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BUMC grants two donations to community groups

Boston University Medical Campus announced Thursday it will make two donations to local community groups in the South End area, which is a greater gift than standard practice, BU officials said.

BUMC donated $2,500 grants to both Boston City Lights, a performance community group for children, and Mandela Resident Cooperative Association, a Roxbury-based group that fosters personal growth for inner-city teens, according to a press release Thursday.

“This fall I had more money so [BUMC] had two grants to give instead of just one,” said Valeda Britton, executive director of community relations for the Medical Campus. “For me it was important to target a South-End-based organization that dealt with youth, and then another in Roxbury.”

Britton said BUMC aims to become more involved in community outreach.

“It is one of our top priorities to stay actively involved in local organizations devoted to strengthening the physical, social and economic conditions of neighboring communities such as Dorchester, Roxbury and South Boston,” Britton said.

Twice a year, Britton must choose an organization based within proximity of the Medical Campus that helps inner city children or develops the area, she said.

“BU and BCL are connecting because the university is building so much in our neighborhood,” said Duggan Hill, the founder of BCL. “The grant went right into the five teachers I have instructing the kids.”

Hill said BCL was instrumental in organizing the yearly Fusion dance competition at BU and hopes to continue working with the university.

“He gives these kids free training in arts, dance, singing, acting, video production, set design and sound engineering,” Britton said. “He really believes that the arts are a way to engage and empower youth.”

Britton said she chose MCRA because of the organization’s devotion to fostering maturity and a sense of leadership in teenagers.

“If you’re an inner city kid you don’t take opportunities like these for granted, but sadly you don’t have many exposures to programs for interview training and personal presentation,” Britton said. “I look at MCRA as wonderful opportunity for children in the area.”

Although the next organization to receive a grant in the spring has not been chosen, Britton said she looks forward to determining the recipient.

“We hear about the needs of the community and we try to find out if BU has an existing resource to help match that need,” she said.

The Charles River Campus, which donates to the Allston-Brighton area, gave its 2012 grant to the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Allston.

“We give out a yearly grant every spring so we are now in our award season,” said Michelle Consalvo, executive director for government and community affairs at the Charles River Campus. “We are always looking for support in the community; that is why we run student programs to help  clean up the Charles and FYSOP [First Year Student Outreach Project].”

The Horace Mann school runs a basketball program funded by the volunteers, which gives young boys the opportunity to meet children in similar situations while exercising, Consalvo said.

“This teaches them team spirit, how to exercise and how to interact with other children, especially if they are in similar situations,” Consalvo said. “It was a $2,500 grant, which for a small organization goes a long way.”

The Medical and Charles River campuses are also investing $1.25 million over five years to renovate a section of the Blackstone Community Center, which is set to open Feb. 1, Britton said. Residents in the South End will have access to fitness training, nutrition counseling and wellness programming.

“We are also opening a fitness initiative connected with [Boston] Mayor [Thomas] Menino’s office to combat childhood obesity,” Consalvo said. “We are focusing on providing youth the opportunity to explore fitness in the facility and take wellness classes.”

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