Mini-grants Have Widespread Impact

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Tompkins Weekly 8-12-13

by Karen Jewett-Bennett

You probably know someone who has received or has benefited from a Neighborhood Mini-grant. Since September of 2008 Sustainable Tompkins has been making small grants, four times annually, to community groups and individuals with ideas to make their neighborhoods more Sustainable. With our 20th grant cycle in June 2013, 107 projects have been awarded just under $43,000 in seed money to build community, sustainability and justice in our neighborhoods.

Yes, 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.

The Mini-grant Council—a team of local residents who volunteer their time to make recommendations and award decisions–reviews proposals for Sustainable Tompkins Neighborhood Mini-grants quarterly. If you have an idea to build community in your neighborhood and/or to make our region more sustainable write to and she’ll send you an application form. To be considered at the September meeting proposals must be received by September 1.

All of these grants are made possible through contributions from the community. Suzanne Aigen of Aigen Financial and the Park Foundation provide the bedrock for the Mini-grant program. Additional funds come from members of the community and range in size from $5-$2000. You can support the Mini-grants by visiting and directing your gift to the Neighborhood Mini-grant program.

Karen Jewett-Bennett is the Director of Operations at Sustainable Tompkins.

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