BRATTLEBORO -- Morningside Shelter has been named one of the top 10 finalists in a regional contest supported by MVP Health Care that promotes healthy communities.

Morningside Shelter was one of the groups chosen from more than 100 of the non-profit organizations in New York and Vermont that were entered in the regional contest. By being named in the top 10, Morningside will receive a $2,500 grant for a new playground at the shelter. If Morningside is chosen as the top entry in the contest, Olympic gold medalist and U.S. soccer star Abby Wambach will work with Morningside on a fundraising event to raise more money for the playground.

"Everyone here is very excited about this," said Morningside Development Director Libby Bennett. "We've had incredible support for this."

Morningside Shelter is southeastern Vermont's only year-round homeless shelter. Founded in 1979, Morningside provides shelter and case management to up to 29 individuals and families.

MVP Healthcare launched the contest in the fall and asked nonprofit groups to enter their project ideas. MVP provides health care to Morningside Shelter.

All of the ideas were put up on a website and the insurance company held an online voting drive to pick the top projects. Voting was held from Nov. 26 through Jan. 27, and Morningside found out last week that it received enough votes to make it to the top 10. Almost 100,000 votes were cast for all of the entries. The finalists will be considered by a panel of judges and one entry will be chosen.

Bennett said Morningside supporters around this country, and overseas, voted for the playground project on line and ultimately the Morningside entry received enough votes to make it in to the top 10.

"We have a playground, but it is in disrepair," Bennett said. "We know we need to replace it but we do not have the money to do that right now. We saw this as a great opportunity to help raise the money we need to replace it."

Bennett said Morningside is still considering different designs for the playground and might need up to $12,000 to remove the old set and build a new one for the shelter. Morningside is looking at other grant opportunities and Bennett said the $2,500 prize could be used to apply for matching grants that require a contribution.

Bennett said Morningside hopes to have a new playground built this summer.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.