Girls Inc. NH named a 2022 recipient of a Citizens Champions in Action award
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Girls Inc. NH named a 2022 recipient of a Citizens Champions in Action award

Manchester, N.H. (February 24, 2022) Girls Inc. of New Hampshire, the local branch of a national organization that provides after-school and summer programs, mentorship and life-skills programs to girls, has been named a 2022 recipient of a Champions in Action award from Citizens Financial Group.

The award, in the category of Mental Health Support and Education, and will receive a $35,000 grant.

“This kind of funding takes the pressure off,” said Girls Inc. CEO Sharron McCarthy on Wednesday as Joe Carelli, president of Citizens for New Hampshire and Vermont, formally presented the award.

Along with providing a little extra room in the budget, McCarthy said, the grant is a recognition that Girls Inc. of New Hampshire has achieved a certain level in the nonprofit world as one of the state’s top organizations.

“When I received the phone call, and was told this was ours this year, I pretty much just hit the roof,” McCarthy said.

The Champions in Action program has awarded more than $10 million in contributions to 362 nonprofit organizations in the bank’s service areas on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

Since 2002, 57 New Hampshire nonprofit organizations have received more than $1.6 million, according to a statement from Citizens. The New Hampshire Union Leader is the program’s media partner.

“Our star had been rising and rising at Girls Inc., and this just kind of seals that,” McCarthy said Wednesday after she was presented with a giant check in the room of the group’s Manchester clubhouse that serves as the basketball court, dance floor and indoor playground. This year, Citizens Bank wanted to focus on organizations that offer a holistic approach to mental health, with a range of services and supports, said Travis Gendron, Citizens’ public affairs market manager.

“This organization has such a long history of addressing the whole girl,” Gendron said.

That history, combined with the ramped-up partnerships with other community organizations like the Greater Manchester Mental Health Center and Amoskeag Health, made Girls Inc. stand out, he said.

Girls Inc. struggled through COVID-19, Mc-Carthy said, but the pandemic also gave the organization the chance to form deeper connections with schools and families.

The increased focus on mental health prompted Girls Inc. to bring in counselors to meet with girls and their families, build up its substance-use prevention programs, facilitate discussions on mental health and find ways to use sports, play and dance to help relieve tensions.

McCarthy said she’s hoping to use some of the funding for the well-being of her staff — raising the pay scale, offering better health insurance and giving part-time staffers paid vacation days, she said. With ever more fierce hiring competition, she said, lower-paying nonprofits have struggled to compete for staff.

“We’ve found ourselves in a situation where it’s extremely difficult to hire,” McCarthy said.

The funding will allow for more field trips during school vacation weeks this spring and over the summer, said Karen Billings, director of programming and athletics for Girls Inc., including educational trips to the planetarium or museums and outings focused on career development, as well as more straightforwardly fun summer field trips to the beach. The money can even underwrite the cost of ice cream on a hot day.

“We don’t have to put the brakes on and think, ‘Oh, maybe we can’t do that field trip,’” Billings said.

As she accepted the award on Wednesday, McCarthy said she was optimistic about the future.

“We have a great team we have a great thing going, and there’s room to grow.”