NEW BEDFORD — Opportunities for underprivileged kids throughout the City of New Bedford have expanded thanks to grant money from the state.

State Senate Majority Leader and Rules Committee Chairman Mark Montigny (D- New Bedford) visited the Boys & Girls Club of Greater New Bedford on Monday morning to announce the first round of grants dedicated to non-profit organizations that support city youth.

The grants come from the Children’s Equality and Empowerment Fund, created by the New Bedford Senator during the 2018 fiscal budget. The fund focuses on solely on providing opportunities for city youth to improve health, wellness, development, and educational attainment.

“It is imperative that we make significant investments in our children,” said Senator Montigny.  “They are our future and deserve the very best opportunities we can provide so that they may flourish and lead successful lives today and for many years to come.  Children in our nation are supposed be created equal, yet too often they are not treated as such and do not have access to some of the most basic tools in the pursuit of happiness.”

The fund was created in the fiscal year 2018 Senate Budget through a Montigny earmark with an initial infusion of $200,000 in funds.  Montigny sought local projects that could expand opportunities to underserved youth through arts, culture, technology, equipment, and after-school and summer programming.

This year marks the first round of grants to be awarded, with over $150,000 being dedicated to the Boys & Girls Club, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, the New Bedford Women’s Center, and the Dennison Memorial Community Center to use to fund programs for kids.

“If you start with the premise that every kid deserves equal access to education and equal access to fun, those are the organizations I want to partner with. There are awesome organizations doing good things across this region, but some of them don’t need this,” Montigny explained.  “Some of them can go out and raise some money on their own or some of them serve a population where their families can afford the access. I’m looking to reach kids who can’t afford the access.”

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This year, the money from the grant was used to purchase a brand new van to transport children to and from the club, as well as new laptops and Wi-Fi equipment for kids at the club to use.  The Women’s Center says they will attribute their money specifically to fund a youth art therapy program.

Another New Bedford organization, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, will use their portion to invest in a weekly movie night.

Montigny also announced that more grants will be coming city youth programs in the future, stating that he plans to earmark $500,000 for 2019.

“It’s the same initiative but not necessarily the same organizations. There will be a competition for organizations that have a new and innovative way to bring in more young people who aren’t connected fairly to arts, culture, and recreation,” said Montigny.  “The only goal here is equal access for kids.”