Vela Foundation: Boston Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Vela Foundation supports nutrition, health and fitness programs in Eastern Massachusetts. Although the foundation is based in Boston, the nearby cities of Dorchester, Roxbury, Everett, Allston, Dartmouth, Fall River, and Jamaica Plain are also common grantee locations. The average grant is between $5,000 and $15,000.

FUNDING AREAS: Health, nutrition, fitness, access to healthy foods

IP TAKE: The Vela Foundation has been funding more nutrition education programs than anything else lately. Many of these nutrition programs have a parent-child focus to support the prevention of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Family cooking and fitness classes are often favored by Vela.

PROFILE: With a focus on improving nutrition and wellness in eastern Massachusetts, the Vela Foundation aims to tackle health conditions associated with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Formerly known as the Bernadette T. Rehnert Charitable Trust, the Vela Foundation was established in 2007 in Boston.  

Since its inception, the Vela Foundation has funded organizations that improve access to healthy foods and encourage fitness through nutrition education and physical activity. The grantmaking emphasis is on underserved communities in eastern Massachusetts, and the staff looks for programs that improve nutrition literacy, access to healthy foods, and improved fitness. Preference is generally given to nonprofits that incorporate a strong family engagement principle in fitness programs and also to advocacy programs that promote systemic change. It’s certainly not uncommon to see this smaller foundation collaborate with other organizations and funders that have similar priorities.

Bernadette T. Rehnert is the founding trustee of the foundation, and she’s also served on the Board of Directors of FUEL Education in Boston and as a Board Member for the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. As a long-time supporter of charity, Rehnert has contributed to local grassroots efforts, including donating 150 turkeys to low-income families at Thanksgiving. "It's not only in lower-income communities. There are areas right around here, in Waltham, for instance, where people go hungry," she said about the widespread hunger in the region.

At the end of 2011, the foundation reported over $1.6 million in total assets and just over $14,000 in total giving. That year’s giving expenditures went toward just three grants. Foundation grantmaking has been on the rise since then.

At the end of a more recent year, the foundation had over $4.9 million in assets and gave away more than $177,000. One nutrition education grants in Boston went to Home for Little Wanders and a food assistance grant to Women's Lunch Place. Vela also made physical activity grants to Community Rowing, Inc. in Brighton and MetroLacrose in Jamaica Plain. In addition to Boston, the nearby cities of Dorchester, Roxbury, Everett, Allston, Dartmouth, Fall River, and Jamaica Plain are also common grantee locations. Pretty much all grants have been between $5,000 and $25,000. A list of recent grants can be found here.

To apply for a Vela grant, your organization needs to serve eastern Massachusetts. Letters of inquiry are accepted on a rolling basis. Only digital submissions are accepted, and you can fill out the online contact form with general questions. Check out the foundation's news section for recent updates.


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