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The Scarlet & Black

Local efforts Aided by Community Mini-Grants

Grinnell’s Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement has long established a reputation for functioning as the middle ground between Grinnell College and the local community. The office notably manages the Grinnell College Mini-Grant Program, which strengthens community resources by funding local projects that work to enhance the quality of life in Grinnell.

Recently, the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement awarded a total of 34,000 dollars to 11 projects and organizations in Grinnell mini-grants. Individual mini-grants range from 1,000 dollars to almost 6,000 dollars, and provide funding for small to mid-scale projects that possess the potential to enhance the quality of life in Grinnell.

“The program was created … to offer community-wide grants for projects that would benefit community development and efforts to support community-based projects,” said Melissa Strovers, Program and Communications Manager at the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement.

The Grinnell Area Arts Council, Drake Community Library, Galaxy, Inc. and other local organizations all received mini-grants for their proposed initiatives. Strovers additionally emphasized that the Community Mini-Grant program is meant to act as a catalyst for non-profits that would otherwise be unable to receive funding to pursue their projects.

“I think the program has been able to help a wide variety of non-profits in our community to support new projects that might not otherwise have been supported,” Strovers said.

This year, due to a donation of 1,500 dollars by the Sterk family, the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement added a new award to the program. The Dr. Kevin Sterk ’91 Award, offered for the first time this year, honors Kevin Sterk, a veteran of Grinnell who attended both Grinnell High School and Grinnell College.

According to Strovers, the award was established not only as a way to honor Stark, but also presents a local initiative with funding for a community project that works to benefit Grinnell High School students, as well as Grinnell College students. This year, the Kevin Stark ’91 Award was presented to the Grinnell Parks and Recreations Department to fund their efforts to build a new playground in James Miller Park.

“Last year we received funding for a spray feature at the Grinnell Mutual Family Aquatic Center,” wrote Kelly Johnson Rose, Grinnell Parks and Recreation Director, in an email to the S&B.

Mini-grants are awarded through a committee comprised of faculty, staff and students who review grant applications. The students selected to serve on the committee all attended Grinnell High School prior to enrolling at Grinnell College. Alethea Cook ’16 joined the committee in hopes of getting more involved in the community and supporting the diverse local initiatives.

“We also want to make sure that these funds are going towards something that will be successful, so we have to look for things that have a good likelihood of success in the future,” Cook said.

Imagine Grinnell, a local non-profit with a mission to improve the quality of life and promote a healthy environment in Grinnell, has benefited from the mini-grant program for the past three years. Sarah Smith, Executive Director of Imagine Grinnell referred to a 1,940 dollar mini-grant the organization was awarded in 2011 to fund costs of single-stream recycling in Grinnell.

“It’s helping us put more money into projects. It stretched our dollar a little further,” Smith said.

Numerous organizations and initiatives have benefited from the Community Mini-Grant Program throughout the years. While Strovers describes the application process as competitive, she also believes that the program encourages innovation and helps brings organizations together.

“One of the criteria we look at is collaborative partnerships, and working together with other groups in the community, so it encourages groups to work collaboratively,” Strovers said. “I think it’s a grant program that non-profits throughout our community look forward to applying for each year.”

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