- Associated Press - Friday, October 21, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is launching a 10-year, $100 million grant plan to help thousands of low-income children in the state.

The foundation said Friday it’s partnering with hundreds of organizations and businesses to increase opportunities for young people so they can reach their potential and be ready to contribute to New Hampshire’s communities and workforce.

The initiative is called “New Hampshire Tomorrow” and it will be guided by a 27-member council, including former Gov. John Lynch.

“We have to give more kids the opportunity to thrive,” said Richard Ober, foundation president. “It is both a social obligation and an economic imperative.”

Census figures say 11 percent, or 28,000 children in New Hampshire, live in poverty. That’s up 6 percent from 2000. Twenty-eight percent of New Hampshire children, or 46,700, are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. That’s more than half of all children in some cities and school districts.

Ober said the goal is to narrow the “opportunity gap” for children with investments in early childhood development; family and youth supports; preventing and treating alcohol and drug use; and creating affordable pathways from education to careers.

The 54-year-old foundation manages a growing collection of 1,700 philanthropic funds created by multiple donors and awards more than $30 million in grants and scholarships annually. It has long invested in families and children, but this plan is a larger one bringing together many groups to amplify its efforts, Ober said.

Ober said a couple of years ago, foundation staff met with the state’s leading demographers, economists, representatives of higher education and others to understand current and long-term trends in New Hampshire. He said up through 2005, New Hampshire was the fastest growing state in the Northeast, partly due to an in-migration of younger professionals. That growth rate declined sharply in recent years. New Hampshire’s aging population, employers’ struggles to find talented workers and an increase in the number of children living in poverty contributed to the focus on helping youth, he said.

Also, New Hampshire’s young people have among the highest rates of substance abuse in the country, and students graduate from college with the highest debt load, he said.

Ober said many children from low-income families have less access to preschool, sports and other activities, and advanced placement courses and affordable secondary education.

Paul Montrone, president of Perspecta Trust, is a member of the project’s council.

“I have no doubt that New Hampshire Tomorrow, bringing together the private sector and nonprofit sector, together with supportive government programs, can defeat this problem and bring more productive individuals into our workforce, benefitting all of our citizens,” he said.

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