Indigo workshop 2020. Photo provided.

As restrictions on activities ease in Tompkins County, many groups and individuals are starting new initiatives to build the area’s long-term resilience and equity. In April 2021, Sustainable Tompkins awarded $3,850 to nine Neighborhood Mini-Grants supporting new shared gardens, bicycling infrastructure and education, mutual aid food sharing, community-building, and other projects.  

Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga will start a permanent program of instruction in machine sewing at A Place to Stay, their transitional supportive residence for homeless and recovering women in Ithaca, with machines and lessons provided by SewGreen. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will pay for tools and materials.  

Local resident Claire Dehm will offer three free Women at the Wheel bicycle repair workshops at the Ithaca Farmers Market pavilion in summer 2021. These workshops will be open to women and non-binary residents of Tompkins County, and give extensive instruction on fixing flat tires, helping to make bicycling a more viable form of transportation for more local people.  A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will cover all costs of the workshops. 

The Downtown Ithaca Alliance is establishing self-serve bicycle repair stations at heavily visited areas in downtown Ithaca. Equipped with tools, an air pump, and a stand, a repair station will help to facilitate bicycling as a reliable form of local transportation. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support the purchase of one bicycle repair station. 

Southside resident Adrianna Hirtler will create and maintain an interactive observation board beside Six Mile Creek in Titus Triangle Park, for park visitors to record observations of the creek and its wildlife, local cultural stories, and other messages that build environmental awareness and community connections. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support the purchase of materials for the observation board.

The organization Ithaca Catholic Worker has maintained a mutual aid food sharing cabinet, with coolers for perishable food, in a wood shed at the Peter De Mott Catholic Worker House in Southside. To permanently and securely maintain this critical food source for many locals, they will buy or build a shed to house the cabinet. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support the purchase or building of a shed.  

The Ithaca Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends will create raised beds to grow vegetables and herbs at the Third Street Meeting House in Northside, a contribution to Project Abundance, a network of local gardens. They will tend the gardens, and the produce would be available free for the public to pick. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support the creation of the raised beds.  

Six households in a multi-apartment rental residence in downtown Ithaca will collaboratively create, maintain, and share the harvest from vertical vegetable and herb gardens on their porches, building their knowledge and food security while beautifying the area. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will cover all costs of the gardens’ creation. 

Luna Fiber Studio will host their second annual indigo seed-to-fiber workshop with underserved teenagers in the Youth Farm Project’s summer program. Participants will grow indigo plants at the Youth Farm Project farm, and then learn to harvest the leaves, make dyes, and dye fabrics. The workshop will cover the inequalities and environmental impacts of the global textile industry, including manufacturing and disposal, along with personal actions to reduce or improve them. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support the purchase of materials for the workshop. 

Fort Baptist Farm on Ithaca’s South Hill has begun to create an onsite community garden of herbs, flowers, and fruit trees, which will be available for the general public to harvest by donation. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will fund the creation of raised flower beds for this new garden. 

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives to build environmental, economic, and social resilience and well-being in Tompkins County. The program is sponsored by the Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Craig Riecke, Natural Investments, Fingerlakes Wealth Management, and local donors. The next deadline for the Mini-Grant program will be October 1, 2021. To request an application or learn more, email sasha@sustainabletompkins.org.