Teens provide grants to youths making a difference

FREMONT — A group of 21 teens in Sandusky County is doing something unique for the community: They raise funds to support other youth groups performing community service projects. Essentially, Building Community Together is a youth service group giving grants to other youth service groups.

BCT is the youth division of the Sandusky County Communities Foundation. It was one of many such groups formed 12 years ago through a Kellogg Foundation grant.

"We are the only group that was able to sustain itself, so we’re the only one in Ohio," said Angie Morelock, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County and an adult adviser for BCT.

BCT is a youth-led group that draws in kids in grades 8 through 12 from schools throughout the county. Students interested in joining must submit an application that is reviewed and voted on by the BCT members.

Community youth groups interested in obtaining grant money for a service project must fill out an application, which is also reviewed and voted upon by BCT members. The grant application must be submitted by the teens and they must present their idea to BCT.

The group strictly enforces its rules that grants will only be awarded to projects that are strongly youth-led. When one grant applicant explained he wanted to do the project because his adviser said he should, he was denied funding.

"They’re hardcore about it. They want it to be youth-driven," Morelock said. “The project has to be the kids’ idea. They have to come to us, and they must implement the project."

Regardless, the group is very generous. Since its inception 12 years ago, it has awarded more than $37,000 to youth groups in Sandusky County.

BCT is preparing for its main fundraiser of the year, selling homemade candy buckeyes. On Nov. 21, BCT members will gather for a day of candy making. Last year they made 450 dozen buckeyes.

Buckeyes must be pre-ordered through any BCT member.

"They are $5 a dozen. When they order them, we’ll tell them the date when we'll deliver them," said BCT member Joshlyn Criswell, a senior at Clyde High School.

On Oct. 8, members of BCT were at Croghan Elementary School to collect money donated by students for the Pennies by the Pound fundraiser. Students earned a raffle ticket for their class for every pound of change they donated. One ticket from each school will be drawn and the winner will receive a class pizza party.

In the coming weeks, BCT members will visit several other schools in the county to collect change. Money from the Pennies by the Pound event will be split by BCT and the United Way of Sandusky County.

BCT is comprised of students who are outgoing and want to make a difference in their community.

"I like being in the group because we get to meet a lot of different people from different schools," said Katelyn Criswell, a senior at Clyde High School.

She said the most meaningful BCT event she was involved in was the Rachel’s Challenge anti-bullying campaign at Clyde High School.

"There are so many problems with bullying. I think it was a very good cause to fund," she said.

"Building Community Together grant applications can be found under the "Youth Division" link at www.sanduskyccf.org.