AUGUSTA — The city may partner with Kennebec Valley YMCA to seek a $50,000 grant to help immigrant children join the Y.

Officials say the proposed Community Development Block Grant funds would allow more low-income new Mainer children, who might not otherwise be able, to become members of the Augusta-based Y and go to summer camp at Camp KV in Readfield and take part in child care programs.

“Diversity and inclusion are an important part of what we want to do at the Y,” said Tom Warren, executive officer of the Kennebec Valley YMCA. “The Y is a melting pot in the community and a good place for new Mainers to be integrated into their new community.”

Warren said the Y has formed a relationship with leaders of the Capital Area New Mainers Project, a group formed to help welcome and integrate immigrants, many of whom resettled, due to unrest in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, in Augusta. The group raised funds to send some new Mainer children to camp last summer.

“We had new Mainers in camp last summer,” Warren said. “It was magical to see. You have kids being exposed to different cultures and languages, it’s a great spot for both new Mainers and other community members. It’s really what camp is all about.”

While the grant funds are proposed to be used to help only immigrant children attend, YMCA and city officials noted having an additional $50,000 for them would free up other money that helps low-income children, new, native or long-term Mainers alike, participate in Y programs.

“That then frees up the other Y funds for supporting the needs of kids in a broad category,” City Manager William Bridgeo, who is also president of the Y’s board of directors, said of the $50,000 grant to help new Mainers take part in Y programs.

The Y already raises some $240,000 a year for scholarships, most of which goes to children of low-income families, regardless of how long they’ve lived in the state. The nonprofit organization’s goal this year is to raise $260,000, most of it, again, to be spent on helping low income children who couldn’t otherwise afford to participate in YMCA programs.

Last year the YMCA provided financial support for 463 children to attend at least one session of summer camp, provided $36,000 for 24 different children to attend the Y’s child care program, and provided $74,000 in scholarships that provided 274 youth and family Y memberships. Those funds went to both new and established Mainers.

Warren said the need for financial assistance for all children often exceeds the amount of money the Y has on hand to help, so adding $50,000 to the available funds that can be used to help, specifically in this case the children of immigrants, helps all children in the community by increasing the total amount of money available to help children.

“It’s a way to meet an existing, and expanding, need without taking away,” from existing financial assistance programs, Warren said. “So extending the money will extend the reach not only to new Mainers, but to all folks in our community.”

The “public services” grant program is only open to municipalities. So a proposal for the city to apply for the funds, on behalf of the YMCA, goes to the city council for a vote Thursday.

Some councilors, while supportive of seeking the grant funds, said they’d prefer help attending the Y go to all low-income children.

“I want to support the immigrant community in Augusta but my thought was you already have programs geared toward low-income families, and I’d suspect many of (the new Mainers who would be eligible for the new grant funds) already qualify for those programs,” At-Large Councilor Corey Wilson said May 24 when the idea was first presented to councilors. “My opinion is the most needy family, regardless of their immigration status, should get passes to the YMCA. But I know you’ll use the money to do good things.”

Keith Luke, deputy development director for the city, who is working on the grant application, said the grant is a competitive grant and the city and Y wanted to submit a grant application likely to be successful.

The grants funds, if received from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, and additional funding from the Ywould provide:

• $19,500 for 25 family memberships at the KV YMCA;

• $28,800 for four children to attend the child care program; and

• $7,680 to pay for 48 summer day camp sessions. Councilors are scheduled to vote on whether the city should apply for the grant at their 7 p.m. meeting Thursday. Councilors are also scheduled to consider:

• authorizing the city manager to allow alcohol to be consumed on city property, such as parks, at special events, which currently requires approval by city councilors;

• allowing the Greater Augusta Utility District to do construction and maintenance work in Augusta at night;

• authorizing Bridgeo to contract with the city’s real estate agency, REMAX Realty, to sell tax-acquired property at 20 Tracy St.; and

• changing city ordinance to allow the city council to waive the requirement the fire chief live in Augusta. Bridgeo said Fire Chief Roger Audette has requested permission to live outside of the city, in Readfield where he hopes to build a new home.

Councilors changed the city ordinance requiring the police chief to live in Augusta in 2011, allowing Robert Gregoire, who was then the new chief but who recently retired as police chief, to remain living at his then-home in Whitefield.

And in 2014 residents voted to remove a city charter requirement the school superintendent live in the city.

The only other position in the city requiring its job-holder to live in the city with no provision for a waiver of that requirement, if councilors approve allowing that requirement to be waived for the fire chief, would be city manager.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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