establishing a concession operation to enhance event experience, as well as create future fundraising revenue for program sustainability.

“This is great news for youth programs!” said Michael Roe, who serves as President of the Town of Poughkeepsie Babe Ruth – Cal Ripken Baseball League. “Like so many volunteer-run programs, we want to give kids the best experience possible while keeping costs low for families. Our baseball league serves over 350 kids ages 6-12– and this program will help us achieve our goal. This grant opportunity will allow sports organizations to make real investments that can expand participation and interest to get more kids involved in sports, which provides social opportunities they haven’t been able to have due to COVID-19. We look forward to the application process and appreciate the County’s investment in our local kids!”

Program guidance and application is expected to be available June 30th; interested organizations can sign up online to be notified when guidance is released. Funding should be utilized within one year of award.

Learn, Play, Create aligns with Dutchess County’s innovative “Path to Promise” initiative, which strives to provide every child the resources needed to become successful young adults.

Karmen Smallwood, Assistant Commissioner for Youth Services, said, “We are so fortunate to have a plethora of wonderful youth organizations here in Dutchess County, dedicated to enriching kids’ lives, through arts, sports and more. Many of these organizations are supported by volunteers, and it can already be very challenging to find extra resources to make enhancements to their programs without charging families more to participate. This past year has made it even more challenging with participation halted for many programs and little to no opportunity to fundraise. This grant program will help organizations to overcome those hurdles and expand opportunities for our kids to have fun and grow.”

The Learn, Play, Create Grant is part of the “Dutchess Invests” initiative announced by County Executive Molinaro earlier this month – the County’s priority areas to use the $57 million ARP funding Dutchess County is slated to receive over the next two years. In addition to support for local children, other community priorities to which the County Executive has designated ARP funding include County parks, job development, infrastructure, public safety and community partnerships.

Dutchess County Legislator Faye Garito said, “Dutchess County’s children have missed out on so much during this pandemic, and our community must do all we can to mitigate the loss they’ve experienced. I applaud County Executive Molinaro for the Learn, Create, Play grant program, and I look forward to seeing how many boys and girls will be able to resume their childhood thanks to Dutchess County’s action.”

The County’s new Learn, Play, Create youth investment initiative will be presented on Thursday, June 10th at the Dutchess County Legislature’s Budget, Finance & Personnel Committee. Following adoption by the committee, the resolution will move to the full Legislature for a vote at its monthly board meeting on Monday, June 14.