Seacoast United: Healthy Living and Youth Sports

Seacoast United has remained true to its mission—to advance the physical and social well-being of children and young adults through youth sports. Through their foundation, Seacoast United also make sure that any athlete, regardless of financial situation is able to participate.

Physical activity is important in the healthy development of children. Most of us know this, but children are less active now than ever before. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education notes that only one in three children are physically active every day.

Increased physical activity delivers physiological, psychological and social benefits. This is especially important during the developmental years, and it carries forward into adulthood. This latter factor is borne out by organizations like the American Heart Association, which indicates that increased physical activity leads to increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, along with other health benefits.

Seacoast United, founded in 1992 by Paul Willis, began with a simple mission—to advance the physical and social well-being of youth and young adults through sports like soccer. For the past 22 years, this organization has been true to that mission, one that has been getting young people up and off the couch and onto athletic fields in New Hampshire (and now, Maine). They’ve recently expanded into other sports, also.

According to James Peterson, director of sales and marketing for Seacoast United, Willer’s vision was for Seacoast to be both an exclusive soccer training program, but also an inclusive one. What this means is that while there are a myriad of opportunities for highly-skilled players to play at the upper echelons of competition, Seacoast will never turn anyone away from their programs due to economics or if they aren’t an elite skill-level player, which is unique for a program like this one.


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“Seacoast started with just two youth teams, and now, we have more than 5,000 athletes enrolled in our various programs,” said Peterson. “We’ve also branched out from soccer and are now offering team sports like baseball, softball, field hockey, and lacrosse.”

Peterson mentioned that while the focus is always on getting kids introduced to soccer (and other sports), the sports programming has continued growing and evolving.

“We now have select, elite, and professional level teams,” Peterson said. “Our summer college league (minor league) team is a nationally-recognized program. Last year, they won their league, which is part of the Premier Development League (PDL),” he said.

Peterson mentioned that Seacoast affiliates itself with outstanding coaches.

“50 percent of our staff has international experience,” Peterson added.

Peterson himself came to Seacoast after a stint with Oxford United, a premiere club program in Great Britain.

He talked about the important life lessons that sports offers those who choose to participate, like the “three P’s.”

“Sports is a great tool for young people to learn about teamwork, discipline, dealing with adversity—all things that are important for success in life.”

According to Peterson, Seacoast also has a significant number of players progressing up through their ranks.

“We had a case study done that indicated that 60 percent of our junior academy players went to our premiere and select division teams,” said Peterson.

Seacoast isn’t just a New Hampshire-based program any longer. While they have a state-of-the-art 70,000-square-foot indoor facility in Hampton and a four-field outdoor complex in Epping, they’ve expanded their soccer and baseball programming into southern Maine, as well as now having Seacoast affiliates in Portland, Topsham, and Bangor.

The Seacoast Foundation holds fundraising and charity events to support the overall goals and programming of Seacoast United. Much of the funding generated each year provides scholarships for athletes who may not be able to afford to participate with town club teams, or go on to elite level competitions. This includes traveling to national and international tournaments.

Peterson mentioned that they hold two major fundraisers each year.

“We have our annual soccer-a-thon, which takes place over a 24-hour period in April. We start games at 4:00 pm on Friday and these go continuously through Saturday at 4:00,” said Peterson. “These take place at our indoor facility in Hampton and the fields in Epping. We raised $70,000 in 2014,” he said.

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Peterson added that Seacoast included participants from the Special Olympics in this year’s soccer-a-thon.

“They has such a great time and it was gratifying to have them participating with us.”

Another fundraiser Peterson mentioned was their Annual Gala held at the beautiful and historic Wentworth-by-the-Sea, in New Castle, New Hampshire. This is hosted by Ocean Properties, a business sponsor for Seacoast.

“All the proceeds from this go to our scholarship fund,” said Peterson.

All three Provider Power company’s , support Seacoast United’s Foundation through our Power To Help Initiative.  When enrolling with ENH Power, Electricity Maine or Provider Power Mass  customers select from a list of non-profit partners and we make a contribution to that organization.  

To learn more click on the link from the state you live in:

Maine

New Hampshire

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Affordable Housing-Energy Efficient As Well! Thanks to AHEAD In N.H.

AHEAD takes on the housing crisis with affordable and energy efficient housing in Northern New Hampshire.

America is in the midst of an affordability crisis in housing. The issue isn’t new and has been ongoing for the past 25 years, so says the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), in their recent report, Out of Reach 2014: Twenty-Five Years Later, The Affordable Housing Crisis Continues.

When NLIHC’s first report was published in 1989, the nation was reeling from the affordability crisis affecting home ownership, and the attendant increase in homelessness that it caused. Now, 25 years later, America is still falling short of paying on the promises contained in the 1949 Housing Act, which sought to provide all Americans with “a decent home in a suitable living environment.”

For 7.1 million American households, even a modest rental home is unaffordable and unavailable. In New England, a 795,000-unit shortfall exists in affordable rental housing, according to Housing New England, detailed in their 2013 report, Affordable Housing: A New England Perspective.   For those in New Hampshire who are in search of energy efficient, affordable housing options the market is very tight.  However, there is hope.

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AHEAD, a community development and social services agency, has been engaged for more than 20 years, providing residents of the North Country—a region of rural northern New Hampshire that includes Coös and northern Grafton Counties—with affordable housing options. AHEAD’s goal is to be the preeminent provider of quality, affordable housing in New Hampshire.

I spoke with Sally Ayers, AHEAD’s director of operations about the scope of the agency’s reach relative to needs and affordable housing.

“We have a variety of components to our work,” said Ayers. “We provide property management, develop real estate (for new projects), which leads to new construction.”

Ayers mentioned that AHEAD owns and operates 14 North Country properties with more than 300 affordable apartments for families and seniors.

“Currently, we’re working diligently to retrofit properties, making them energy efficient,” said Ayers. “Any new properties that we build will also have state of the art heating systems and components.”

AHEAD has launched a new program called Better Homes Ahead. The goal of Better Homes Ahead is providing high-quality, energy efficient, factory-built homes at affordable prices for low-and-moderate-income families.

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An example of one of the homes available through AHEAD’s Better Homes AHEAD program. For More information about this program visit http://betterhomesahead.org

“Funding for this has included Community Block Development Grant funds, as well as funds like the Founders Fund and other fundraising efforts,” said Ayers. “We’re looking to replace older homes, particularly pre-1996 mobile homes with newer, safer, more efficient places to live,” explained Ayers.

Affordable housing in New Hampshire’s and the lack of it in the state has been well-documented. While rural New Hampshire’s issues aren’t as dire regarding high rents and real estate prices like pricey Rockingham and Stafford counties, rural New Hampshire has been plagued with fewer jobs and jobs paying wages that make housing beyond the reach of the working poor.

“Housing is essential for strong families—AHEAD looks to provide support to families and individuals, helping them build and preserve assets for the future,” said Ayers.

While AHEAD is recognized statewide for their affordable housing efforts, according to Ayers, they are also member of the national NeighborWorks America network, which is as a leader in affordable housing and community development nationwide. As one of 40 of the nation’s best community development organizations, AHEAD can access a wider network structure, which helps to assist in building skills, while supplementing and amplifying the effectiveness of agencies like AHEAD.

Ayers said that education and financial literacy has become a big part of what AHEAD does.

“The education component is important and we are looking to involve the whole family including children, too. They see mom and dad taking money out of the wall at an ATM, but they don’t know what’s involved in money and finance,” said Ayers. “We try to do this training together with parents and children.”

“Foreclosure mitigation is another big part of our work. During the recession, our numbers were way up with families calling, panicked about losing their homes,” Ayers said. “Foreclosure is so stressful for families—they often don’t know where to turn. We provide a counselor that can help them and point them in the right direction and provide them with support.”

Like other similar New England northern New England states, New Hampshire’s population is aging, so senior housing continues to be in demand. AHEAD recognizes the demographic shift and is focused on addressing issues related to housing for aging residents in the northern reaches of the state.

In Berlin, where people over 65 make up 23 percent of the city’s population, AHEAD will be opening a new 33-unit senior housing project.

“We’re very close to opening,” said Ayers. “It’s in the former Notre Dame High School, an important part of the city’s past and history. We’re pleased that we could reclaim and renovate the building and offer this kind of housing for seniors.”

She explained that the Notre Dame Apartments are based on a service-enriched housing model. The model seeks to integrate a social support system for residents into the operation and management of the housing that will be provided to seniors. Seniors will either have necessary services provided, or be linked directly to them. The model also helps reduce resident isolation, build neighborly relations, and promotes resident pride in their home community.

Additionally, the building will have four energy-efficient wood chip boilers for heat. There are also plans for solar panels for hot water and electricity.

Ayers indicated that funding for this project came from a Community Development Block Grant, Historic Preservation tax credits and New Hampshire Housing Financial Authority low income housing credits.

To learn more about affordable housing and other efforts to provide housing options in New Hampshire’s North Country, visit the AHEAD website.

ENH Power, part of the Provider Power family of companies, supports AHEAD through our Power to Help initiative.  Each new ENH Power customer can select a Power To Help partner for us to support on their behalf.  To learn more visit www.enhpower/ahead.

 

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Capitalists with Heart

At The Heart of Giving-How Companies Determine a Strategy for Giving

Forward-thinking for-profit companies, with an orientation on doing well by doing good, can have a significant impact on non-profits and their ability to make a difference. Some for-profit companies take their corporate responsibilities seriously. Here are profiles of three of them, and their plan and strategies for giving to non-profits.

What is the proper funding mix for a non–profit organization?  Most rely on a combination of direct donations, grants, state and federal money.  Depending on the goal or mission of the organization-this mix can vary greatly.   Most directors of non-profit organizations will tell you that fundraising, in particularly direct appeal campaigns, merely maintain the status quo.

According to Giving USA’s report, Giving 2013, contributions by individuals make up the majority of giving received by nonprofit organizations. Individual gifts amounted to $228.93 billion in 2012, which accounts for 72% of all contributions made. Corporate giving only accounts for 6%.

While corporate giving trails all other contributions, it’s also an area where there are significant opportunities for non-profits to develop strategic partnerships. Forward-thinking for-profit companies, with an orientation on doing well by doing good, can have a significant impact on non-profits and their ability to make a difference.

At the same time, consumers have become increasingly sophisticated in what companies they prefer to do business with. Nielsen, the global information and measurement company with a presence in nearly 100 countries, recently released The Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, conducted in early 2014. The report, polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America.

Some of the findings show that consumers prefer doing business with companies demonstrating both corporate responsibility—referred to by some as corporate citizenship or even, Conscious Capitalism—with its most basic elements being a dedication to making a positive social or environmental impact on society. Some tangible examples might be using recycled materials in one’s products, or letting customers know that as a company, there is a commitment to increasing access to clean water, or working to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, and homelessness. For these companies, the focus isn’t merely on their bottom lines, or stockholder shared value.

The Provider Power family of companies, which includes Electricity Maine (along with ENH Power and Provider Power Mass) consider what they do through their Power to Help Fund, an example of this orientation.

“Provider Power sells electricity, which is something every business and home needs. Our model is to offer people the opportunity to purchase electricity at a competitive fixed rate and at the same time do some good with that purchase by supporting local non-profit organizations with their electricity bill.”

Other for-profit companies also take their corporate responsibilities seriously. Here are profiles of three of them, and their plan and strategies for giving to non-profits.

Oakhurst Dairy

Oakhurst Dairy is one of Maine’s most iconic businesses. Founded in 1921 by Stanley T. Bennett when he bought a dairy on Woodford Street in Portland, the dairy was moved shortly after to its present location at 364 Forest Avenue in Portland. Oakhurst has been a fixture at the location for more than 90 years.

Throughout its history, Oakhurst Dairy has stood for “The Natural Goodness of Maine.” The business has remained in the Bennett family for three generations, and Oakhurst has always had as its promise a commitment to be responsible environmental stewards, as well as supporting the health of the communities that buy its milk and other products, through their charitable giving.

While Oakhurst was acquired by Dairy Farmers of America in early 2014, several family members remain in key positions with the company. And Oakhurst’s commitment to charitable giving continues as strong as ever before.

One of these is the company’s commitment of giving 10% of their pre-tax profits to organizations that promote healthy kids and a healthy environment—this remains the cornerstone of Oakhurst’s community involvement.

Jean Bennett Driscoll, granddaughter of Oakhurst’s founder, was emphatic that the company would be keeping that pledge.

“It really goes back to my grandfather, where it all began,” explained Driscoll. “He set the tone for giving and we’ve stayed true to it all these years.”

Driscoll talked about the very personal nature of giving for her grandfather.

“My grandfather knew everyone in the community and so the requests were all personal appeals. Over time, we’ve had to adopt a more formal process,” said Driscoll. “Back then, one thing he would do is have his secretary scan the newspaper for the birth announcements. They would then send out a coupon to these new mothers to buy Oakhurst Milk.”

Oakhurst’s focus for their giving has consistently been on kids and healthy communities.

“I think this goes back to what my brother Stan used to say about the environment—‘cows live, eat, breathe, and drink the Maine environment, just like we do,’ said Driscoll. “We tend to single out organizations that officers of Oakhurst serve on the boards of. So for instance, my brother Bill serves on the board of the Salvation Army. We always give 5 cents of every eggnog purchased to the Salvation Army, during Christmas.”

When asked if companies have a responsibility to “give back” to the community, Driscoll was emphatic in her response.

“Oh, absolutely—this is another thing that goes back to my grandfather. He thought companies should be supportive of the communities they were selling their products in,” said Driscoll.

“This is still part of our philosophy here at Oakhurst, and it’s always been part of who we are,” she added.

Baxter Brewing

Craft brewing of beer has been experiencing exponential growth across the US. In Maine, craft brewers are one of the fastest growing business sectors, perfectly capturing the cross-section between local, Maine’s burgeoning food scene, and the state’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Luke Livingston, CEO, founder, and president of Baxter Brewing, has been ranked as one of the 30 innovative brewers and beer professionals, by AllAboutBeer.com. Baxter is one of craft brewing’s success stories since the company’s founding in 2011. Not only are they growing by leaps and bounds, but the company has a concern for the environment, as well as a focus on the community where it’s based, in Lewiston, as well as the region where it sells its beer.

Livingston spoke about Baxter’s philosophy concerning non-profit giving, especially in the context of their marketing focus, and their lifestyle-oriented product.

“I think for us, the focus of giving is two-or-three fold,” said Livingston. “First, I think what we do with beer—with Baxter, I think of us as a lifestyle brand, more than just a manufacturer—our cans are environmentally-friendly and portable. A lot of our giving plays into that,” he explained. “We do a lot with outdoors and conservation organizations, because it jives with what we create and our core values and what we want Baxter to represent,” added Livingston.

While Baxter’s growth has been considerable since opening in 2011, they remain a small business. That definitely informs their giving, as Livingston elaborated.

“I think when you’re a small business—but probably a business of any size—philanthropy, in addition to making us feel good about ourselves, is an extension of marketing,” said Livingston.

“In a lot of ways it helps justify the expense. We’re lucky because we make beer and we make a consumable product, and we make a product that people love,” he said. “A lot of our giving comes in the form of product donation. This is obviously much easier to do, especially for a start-up. We try to align ourselves with non-profits, either from the perspective of product donation or cash that we think will help us from a marketing standpoint.”

Livingston added, “I don’t think there’s any shame in that. We give beer to events and we’re part of the Nature Conservancy of Maine’s Corporate Conservation Council—for instance, we donate beer to Nature Conservency events. People that go to these events are the kinds of people we want drinking our beer. That really works for us,” said Livingston.

Livingston believes that companies do have a responsibility to give back to the communities they’re in and serve.

“Having grown up in Lewiston-Auburn, and for many of our employees that are from here or who have located here, it’s important for us to be stewards of the community,” said Livingston. “As a company, we talk a lot about core values, and we try to find a way to match those up by giving back.”

Touching on the company’s philosophy about being good stewards of the environment, Livingston explained their focus, as well as packaging beer in cans.

“The process of making beer is an environmentally-taxing process, so in order to try to diminish that we look at our packaging and efforts in doing it sustainably. Aluminum is the most recycled, most abundant metal in the world. Americans are most likely to recycle aluminum. Because you can fit three times more of them on a truck, fuel-consumption per unit is so much less, also,” said Livingston.

Livingston reiterated that it’s important for companies—whatever they are and wherever they are—to have a presence in the communities where they reside.

“I think it’s a fundamental component of business ownership, and we’re very conscious of that at Baxter,” he said.

Coffee By Design

When Alan Spear and Mary Allen Lindemann moved back to the east coast from Seattle in the early 1990s, they were looking for the right location to launch a coffee cart, or kiosk. After spending time in Providence, Rhode Island, and Burlington, Vermont, they were attracted to Portland, after visiting family members in the area. Little did they know that 19 years later, they’d have multiple locations and be the employer of 55 people. They’ve also remained steadfast in supporting the arts and their home community.

Lindemann spoke about that initial core focus that she and Coffee By Design partner, Alan Spear, initiated and have remained true to for nearly two decades.

“Our core focus in our giving has always been on the arts and organizations that do social change,” explained Lindemann. “We both believe so strongly in the arts—we’ve often said that ‘a world without art is a world we don’t want to live in.’”

Portland in the early 1990s was a much different place than the cultural hub it has become. That was noted by Lindemann in discussing the launch of Coffee By Design.

“When Alan and I left Portland in 1989 because the economy was just so bad, many of the arts organizations—particularly the galleries—were closing. When we came back in 1994 and started our business, we wanted to show a commitment to artists,” said Lindemann.

According to Lindemann, Coffee By Design started out by allowing artists to display their artwork on the walls of their first coffee shop on Congress Street.

“This was a very exciting time on Congress Street. The State Theater, in what had been the ‘porn district,’ had recently been renovated,” recalled Lindemann. “There were a number of new businesses that had opened or were opening in the neighborhood at that time. Artists were really excited about this arrangement with us and we sold a significant amount of art out of that first space.”

Explaining their mix of giving between cash and product donation, Lindemann recognizes the importance of cash contributions in supporting causes.

“We donate a certain amount of product, like most businesses do for marketing purposes—but we realized that cash mattered and that even small awards really helped bring validation and recognition to small organizations just getting off the ground,” noted Lindemann.

“Over the years, our giving has grown. We are constantly reviewing who we give to and we’re very aware and make sure that our awards are making a difference.”

Lindemann ticked off the types of organizations that Coffee By Design are committed to, and why.

“Areas that we’ve given to involving social change are in the area of mental health and substance abuse. This came from seeing customers coming into our coffee shops that were struggling in these areas,” she said.

“Because we’ve always wanted to be open to all customers in a city as diverse as Portland, we didn’t want to have two sets of rules. We started having conversations with social workers and other mental health professionals on what to do if someone came into our shop and became inappropriate. We had trainings for our employees, and it was an ongoing awareness issue for all of us. We’ve always wanted to honor all of our customers.”

While many businesses shy away from causes that might get them mixed up in politics, Lindemann added that they’ve put signs in their windows, and been open about the causes they espouse.

“At first, we worried about this, and being public about our philanthropy” said Lindemann. “But our customers respect that we are open and transparent about what we’re passionate about. In fact, one of our customers told me that ‘as a consumer, I want to know where my money goes for my coffee,’ which made us more comfortable with making our giving public,” she offered.

In addition to Coffee By Designs’ commitment and awareness about their home city of Portland, the company also works directly with farmers and funds projects in the countries where their coffee originates from.

Provider Power, Oakhurst Dairy, Baxter Brewing, and Coffee By Design all care about the communities where they reside and do business in. They’ve put down deep roots in those places. All are businesses that recognize their responsibilities as corporate citizens, and are practicing Conscious Capitalism, making a difference through their giving to non-profit organizations.

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