Individuals and small groups can start projects that make a big difference in their community, but some ideas need to be tested before gaining widespread support. In April 2022, Sustainable Finger Lakes (formerly Sustainable Tompkins) awarded $2,475 in seven Neighborhood Mini-Grants to individuals and small organizations in Tompkins County, for new initiatives with the potential to last.

The Black Diamond Trail Enthusiasts Network, a group devoted to the multi-use Black Diamond Trail from Cass Park to Taughannock Falls State Park, will install and maintain a porta-potty at one of the road intersections along the trail, making it more hospitable to users who would otherwise avoid the trail or relieve themselves in the surrounding area. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will contribute to the one-year rental and maintenance costs for the porta-potty, with the aim of persuading the New York State Park system to take on the long-term cost of sustaining a demonstrably essential amenity.

Communitas, a recently-formed organization devoted to self-directed education and intergenerational community building, will offer youth nature education programs in the summer and the school year, the latter programs for homeschoolers. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will fund the purchase of tools for long-term use in these programs, including monoculars, bug boxes, magnifiers, a spotting scope, and wood-carving tools, all of which will help program participants engage more deeply with the natural world they explore.

Lansing residents Elisabeth and Ethan Bodnaruk seek to start a curbside food scrap collection in downtown Ithaca, addressing an unmet need in an area currently lacking any of the food scrap drop spots operated by the county. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant Council will contribute to the costs of buckets, bucket liners, and website hosting for a small-scale pilot of the initiative.

Ithaca resident Liliana Coelho seeks to host community dye baths where people bring garments to be re-dyed for prolonged desirability. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will pay for the dyes and laundry fees of a small-scale dye bath to test the project’s local viability.

Ithaca residents Ben Komor and Evan Breese will host a series of game nights for mentally ill locals at the Ithaca Community Recovery building, featuring partly-local snacks. This will give an underserved population more access to social connections and community-building. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will cover food, room rental, and cleaning supplies for two months of these game nights.

Ithaca resident Jack Wright will create and utilize two garden beds at Fort Baptist Farm, growing herbs, flowers, and vegetables for donation to local food access groups such as No Mas Lagrimas and Loaves & Fishes, without tilling, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizer. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will contribute to the costs of the garden.

Landscape designer Matt Dallos will create a naturalistic planting in a median on N. Meadow Street in Ithaca, a low-maintenance garden of “native and near-native” plants to serve as insect habitat, urban beautification, and a test site for future naturalistic plantings in Ithaca. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will help cover to pay for sand, plants, and signage used in the project.

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 Craig Riecke, Beck Equipment, and the Park Foundation. The next deadline for the Mini-Grant program will be October 1, 2022. To request an application or learn more, email