From December 1 to 31, Grand Rapids residents and community-based organizations can apply for City of Grand Rapids Neighborhood Match Fund (NMF) monies to finance neighborhood projects taking place from February 1 through April 30, 2019.
“Don’t be afraid to submit your idea,” says Stacy Stout, assistant to the city manager. “We’ll walk you through the process. For those who don’t make it through the approval stage, I’ll give you specific feedback, so you can have success next time.”
Launched in January 2016, the idea for the program came out of the first annual Grand Rapids Neighborhoods Summit. In 2018, NMF invested $16,652 in seven projects which brought neighbors together to learn, build relationships, and celebrate community. Receiving from $200 through $2,500, each project was led by a Grand Rapids resident from the neighborhood in which the project took place.
For example, Southeast Grand Rapids Inc. implemented an anti-displacement homeowner project initiative that helped people access resources to stay in their homes. The Royal Game Chess Club’s community chess initiative brought elders and youth together over games of chess. And, Grand Rapids Kwanzaa will host a three-day Grand Rapids Kwanzaa Celebration.
“We try to provide a high level of customer service and empathy,” Stout says. “If we do our job well, we are reaching those who have never submitted a grant. They have never submitted a project idea. We try to make it a process that is easy to navigate.”
Stout shares that projects chosen for funding must be intentionally inclusive and bring neighbors together to build lasting relationships. Consider the West Leonard Mural project. NMF awarded funds for pre-mural neighborhood gatherings. Residents came together, got to know each other, and had their photos taken. The finished mural features the faces of these actual Westside residents.
Because inclusivity and accessibility are NMF priorities, Stout helps those awarded funds to navigate the process and paperwork from beginning to end. When a project is not selected, she takes time to call applicants and explain how they can tweak it for success in the next round of applications.
“I get to meet a lot of amazing people doing work on their blocks and in their neighborhoods. It gives me hope — and an opportunity to get to know the community in a different way,” Stout says. “The City can tap into their wisdom and leadership for boards, commissions, and the City commission. It’s a way for us to not just invest in our residents but to invest in leadership.”
Grand Rapids residents and community-based organizations can apply for NMF funding online. Those seeking more information and guidance can attend the informational meeting at the Westside Collaborative (within the Goei Center) at 818 Butterworth St. SW at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 29. Children are welcome, and youth are encouraged to apply for NMF funding.
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy City of Grand Rapids