Micro-grants for community improvement projects up for grabs in Northwest Philly

This year, Philly’s Northwest movers and shakers are looking for ways to get a lot done with a little.

These include small grants made through a new program at Germantown United CDC: Fund for Germantown – Programs for Progress.

Speaking with NewsWorks this week, GUCDC board vice president Julie Stapleton Carroll said that the group is pleased with some major plans underway for Germantown’s revitalization, but wanted to boost “shorter-term” initiatives too.

She said GUDCD has been working for the past year towards implementing a twice-annual cycle of grants that will include individual awards between $100 and $1,000 for three to five recipients per cycle.

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An immediate physical impact

“Generous seed money” to launch the fund was the work of local developer Ken Weinstein and former GUCDC board member Howard Treatman, who came up with the idea for the small grants, Carroll added.

The group hopes these will work on model similar to the existing Environment Committee Community Grants available through Weaver’s Way Co-op.

According to the Fund for Germantown webpage, these “intentionally small grants” are for projects that “have an immediate physical impact on Germantown.”

Individuals, neighborhood groups, agencies, businesses, or other organizations are eligible to apply for the money, for “grassroots” ideas to beautify, clean up, or improve the safety of a specific Germantown area (grantees’ projects must take place in the 19144 or 19138 zip codes).

According to GUCDC, these could include projects like gardens, tree planting, public art and façade improvements, trash and broken glass pick-up, attention for unsightly or dangerous vacant lots, or improved signage.

Germantown High School clean-up?

The applications for the first cycle of grants are due by July 1 and Carroll says she has already encouraged at least one group to apply for a grant: LOG (Legends of Germantown), a group of community activists, many of whom graduated from Germantown High School over the decades.

LOG is planning a clean-up day and picnic on the grounds of the high school on July 27, Carroll said, and this is just the type of limited but impactful short-term activity GUCDC would like to fund with these grants.

The grants aren’t meant to retroactively fund projects that are already underway, and they’re not for operational, salary, or staffing funds for existing organizations, but if someone wanted to apply GUCDC grant money toward an annual event that has happened in the past, it could be a fit for the program, Carroll said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a first-time activity; it matters what kind of activity it is and what the budget is,” she noted.

Mt. Airy monies

GUDCD isn’t the only group offering a limited but useful financial boost to the neighborhood.

On June 18, the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District (BID) announced a $22,000 award from the City’s Department of Commerce for “corridor beautification.”

BID, chaired by Weinstein, already provides services like sidewalk cleaning, holiday decorations, and tending to flowering baskets in the spring and summer.

According to a BID release, the new money will go towards projects like new street banners for Germantown Avenue (both replacing old ones and adding 10 additional ones), sprucing up the Avenue between Washington Lane and Cresheim Valley Drive.

BID and Germantown Special Services District (GSSD) are also sharing a micro-grant of $1,000 from Keep Philadelphia Beautiful and Dow Chemical, for “corridor greening.”

Money by August

BID and GSSD are still working to determine how the $1,000 grant will be used, but GUCDC is hoping that once the decisions are made for its first round of 2014 grants, which will be announced on July 31, the money will go to work immediately.

Carroll touts the “quick turnover” GUCDC hopes to achieve with its new program. “We’d love to be able to impact things this summer, so [grant winners] could have a check as early as August 1.”

Locals interested in applying for the Fund for Germantown dollars should visit the GUCDC website for full guidelines, including the kinds of projects that aren’t eligible for this money, but Carroll said that the group plans to take a generous and creative view.

“We try to make it as simple as possible, and if people aren’t sure, go ahead and submit it,” she advised. “We want to be as broad in our interpretation of what fits into this as possible. We want people to get really engaged doing this.”

That’s part of why GUDCD hopes to operate two grant cycles per year, with the applications for 2014’s second round due on December 1 for a December 31 decision.

“We want to be able to do it frequently enough that people keep thinking about it, and activities keep happening,” Carroll explained. “I anticipate that this is going to be a popular program.”

Grant application forms can be downloaded online and e-mailed to FundForGermantown@germantownunitedcdc.org, or printed and mailed to GUCDC at 5219 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19144.

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