The Simsbury Chamber of Commerce hopes to give out $5,000 worth of scholarships in 2018, and an act of kindness by one of its members has it heading in the right direction.
Matt Wittmer, the lead architect and principal at Phase Zero Design in Simsbury, was the recipient of a $1,000 raffle prize at the chamber's monthly networking event, on Dec. 14. But he didn't keep the money.
Instead, Wittmer decided to donate the money right back to the chamber to help boost the scholarship fundraising efforts.
"It was somewhat spontaneous," Wittmer said of the decision. "I grew up in Avon. I had gotten a scholarship, and it meant a lot then. I just wanted to make sure there was the funding for that, because we weren't quite where we needed to be. It's Christmas and it's the right thing to do. We've been blessed this year in my business and it's nice to be able to do something like that."
Lisa Gray, the chamber's executive director, said it was a selfless act of Wittmer and the kind that makes the chamber strong.
"It was of course a very nice surprise," Gray said. "In a way, I was not surprised, because he is a very kind and generous person. He's the type of person who would do something like that."
Gray said she started the scholarship fundraiser two years ago because through her own experience of sending two children to college, she realized how much it could help.
"I came up with the idea because I was on the verge of sending my two youngest to college," Gray said. "I realized what a hardship it could be on a family. I wanted our business community to be able to help the local students if they can."
Gray said the first year, the chamber awarded $4,000, and the second year, it awarded $4,500. This year, the chamber hopes to reach $5,000. Fundraising will end on May 1.
The more students that receive scholarships, the better for the Simsbury community, she said.
"One of the ways we can serve our business community is by providing quality future candidates for jobs here in town," Gray said. "We want these kids who were born and raised in Simsbury to come back and work in the community. We want to help them get a good college education because that'll improve our workforce."
Wittmer said he knew one of the students last year who received a scholarship. He knows the impact it can have on a student.
"Last year, the chamber was lucky enough to give a fairly nice scholarship to a local individual who I knew, a really deserved young guy. It was a great opportunity to see him be able to receive the award and how excited he was to get that," Wittmer said. "It's not only financial, which is important, but it's very empowering and exciting to get recognized as a young person for that level of achievement."
Students can currently apply for a scholarship by calling the chamber, at 860-651-7307. Requirements for the scholarship include being a Connecticut resident, completing a high school education in 2018, planning to attend a two or four-year university or college by the fall of 2019, and having a GPA of at least 2.5. Donations can also be made by calling the chamber.