Summer Programs and Environmental Education Funded by MCF

Nonprofits Dive into Summer with Outdoor Educational Programs

In 2016, grants from Mathews Community Foundation have provided opportunities for local youth to learn water safety, become stronger swimmers, and be exposed to local and state-wide environmental conservation efforts.

For the first time in 2015, the Mathews Family YMCA provided the opportunity for all second graders at Lee Jackson Elementary School to participate in swimming lessons and water safety programming, at no cost, through the “Second Grade Learn to Swim” program. Over 90% of all second graders participated, reaching nearly 80 youth. Building on the success of year one, the YMCA received a second grant award in 2016 and again had 90% of all second graders participate.  “Despite work and play that abounds on the 200+ miles of coastline in Mathews County, many of our youth lack swim and water safety skills to keep them safe on the waters that provide their livelihood and recreation,” said Mathews YMCA Branch Director Sheila Pillath. “In addition to providing a lifelong skill, swim lessons also enable participants to stay active, setting healthy habits that can last a lifetime.” The YMCA continues to provide leveled swimming lessons each summer to nearly 100 children ages 3-12 by certified (and fun) instructors.

In addition to swimming, grants provided hands-on opportunities for Mathews youth in local and state-wide conservation efforts.  Thomas Hunter Middle School students received scholarships to attend Nature Camp located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The camp specializes in natural history and environmental science education.  For many years, THMS students have had the opportunity to attend the week-long camp and return to Mathews as stronger, responsible stewards of our natural resources.

The Mary Watt Pulley Wildlife Preservation Fund provided support to Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory for the seasonal Hawkwatch position in Kiptopeke State Park. In its 40th season, data collection and educational presentations remain the primary focus of the program during the three-month migration period.

On Earth Day, volunteers from the Friends of the Tiger Beetle and Chesapeake Bay Habitat Foundation hosted 75 seventh grade students on Bavon Beach for an interactive, hands-on day.  This grant-funded opportunity provided a local connection to conservation and beach restoration, including presentations from the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the threatened Tiger Beetle population and VIMS (Virginia Institute for Marine Science) on shoreline erosion.  Each student participated in planting grasses along the shore to promote growth of a new dune system.

The foundation remains committed to impactful educational and health opportunities for Mathews youth, and is proud to partner with nonprofits such as the Mathews Family YMCA, Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory, and Friends of the Tiger Beetle and Chesapeake Bay Habitat Foundation, and the continued partnership with Mathews County Public Schools.

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