Noteworthy award: Choir receives $20,000 grant

HANCOCK COUNTY — As finance director for a small, largely volunteer-driven nonprofit group, Joanna Crump is always on the hunt for funding for the Hancock County Children’s Choir.

When she applied for a grant from an East Coast company — an award more than 10,000 organizations across the nation were in the running for — she knew chances were slim.

So when, several months after submitting the application, she received word the Hancock County Children’s Choir was one of 52 organizations from across the country to receive a $20,000 grant, she was elated.

The Hancock County Children’s Choir was selected by Tom’s of Maine, a company that produces natural health products, as one of the recipients of the business’s “50 States for Good” campaign, which donates a portion of yearly profits to good causes. Leaders of the choir, which includes 88 children between ages 5 and 18, say they plan to use the additional funding for an array of expenses, such as upgrades to performance equipment and adding dates to the group’s concert schedule.

The choir’s annual operating budget is about $70,000, money primarily raised through membership dues and ticket sales to the group’s concerts, as well as through fundraisers and grants.

“So much of what we’ve done in the past has been restricted because of funding,” Crump said. “This will open up so many doors for us.”

Tom’s of Maine’s “50 States for Good” is an annual initiative open to nonprofit groups. The company donates 10 percent of its profits every year; in all, more than $1 million was distributed to organizations across the country, such as art galleries and food banks.

Crump, whose two children have been part of the choir since its inception in 2011, said the organization plans to purchase a new travel piano with its additional money. That will allow the organization to perform at venues that don’t provide a piano — something that has restricted where the choir could perform in the past, Crump said.

Funds from the grant also will go toward extra performance training for the children that aims to increase their confidence and comfort level when they take the stage, she added.

“It’s also just an important life skill. While we know it’ll improve our program, it’ll also be useful when our kids are getting ready to enter the workforce or college.”

Part of the organization’s purpose is to prepare the young singers for the years after their participation in the choir is over, said Gayle Roschi, artistic director.

And that means teaching more than music-reading and rhythm in the years the kids sing in the choir.

“We don’t want to train our children only musically; we want them to learn how to shake a hand and look someone in the eye,” Roschi said. “All of that will serve them as they progress through life.”

Lisa Heady, executive director of the choir, said the additional funding has helped the group secure the Greenfield-Central High School auditorium as its practice and performance venue. That space, which the group couldn’t previously afford to rent on a consistent basis, will allow for larger audiences at concerts, she said.

“Until now, we’ve always had to have some people stand at our shows,” she said. “That won’t be a problem now.”

The children’s choir hasn’t decided everything the grant monies will go toward, Heady said, but she anticipates spending the funding boost on travel expenses, new stage costumes and workshop training.

“This will be a new experience for us,” Heady said. “We’ve never had so much to spend, but we certainly have plenty of things to spend it on.”

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.