ITHACA:  Jessica Orkin, facilitator of GIAC’s Pre-teen Green Summer Camp, wanted more downtown teens to learn about the watershed. She was delighted to receive a Sustainable Tompkins mini-grant award of $300 for six youth scholarships to the Water Wizards’ training aboard the M/V Haendel, culminating with teen presentations on eco-cruises this summer. As Jessica said, the mini-grant “will allow more middle school youth to take on the role of community educators.” [Also published in the Ithaca Journal.]

Ithaca Community Recovery also received a mini-grant of $600 for teens from families in “recovery” to attend the Counselors-In-Training (CIT) summer course on sustainable environmental practices at Camp Earth Connection. One community member was so moved by the award, he donated $300. “I can’t think of anything more important than protecting a vulnerable child, and Camp Earth Connections is doing that wonderfully,” he said.

Awards were made to five other community projects:

  • $350 to Caroline Food Pantry garden, providing fresh produce to 300 households.
  • $300 to Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming for a youth scholarship to their summer practicum on sustainable farming and local food systems.
  • $250 to West Hill Community Garden at Linderman Creek for fruit trees.
  • $150 to Groton Student Vegetable Garden; managed by students in grades 6-12, who provide fresh produce to the school.
  • $105 to Dryden Solutions, to host sustainability salons at the Dryden Community Center Café.

“The mini-grants program is an outstanding example of how relatively small amounts of money can be leveraged into huge community pay backs,” said Marnie Kirchgessner, an awardee and organizer of the Linderman Creek garden. The donor-supported program has awarded $12,325 to date, distributed to 32 projects that encourage local self-reliance, neighborhood connections and community well-being. Mini-grant awards range from $150 to $750, and are made quarterly. The next round of applications, due on June 1, is open to all residents, citizen groups and non-profit organizations of Tompkins County. To learn how to apply or support the program, visit or contact Jan Quarles: or (607) 532-9288.