From affordable housing to restorative justice, foundation awards $125K in grants

This story republished from our sister publication, The Lakeshore. 

Projects with goals ranging from affordable housing to restorative justice will share $125,000 in grants from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ).
The funds are being distributed to six organizations as part of the second round of 2022 competitive grants in 2022 through the foundation’s endowment, which was created to meet community needs now and in the future. Through these grants, CFHZ invests in projects and strategies that help all who live or work in the Holland/Zeeland area.

“Once again, CFHZ received a large number of applications for this round of grant funding,” says Yah-Hanna Jenkins Leys, director of community impact. “Each one presented a worthwhile opportunity to invest in projects or programs towards building a fully thriving community, and there were no easy decisions. It’s a privilege to partner with each of the six organizations who received grants as they deliver on their missions and provide vital services to our community.”

Heights of Hope 
Project: Purchase of six-family housing unit
Amount Awarded: $30,000
Purpose: Will be used to help buy a six-family housing unit to provide affordable housing to families with an annual income between 30 and 80% of the median household income for Holland.
Why it is needed: The 2021 Housing Needs Assessment projects a 201-unit gap in affordable rental housing in the city of Holland by 2025. As a community development organization, Heights of Hope has worked with area churches, neighbors, businesses, and the city of Holland to improve the Holland Heights neighborhood. This project will help retain affordable housing options for families in a neighborhood with a strong network of community support.
Barry Walburg, board president for Heights of Hope: “The grant from the Holland Zeeland Community Foundation was instrumental in helping Heights of Hope further our mission in the Stratford/Abbey Court neighborhood.  While our primary mission is about building relationships with our neighbors, purchasing a six-plex right next to our Community Center allows us to tangibly support affordable housing, care for our neighbors, and provide housing for future staff.”

Women’s Resource Center
Project: New Beginnings program expansion
Amount Awarded: $25,000
Purpose: To expand the New Beginnings program to Ottawa County. This program provides women who are returning to the community after incarceration with education and employment services and support.
Why this matters: Many formerly incarcerated women struggle to achieve stability and wellness for themselves and their families. Daily, there are 24-30 females in Ottawa County Jail, reflecting a national trend of increased incarceration rates for women. A criminal record can make it very difficult to find or maintain employment, but employment is the foundation for securing essential needs like housing, food, transportation, and health care. The New Beginnings program will address the recidivism rate of women in Ottawa County by creating pathways to employment and successful re-entry of female offenders.

Migrant Legal Aid
Project: Defending Against Hate program
Amount Awarded: $20,000
Purpose: To protect migrant workers and to reduce acts and words of hate directed at legal and undocumented immigrants in Ottawa County.
Why this matters: Migrant Legal Aid has recorded a 20% increase in school bullying of migrant children, a 15% increase in workplace harassment and violence, and a 33% increase in families deciding not to seek services from health providers or pursue legal claims. In Ottawa County, it has seen a 48% increase in calls seeking legal counsel and advice regarding discrimination, hate, harassment, and violence. To address this increasing need, Migrant Legal Aid is expanding its Defending Against Hate program to serve Ottawa County. This program works with local law enforcement agencies and the court system to make the process of reporting hate crimes more accessible to members of the migrant and seasonal farmworker community.

Mediation Services
Project: Repair Harm & Restore Hope (RH2)
Amount Awarded: $20,000
Purpose: To provide restorative justice for first-time juvenile offenders in Ottawa County. The goals are to repair the harm, to restore hope for both the victims and the juvenile offenders, and to keep young offenders out of the juvenile justice court system.
Why this matters: Ottawa County saw a 9.2% increase in juvenile criminal cases in 2021. Youth of color and economically disadvantaged youth continue to be overrepresented in the justice system. Due to a recent change in legislation that raises the juvenile offender age to 17, the Ottawa County prosecutors’ Office anticipates an influx of new cases and an increased motivation to provide alternatives to traditional court proceedings for first-time juvenile offenders. The RH2 program’s focus on providing restorative justice for first-time offenders has a lasting impact on the trajectory of a youth’s life and impacts the community at large while also providing victims with a path to justice outside of the traditional court system.

I Am Academy
I Am Genius Program
Amount Awarded: $15,000
Purpose: To launch the I Am Genius program, which will focus on the school-to-prison pipeline within the community by focusing on the genius in everyone. By connecting West Ottawa and Holland Public School students to leaders in the community and exposing them to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), this grant will support anti-racist efforts in the schools and community while empowering students of color.
Why this matters: During the 2016-2017 school year, 1% of Black and 25% of mixed-race students were rated as proficient or advanced in science achievement, compared to 47% of their white counterparts. Black students made up 50% of those enrolled in alternative programs and are 5.2 times as likely to be suspended as white students. Multiple studies have shown that suspension rates are tied to an increased likelihood of being arrested or incarcerated as an adult. By connecting students with mentors and exposing them to STEM project-based learning, I Am Academy helps open their world to new opportunities. Students are reconnected to their aspirations and are led to understand, “We can do it too.”
Lindsay Cherry, co-founder of I Am Academy: “In a community that has historically disenfranchised the Black and Brown communities, it is extremely important that we be intentional about engaging with our Black and Brown youth, introduce them to a variety of community sectors, and build relationships. Children grow emotionally, intellectually, and physically through both their relationships and through their community. It gives them a sense of belonging and is crucial to the building of their identity.”

Ottawa County Department of Strategic Impact
Ottawa County Welcoming Plan Initiative
Amount Awarded: $15,000
Purpose: To develop and implement an evidence-based welcoming plan that will provide a framework for businesses, nonprofits, and government to use to help make Ottawa County more inclusive and welcoming to those who were born in other countries and choose to make Ottawa County their home.
Why this matters: More than 15,000 immigrants live in Ottawa County. Representing 7.6% of the population in the Holland/Zeeland area, immigrants are an integral part of the community. However, many immigrants face numerous barriers to inclusion. Recognizing a need for a comprehensive effort to welcome new Americans, the county gathered demographic and economic data and coordinated with other partners to advance community-wide efforts. This work alongside immigrant perspectives will position the area as a welcoming and inclusive place for people of diverse experiences to live, learn, work, and play.

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