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Congratulations to the Winners of 2011 Dirigo Awards for Nonprofit Excellence!

by Jessica Lantos

Three Maine Nonprofits have been presented with Dirigo Awards at our annual conference.  Congratulations to this year’s winners: Mahoosuc Arts Council from Bethel; Kennebec Valley Community Action Program (KVCAP)  from Waterville; and The Children’s Center from Augusta.

The Dirigo Awards are presented annually to three Maine nonprofits that have achieved significant results by combining ingenuity with sound management practices.  MANP recognizes organizations that have demonstrated exemplary leadership, creativity and adaptability to enhance their mission impact.

This year MANP asked applicants to focus on three key components of the MANP mission, “Leadership, Voice, and Organizational Effectiveness” in describing their work, as these three areas not only contribute to a healthy and vibrant organization, but also are critical for nonprofits to achieve high mission impact.

Children’s Center: Early Intervention and Family Support

For 45 years, the Children’s Center has been providing services to families of children with special needs, adapting as the community’s needs have shifted, but always in alignment with its mission: to meet the needs of children of all abilities by offering quality programs that encourage individual growth, provide support for their families and promote the inclusion of ALL children in the community.

Leadership: Three years ago, the Children’s Center adopted inclusion as its service model, establishing this expectation for the children attending the Center, their families, and the employees.  They embrace this concept in their management, and they model this value for the community, in turn becoming a model for other providers.

Voice: The leadership team of the agency advocates for children in their work with several statewide advisory organizations, working with a deliberate focus on advocacy for all children with special needs.

Organizational Effectiveness: With its model of inclusion, the Children’s Center works to create an environment where everyone is supported to achieve their greatest impact on mission. This model is not just an ideal; it is the basic principle they use in their approach to everything they do.

Kennebec Valley Community Action Program (KVCAP)

KVCAP is a nonprofit community action agency established in 1965 to serve the low-income residents of Kennebec and Somerset Counties. Currently the second largest of the state’s 10 community action agencies, KVCAP serves over 30,000 low and moderate income individuals annually and expanded in 2009-2010 to offer energy and housing assistance program in Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties. The current service area of 91 communities now spans from the Canadian border in Jackman to the coast of Maine.

Leadership: With the regional and statewide economic downturn, KVCAP has focused its work on community education, raising awareness and collaboration, and integrating these elements into their direct service program. KVCAP recently launched Educare, the Northeast’s first state-of-the-art child care and preschool facility which will serve as a training facility for more than 750 early childhood education providers throughout Maine.

Voice: Funding cutbacks have created opportunities for KVCAP to engage partners in new types of community and business collaborations. This outreach has expanded the audience for KVCAP and its services, and has helped to promote awareness of its mission.

Organizational Effectiveness:  Throughout 2010, the agency has worked to assess and strengthen existing internal management practices and controls. They have found that the impact of ARRA program funding has positively motivated staff toward creating long-term strategies for increased efficiency and transparency.

Mahoosuc Arts Council

The mission of the Mahoosuc Arts Council (MAC) is to support the advancement of the arts and humanities in the adult communities and school systems of the Greater Bethel Area. The MAC serves as a voice for the rights of artists by coordinating events which meet both an intrinsic artistic need and provide opportunities for creative development and networking.

Leadership: The MAC recognizes the value of collaboration and has forged relationships with other organizations to gain momentum and strength in funding and program development. By playing a leadership role in a collaborative effort with Bethel’s other nonprofit organizations, they have been able to both save and share valuable resources, while working to increase capacity to more effectively serve the region.

Voice: True to their mission, the MAC has been a strong voice in the community, connecting with local businesses to support the concept that arts plus business equals economic development.  They utilize every opportunity to communicate with their elected officials with regard to supporting and ensuring future funding for the arts.

Organizational Effectiveness: The MAC carried out a successful executive transition which allowed the organization to move from being run by one individual to one where the board now has a working role. As a result of this effort, their board of directors, in partnership with the executive director, plays a critical role in ensuring a viable and sustainable organization.

Winners were each presented with $2,000 in cash and a beautiful Maine-made handcrafted award.

MANP also recognized five Maine nonprofits as finalists at the awards ceremony: Eastern Area Agency on Aging from Bangor; Frannie Peabody Center from Portland; Penquis C.A.P., Inc. from Bangor; Seeds of Independence from Freeport and Women Unlimited, from Augusta.

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