Terry Koch, a new volunteer, is writing a series in Tompkins Weekly featuring our mini-grant awardees.  The first story about several bicycling-related projects appeared in the February 23 issue on p.5.

December 2014 Grants Awarded;  June 1, 2015 is the Next Deadline

In December 2014, Sustainable Tompkins completed its 26th granting cycle for the popular Neighborhood Mini-grants Program. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of the Mini-grant Council: Miranda Phillips (on leave until 2016,) Joel Gagnon, Jamila Simon, Gay Nicholson, and Larissa Comacho-Lillie, the Council convened earlier this month to review the proposals submitted for the December deadline. Cornell graduate student, Mike Catsos, our Sustainability Intern last Spring, is an interim member.

The Council was delighted to see so many proposals with a big focus on civic engagement in the December round:

  • Eco-Defense Radio, a locally-based program airing on WRFI Community Radio, will purchase equipment for producing field documentaries on environmental protection and sustainability.
  • Hot Potato Press will train three citizen journalists to write for a new website on food news and networking, to be launched in 2015.
  • West Village Gone Green will purchase new fencing for the West Village Apartments community garden.
  • The fourth mini-grant in the December round will fund supplies for the Black Locust Initiative to launch their new gardening program serving pre-Kindergarten students in Trumansburg.

The Council awarded 4 grants in September: Operation Keep Out the Critters to the Dryden Community Gardens to replace their deteriorated garden gates; Cooking Up Community to Ellis Hollow Apartment residents for a fall harvest dinner to build community among the residents; White Hawk Ecovillage Marketing and Outreach to redesign and print new marketing materials to reach prospective community members who are eligible for their newly secured Community Housing grant; and to The Garden Club, Beverly J Martin Afterschool Enrichment program that teaches children about nutrition and healthy food choices year round.

In June, we awarded grants to a Trumansburg resident to match monies raised locally for a new bike rack, money for an Ithaca resident to purchase equipment needed to teach local seniors how to prepare fresh produce for improved nutrition, and funding for a local herbalist to provide an opportunity for local youth to learn about the healing properties of common weeds and native plants. New Roots Charter School secured a small grant to produce info artworks focused on sustainability. The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s Mini-grant made needed printed materials available for the first ever local Permaculture Site Tour. The Groton Public Library used their Mini-grant to build needed infrastructure at the Growing Groton teaching garden. The Caroline PTA’s grant made it possible for them to provide Discovery Kits and Field Guides for the Caroline Wilderness Campus.

In the March round of Neighborhood Mini-grants awards, Sustainable Tompkins provided support for nine unique sustainability-related projects to be carried out by local nonprofits, individuals, and neighborhood groups. Projects which received grants this quarter include: bike rack installation at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, training for a boys’ rites-of-passage program at Earth Arts, purchase of supplies for the International Youth Arts and Culture Fest, garden tool acquisition for gardeners in the TCAction network, newsletter printing for the Shawn Greenwood Working Group, creation of a fresh food guide for area school kitchens by Woods Earth Living Classroom, purchase of supplies for weekly bike repair stands run by the Ithaca Monthly Meeting Earthcare Committee, purchase and installation of a recycled metal bike rack at the Rescue Mission, and support for a new sustainable garden created by the Conifer Gardeners.

Since 2008, the Neighborhood Mini-grants program has awarded more than $55,000 to support 140+ innovative, grassroots projects throughout Tompkins County.

If you have an idea for a Mini-Grant project, email Peter@sustainabletompkins.org or call us at 607-272-1720. We’ll send along an application form and answer any questions you might have.  Applications are reviewed quarterly by the Mini-Grant Council, comprised of local citizens and members of Sustainable Tompkins board and staff. Awards range from $150 to $750. For more details, and to apply, click here.

We are looking for New Sponsors for the Neighborhood Mini-grant Program!

Suzanne Aigen of Aigen Financial Group Insurance and Financial Services generously sponsored the Neighborhood Mini-Grants for the past few years. Suzanne’s business partner, Prudential Insurance matched her generosity one to one. Suzanne has restructured her business, and has sadly had to leave her sponsorship role for the Mini-Grants program.  We are deeply grateful to her for the funding support for so many wonderful citizen-driven initiatives during the past 3 years.  Sustainable Tompkins is now actively searching for new sponsors for the Mini-Grants program.

Sponsorship funds and individual contributions from friends like you makes it possible for Sustainable Tompkins to provide seed funding  for neighborhood projects that promote community and sustainability.  Please get in touch (gay@sustainabletompkins.org)  if you are interested in becoming a sponsor!

How we fund the Neighborhood Mini-Grants Program: The Neighborhood Mini-grant program is funded through individual donations, sponsorships, and grants. Together, we can transform our community into a more just and sustainable one. Every gift—large or small—helps, so please take a moment to complete the Online Gift form.

Applications are reviewed quarterly by the Mini-Grant Council, comprised of local citizens and members of Sustainable Tompkins board and staff. Awards range from $150 to $750. For more details, and to apply, click here.

Some of Our Sustainable Tompkins Mini-Grant Recipients

There are many community/school/teaching gardens where our grants are working: Woods Earth Living Classroom used their first grant (2011) to get their garden education program going and their second (2012) to build a shed and garden classroom space; the GIAC Conservation Corps, who were among the first Mini-grant recipients in 2008, have been busy this summer adding new beds and planning/designing and building a classroom space to add to their garden thanks to their recent Mini-grant. West Village Gone Green used their most recent grant to buy a weatherproof garden hose to make it possible for the young people (and others) working in the garden to drink the water from the hose.  In Lansing youth working in the community garden have added drip irrigation this summer and the Danby Community Park association has a new kiosk in Dotson Park thanks to their Mini-grant.

Not all the grants are awarded to gardens and parks. The Rainbow Healing Arts Center received a grant for promoting their poetry and essay contest with this year’s theme of food justice; a Mini-grant helped the Ithaca Health Alliance cut down their paper waste and minimize germ exposure with a new forced air hand dryer for the restroom. The Friendship Donations Network’s grant paid for the materials to build a CoolBot at the new headquarters. The Food Justice Summit’s new work-a-thon is brought to you in part by a Neighborhood Mini-grant.

Recent transportation related grants included funds for bike helmets to be given away at public events with bicycle safety information from Way2Go Tompkins; funding in support of a bus to take campers by bus to and from Earth Arts/Village Camp in Freeville; and seed monies were provided to the Southside Community Center’s RIBS: Geared for Change project to raise the self esteem of girls with bicycle repair trainings.

For a complete history of projects supported with neighborhood Mini-Grants download our pdf file of past Neighborhood Mini-Grant Recipients.

West Village Gone Green Neighborhood Association received a recent Mini-grant to buy a hose and other supplies for their community garden. This is their third grant. In phase one, the neighbors gathered to plan a project that would bring the community together and the decision was made to build a garden. The project serves the people of the West Village apartments in Ithaca by providing local, fresh, and organic food, building community engagement, and teaching gardening skills.  Resident children have been involved with planting, weeding and harvesting as well as general neighborhood clean up.


Healing Hearts Women’s Fall Retreat conference was held on September 2011 and was a part of Earth Connection Programs. The main purpose of the retreat was to develop women self-esteem, self- acceptance, and strength.  During two day gathering 24 women participants were, among many other activities, able to hear about aromatherapy, learn how to manage stress, grief, and fear, and meditate. The Mini-grant made it possible for the conference organizers to reduce the cost for all participants and also provided monies for six women to attend the event with no fee.

The Dewitt Middle School Vegetable Garden started in Fall 2009 and provides fresh, local food for School’s cafeteria as well as supplies for social studies, art projects, and biology class. The garden had been integrated into the school curriculum and provides a great tool for learning used in many different classes. The project participants include teachers, students, parents, staff, and volunteers from the Northeast neighborhood. The Garden is open to host groups of public tours from around Tompkins County, such as Cornell Youth Summit or CCE Garden Educators who visited the Garden last year. The June 2011 was used to purchase critter-friendly traps and other materials necessary to protect garden from rabbits, groundhogs, skunks, and other garden pests.

The Youth Outreach Undergraduates Reshaping Success (YOURS) grant was awarded to develop the Sustainability Education program for At-Risk Dryden Youth. The project paired Cornell undergraduates with 22 high-risk, low-income children from Dryden, NY for an after-school program to increase young people’s awareness of sustainability. The Dryden youth participated in cooking, fitness, and arts and crafts activities.

Co-creating a Sustainable Homestead The Dacha Project is a group of six individuals working together to create a self-sustainable, educational homestead in rural Freeville, NY. They received a Mini-Grant in 2010 to transition their generator from a diesel source to a bio-fuel source.  In the fall of 2009,the Dacha Project was awarded a Mini-Grant to purchase a Brumby water pump, driven by compressed air instead of electricity, and the first of its kind in Tompkins County. So far they have established a fruit and nut tree orchard, organic garden, and a straw bale cottage, and provided many educational tours to groups of students.
Community Quilting The Granny Squares is an initiative by a small group of senior women of Titus Towers in Ithaca. A mini-grant award in the summer of 2009 helped them procure a long arm quilting machine. The process of creating beautiful quilts together improves their quality of life through shared, purposeful activities, and strengthens their ability to rely upon each other. Auctioning the final products, which are both artistic and useful, helps their group work towards economic self-reliance.
The Sweet Outdoors Maple Sugaring Education connects youth with nature in an urban setting. Forty-five Beverly J Martin kindergarten students and their teachers participated in the pilot program, launched with the support of a mini-grant in the winter of 2009. The program combined math and science classroom projects with outdoor activities. It was designed by Steve Gabriel of the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, who would like to bring it to more classrooms, after-school programs, home-schoolers and community centers in Tompkins County. For more info, visit “Sugaring in the Schools” at Sapsquatch.
Inter-generational Pizza Baking Project A number of the residents of the Linderman Creek low-income housing project and the senior facility came together to learn how to make pizzas, under the guidance of Pat Dutt from the West Hill Civic Association. Joining the project were a number of senior citizens who happened to be experienced bakers, and they enjoyed teaching the younger bakers what to do. Pizza ingredients included many fresh garden products (basil, tomatoes, peppers, etc) that were grown in the new West Hill Community Garden.

Outreach with Ithaca’s Burmese/Karen Community Using a Sustainable Tompkins mini-grant, SewGreen was able to offer special daylong sewing classes to two groups of Karen teenagers. They worked through the Ithaca City School District to make connections to sponsors and eventually to the teens themselves. Because of their background, most of the teens—all girls—had never used a sewing machine. They were at first very shy and hesitant about asking questions, but as the day progressed, typical teenage exuberance burst forth. They were very proud of the projects they made, and at one point, three of the younger girls literally squealed with delight and jumped up and down.


Neighborhood Mini-Grants Recipients Speak on Grants Impact:

All of us here at Sustainable Tompkins are very proud of the Neighborhood Mini-Grants program and we’re happy to sing their praises.  But we think the best advocates for the Neighborhood Mini-Grants program are the recipients themselves! Click here for video of three of our Neighborhood Mini-Grants recipients speaking atone of our Neighborhood Mini-Grants Reception. The stories from Neighborhood Mini-Grant recipients were deeply inspiring and hopeful.  During a time of economic contraction, the Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program is making long-term investments in our local economy.  We’re investing in the ability of community members to provide for one another. Through community gardens, farmers markets, swap meets, sewing workshops and mentoring programs (just to name a few!) our Mini-Grant recipients are truly building greater sustainability for all of us. Since 2008, we have supported 140+ projects with over $55,000 in funding. Left: Neighborhood Mini-Grant Recipient, Black Locust Project, helped the Trumansburg Middle School to implement a garden and root cellar.  Here, students harvest spring peas.