Non-profits pack grant workshop in Northwest Philadelphia

Members from more than 80 Northwest Philadelphia non-profits crammed into a conference room today to learn how to get a piece of a $300,000 grant program.

During back-to-back information sessions, officials from The Northwest Fund (TNF) walked attendees through the details of the Neighborhood Change Agent Grant, which will award several organizations a combined $300,000. The grant is part of a federal effort to make communities safer and stronger.

TNF, a non-profit focused on crime prevention in Northwest Philadelphia, will handle the money appropriated by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah, whose district covers most of the Northwest.

Director Sylvie Gallier Howard said any 501(c)3 organization from Nicetown to Chestnut Hill is eligible to apply as long as their efforts center on at least one of the grant’s three proposal categories: staying in school, employment and self-sufficiency and safe communities.

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But applications from organizations working in low-income communities will be given priority over those in wealthier neighborhoods, she said.

Applicants can receive up to $20,000 for general operating costs like staff and rent, but no award can exceed 10 percent of the organization’s overall budget.

“We’re going to fund all of the projects that we can,” said Gallier Howard to the crowd assembled inside the offices at Mt. Airy USA, a CDC on Germantown Avenue.

Rev. Chester Williams hopes the Chew and Belfield Neighbors Club Inc. is one of them.

Since 1981, Williams has been running the Germantown-based organization out of his home.

With the help of volunteers, the group has organized free math tutoring, neighborhood cleanups, and job-training for ex-offenders. The group, he said, has never applied for grant money.

But now Williams wants to offer his out-of-work neighbors the opportunity to earn a little bit of money cleaning the streets while they look for full-time employment.

“This money would help give a stipend to them,” said Williams. “People need something tangible in their hand.”

Williams, a disabled army veteran, has often dipped into his disability checks to pay for materials, but said he has limits.

“We’re praying that we get this,” he said.

So is Linda Slodki, co-founder of the Mt. Airy Art Garage collective.

The newly-minted non-profit recently leased a large-vacant garage off of Germantown Avenue and needs money to fix-up the interior so it can provide the community with artists’ studios, galleries and art classes.

Slodki said programs like MAAG’s help rebuild communities.

“We’re taking a building that’s laying unused and we’re building it up,” said Slodki “That will really enhance the community from a creative perspective, from a sustainable and eco-friendly perspective and also from a health perspective. People who do art have less stress in their lives.”

A letter of intent is due on Jan. 5 with a full proposal by approved organizations due on Jan. 18.

Grant recipients will be notified by Feb. 28 and be awarded the money in Spring 2011.

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