Pawsitively Awesome: Grant awards big bucks for Bentley’s Buddies program

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A young boy named Hunter practiced reading aloud last summer alongside Wrigley, a certified reading buddy from Bentley’s Buddies and Friends. The reading support organization recently won a $10,000 grant to help offset the increased cost of rent since moving into a 1920s home along State Street in Greenfield last fall.

GREENFIELD — Nickie Scott is feeling totally “pawesome” after receiving a $10,000 grant for Bentley’s Buddies and Friends, the Greenfield-based nonprofit which enlists dogs to provide reading support for kids.

The grant will help offset the rent increase the nonprofit incurred since moving out of a strip mall and into a century-old bungalow at 707 N. State St. in Greenfield last September.

“This will help out tremendously since our rent went up quite a bit,” said Scott, who founded Bentley’s Buddies nine years ago.

Scott’s husband, Terry, serves on the board for a charitable foundation called Quest for Excellence, and told the board about Bentley’s Buddies and the work it does helping children to improve their reading skills by providing four-legged friends to provide a listening ear.

The foundation’s president, Patti Foltz, was instantly inspired to support the nonprofit which connects canines with kids.

“We like to focus on causes which benefit women, children and animals, and Bentley’s Buddies fits in perfectly,” said Foltz, whose late husband, Howard “Buzz” Foltz, founded Quest for Excellence 34 years ago.

“When Terry made us aware of Bentley’s Buddies, we were instantly interested in helping them because our focus is on smaller foundations that don’t get the help from huge organizations or big government money,” said Foltz, whose husband passed away last June.

She’s now focused on carrying on her husband’s legacy of supporting causes that were close to his heart.

“He built (the foundation) into several different programs, one of which provides long-term housing for domestic abuse victims and their children,” she said.

Bentley’s Buddies is a cause that would surely bring her late husband joy, said Foltz, who lives in Indianapolis.

He and Scott used to talk about the fact he once had a dog named Nickie that was a Great Pyrenees, the same breed as Scott’s dog who was the Bentley’s Buddies namesake.

“I think Bentley’s Buddies is a lovely program. I think it’s just wonderful. Anywhere you can help children learn and grow and be more comfortable in a learning atmosphere is such a blessing, and to bring the dogs into it is a wonderful way to do that,” said Foltz, who shares her late husband’s fondness for children and animals.

“Nickie is showing great results and she’s grown the program tremendously. She’s such a lovely person, and seems to have a pretty special calling for this type of work, and we want to do whatever we can to help her program prosper and reach as many people as she can for as long as she can,” she said.

Scott said the foundation’s generous grant has been a godsend.

“If we didn’t get the grant we would have had to fund raise like crazy and hope that the donations came in. We would have done it, but this definitely takes the pressure off,” she said.

Scott said the increase in rent — which went up by $500 a month since the nonprofit relocated — has been a worthwhile expense that has enabled the program to grow.

“The kids just love our new space,” she said. “It’s quiet, it provides a safer environment for kiddos, and we have more room so we can spread out. We also have a front porch and yard. It’s just awesome,” she said.

With the pressure off now that the rent differential for 2023 is taken care of, Scott is now focused on growing the Bentley’s Buddies volunteer team of dogs and their owners this year.

Bentley’s Buddies has 27 dogs in the program, but needs at least 20 more to keep up with the current demand.

“I still have 11 classrooms on a waitlist and eight kids on a wait list who are not yet receiving services,” said Scott. “We are going to have a ‘Pack the Doghouse’ campaign this year to pull in more volunteers, but we’re still in the planning stages.”

Scott said she’s looking for well-behaved dogs to join the team, ones who know simple obedience and can be gentle with kids.

The minimal time commitment for volunteers is a half hour a week for private reads, and an hour a week for classroom reading sessions.

“The nice thing about private reads is it’s with the same child at the same time on the same day every week, and the same is true of classroom visits, which are at the same place at the same time every week,” she said.

To learn more about volunteering or donating to Bentley’s Buddies, visit BentleyBuddies.com or contact Scott at [email protected].