By 2018, Coventry Lake Community Rowing had established itself well-enough, but, like any new non-profit or corporation, it needed a leg up. From inception in 2014, CLCR had a strong presence with adult rowing and had been building up to establishing a board-recognized Coventry High School team. Unfortunately, we were still lacking some key infrastructure equipment to balance the speed of growth and the strain on resources because rowing is expensive especially at the onset. What many don't realize is that boats fit people - size, weight, skill level and additionally, the option of rowing alone, with others and whether you are in a boat with one oar (sweep) or two (sculling) – it's complicated!
In the winter of 2018, a review of our existing programming along with our desire to expand outreach to a more difficult audience due to equipment limitations (specifically middle-school youth), led us to the conclusion that we might be a fit for the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation grant. After significant planning and reviewing our needs vs. wants, we applied for the grant in April 2018.
We received the news that summer. Our $10,200 request was met! We had already began some of our new programming to introduce rowing to middle-school-aged students via outreach to CNHMS and through word-of-mouth outreach to Windham County youth. But with this grant, we now could afford CLCR to purchase 3 additions to our fleet assuring we had what we needed to support this expansion:
- One light-weight 4 that could be rigged both as sweep or as a quad
- One fly-weight single (perfect for small individuals who are advancing)
- One brand-new Peinert Zephyr (perfect for almost anyone, but especially our youngest of rowers to learn in)
In addition to fleet expansion, this grant covered needed safety equipment including, but not limited to, cox boxes, life jackets, and other communication equipment needed to increase safety. The grant covering these needs allowed for CLCR to focus on coaching staff which was the final issue to expand programming safely.
What we didn't realize, is that this grant would end up also facilitating the enormous need for singles due to the pandemic. We were able to support rowing programs for all ages throughout the entire pandemic because we had the fleet to do so. Bottom-line, this grant brought the capacity to handle middle school youth from 6 to our most recent summer that had over 16 U15 participants from Windham, Tolland, Mansfield, Andover, and Coventry. In addition, the new equipment additions allowed CLCR to expand programming during the pandemic for many individuals via singles which by nature, forced social distancing and therefore a safe way to connect and exercise with others.
This grant moved up our desired program timeline by years and has assured sustainability we would have otherwise not had. It was a door that opened many many opportunities. We cannot thank Eileen Ossen and the Jeffrey P. Ossen Foundation enough.