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LEAD Council awards $20K in impact grants to North Country nonprofits

By Journal Staff (


WATERTOWN, N.Y. — A mental-health awareness campaign, improved access to swimming lessons, and nutritious foods for a teen culinary program are but three of 11 initiatives that will receive a share of $20,000 in grant funding from the LEAD Council of the Northern New York (NNY) Community Foundation.

A recent series of LEAD Impact Grant Program awards will support 11 tri-county (Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence county) nonprofit organizations, the foundation announced in mid-February. They were chosen from among nearly three-dozen applications for funding, Council members say they sought to address current community needs while supporting a wide breadth of organizations whose work improves the quality of life in Northern New York.

The following tri-county nonprofit organizations were awarded LEAD Impact Grant Program funding:

 Adams Free Library — $3,000 to help introduce a “Mental Health Matters” program that will engage adults, children, and families in mental-health awareness and build strategies for a supportive community.

Northern TRIBS Swimming, Massena — $2,700 to improve access to its Learn to Swim programs for second graders across St. Lawrence County. Grant funding will enable month-long lessons to second graders with financial need in seven different St. Lawrence County communities.

Children’s Home of Jefferson County — $2,500 to help purchase healthy and nutritious foods for a culinary program at its SoZo Teen Center in Watertown. At least 20 teens help prepare a meal for the center five nights a week. The activity forges the strongest bonds between peers and builds confidence in the teens preparing the meals, while educating teens about essential life skills, the NNY Community Foundation said.

Thousand Islands Arts Center, Clayton — $2,500 to expand its after-school arts and summer youth programs. The after-school program operates eight weeks in the spring and fall, while the summer youth camp runs eight weekly camps for children ages 5 to 10. Funding will help with promotion and material costs.

 Arc Jefferson-St. Lawrence Foundation — $2,500 to enhance and expand its therapy equipment and gross motor areas on the outdoor playground at the Bright Beginnings Early Learning Center in Watertown, which includes daycare, early intervention, clinical therapies, and an integrated preschool for children of all abilities. Participants range from 18 months to 5 years old.

Gwen’s Food Pantry, LaFargeville — $2,000 to help bolster its inventory of food and toiletries to help individuals and families during the winter season. In early 2023, the pantry assisted about 40 families; today, that number has doubled. It also supports five-day meal plans for Town of Orleans residents in need.

 Frontier Housing Corporation, Dexter — $1,900 to develop effective outreach materials for homeowners that the organization serves through its Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation program. Frontier Housing helps income-eligible homeowners in nine Jefferson County townships — Brownville, Hounsfield, Henderson, Lyme, Adams, Ellisburg, Rodman, Lorraine, and Worth — make homes safe and energy efficient.

 Canton Day Care Center — $1,400 to help the center augment its book collection and materials focused on early childhood literacy. New books and play-based materials will help center staff encourage children between the ages of 18 months and 4 years old to develop a love for reading and learning that will enhance their overall development. 

Church & Community Program Church of Canton — $500 to help secure locally sourced goods and bolster the local economy and agriculture industry. The organization offers a food pantry, thrift store, senior meals, and more to seven different St. Lawrence County communities. More than 500 people were served in late summer and patrons have steadily increased through the winter. 

Encompass Recreation — $500 to support efforts to expand access to one-to-one and smaller group swim lessons for youth with high-support needs, in partnership with the Watertown Family YMCA. The YMCA plans to present five, 8-week swim sessions where five exceptional youth can receive lessons and learn essential water-safety skills.

South Jeff Backpack Program — $500 to acquire essential inventory and support operations as they evaluate their current scale. The organization operates solely on charitable contributions with food secured through the Food Bank of Central New York. Grant funding will help offset a recent decrease in charitable contributions.

The LEAD Council was chartered in 2014 as an advisory committee of the Northern New York Community Foundation empowered to identify and address strategic needs in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. The Council is comprised of 12 young professionals who live and work in the tri-county area with an interest in enhancing the quality of life for all in the North Country. LEAD is an acronym that reflects four important guiding principles of the Community Foundation’s work: Leadership, Engagement, Access, and Direction.        

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