Neighborhood Mini-Grants Program: Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability

(view more articles in SOS Tompkins Weekly)

Tompkins Weekly – February 21, 2011.  By Nicole Pion.

As the Director of Operations at Sustainable Tompkins, I’ve had the privilege of overseeing our recent Neighborhood Mini-Grant awards. I’m a relatively new resident of Ithaca and supporting the Neighborhood Mini-Grants program has provided me with a window into my new community.  I have to say, the view is impressive!

And I’m please to invite you to join us.  Our 11th round of funding is underway and applications are being accepted between now and March 1, 2011.  Awards range from $150 to $750 and are designed to support initiatives of Tompkins County residents and organizations with “seed money” for sustainability initiatives. To apply, please email: The Mini-Grant Council, comprised of local citizens and members of Sustainable Tompkins board and staff, reviews proposals on a quarterly basis.

While reviewing our most recent proposals, I was struck by how effectively –and how differently- each one addressed community sustainability.  The six awardees present a comprehensive view of community sustainability.  The Sustainable Water exhibit and Bio-Fuel the Genny project bring innovative sustainability practices into public discourse. And the Downtown Music and Parents Apart projects remind us that a truly sustainable community is responsible for the health of all our natural resources – especially children and families.  Here is a brief overview of our 10th round of awardees:

West Village Gone Green, a gardening, composting, and community-building project received funding for a neighborhood association and an organic vegetable garden.  This long-term project is already flourishing and growing during these cold winter months, with meetings and plans for spring underway.

Sciencenter’s “Sustainable Water – The Filtered Way” exhibit received funding to purchase materials for the exhibit where a nano-tech water filter is now installed at a well-used drinking fountain. Visitors can compare the taste of filtered water and unfiltered tap water, thus encouraging sustainable alternatives to bottled water, like this filtration system.

The Dacha Project’s Bio-Fuel the Genny initiative received funding to transition their Lister generator—which provides electrical power, heat and hot water to the Dacha—from diesel fuel to bio-diesel allowing the homestead to be powered by bio-fuels year-round. This project will also serve as an educational tool for interns and school groups who visit the Dacha Project.

Danby Land Bank’s Raising and Butchering Broilers project received funding to build a portable, grass-fed broiler house for raising and butchering broiler chickens.   This project presents a model by which individuals and communities can grow their own meat more sustainably.

Downtown Music for Uptown Youth was awarded funds for a new computer to complete a youth-run recording studio.  The studio will provide a safe and supervised environment in which youths can engage in positive social and artistic activities.  They will also provide mentorship to one another.

Parents Apart: Parents Helping Children Cope with Separation and Divorce received funding for five scholarships to Parents Apart workshops.  Through the workshop, parents learn to help their child(ren) cope with separation and divorce, how children react emotionally to divorce and/or separation, and what they can do to help them adjust.

Since our first Neighborhood Mini-Grants were awarded in 2008, Sustainable Tompkins has been honored to support 47 projects with over $20,000 in awards.  And we’ve been able to do it because of the generosity of individual donations, sponsors, and local funders.  Please consider becoming involved in the Mini-Grants program – make a donation in support of the program, volunteer with Sustainable Tompkins, or submit an application your own.  Together, we can transform our community into a more just and sustainable one.

For information on how to apply, donate, or volunteer, please email or call our office at 607-216-1552.

Nicole Pion is the Director of Operations at Sustainable Tompkins.

If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles