VTC Foundation Named Finalist for State Farm Neighborhood Assist Grant

WATERTOWN — The Volunteer Transportation Center Foundation has been named a finalist in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant program.

The VTC Foundation is one of only 200 finalists and the only nonprofit organization in the running in Jefferson, Lewis or St. Lawrence counties.

“We were ecstatic to receive the news,” said Jeremiah S. Papineau, the nonprofit organization’s director of communications and Foundation director. “We’ve regularly applied to be a finalist in this program and it wasn’t until this year that we were selected. The program is highly competitive, so to be selected and be the only nonprofit chosen in the tri-county area, that’s spectacular.”

State Farm Neighborhood Assist is “a crowd-sourced philanthropic initiative that empowers communities to identify issues in their neighborhoods,” according to information provided by State Farm. The program allows for up to 200 finalists to compete for votes online from midnight April 27 to 11:59 p.m. May 6.

People at least 18 years old may cast 10 votes per day by going to the VTC Foundation’s entry page, www.neighborhoodassist.com/entry/2042572, entering a valid email address and casting a virtual ballot.

This year, odds of winning are increased. Traditionally, the competition has awarded $25,000 grants to the top 40 vote-getters. However, this year, in observance of State Farm’s 100th anniversary, the top 100 finalists will each receive $25,000.

The increased odds, paired with how another nonprofit in the north country won a $25,000 State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant in 2017, gives the VTC Foundation great hope, said Mr. Papineau.

“The Lowville Food Pantry won its grant thanks to great support from the community, including their local State Farm agent, Tom Spaulding,” Mr. Papineau said. “They proved it doesn’t matter if you’re a large nonprofit in a major metropolitan area or a humble one in a more rural area like ours. All that matters is people believe in your cause and cast their votes for you.”

The VTC Foundation’s entry, if successful, will mean $25,000 in funding for the organization to provide transportation to non-emergency medical appointments. The funding will be utilized for volunteer driver mileage reimbursement for the VTC’s charitable transportation programs — something for which there is greater need since the VTC Foundation applied to be in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program.

“When we filed our application, we were already seeing an increased need for funding,” Mr. Papineau said. “Last year, we provided more than 1,000,000 miles of charitable transportation for the first time. That increased need for services presented an increased need for funding. And then, gas prices went up.”

In response to the rise in fuel prices, the VTC increased its charitable transportation mileage reimbursement from 45 to 50 cents per mile. The increase — which went into effect March 4 — may not sound like much, Mr. Papineau said, but it means a great deal when looking to the future.

“If you take that 1,000,000 miles and project the same number for this year, that’s roughly an additional $55,000 we’ll need to raise to cover that expense,” he said. “So, that’s why this potential $25,000 from the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program would mean even more now.”

While voters may cast up to 10 votes per day in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program, any unused votes at the end of each day do not rollover and will expire. Each day, beginning at midnight, voters may then again cast another 10 votes. The full rules for voting are available online at www.neighborhoodassist.com.

The VTC Foundation was selected by The State Farm Review Committee from 4,000 submissions.

For more information, call Mr. Papineau at 315-303-2590 or email jeremiah@volunteertransportation.org.

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