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Yes we can! Harvest Fest 2003

BATTLE CREEK, MichiganBattle Creek residents took a look forward at what the future could be and a look back at the year’s achievements at the second annual Harvest Fest on Thursday, November 13, 2003. Residents attended workshops in the afternoon to gain practical skills, tools and resources to begin building skills to address issues that impact their day-to-day lives. They joined about 130 others for the evening awards ceremony and dinner to celebrate 83 neighborhood projects completed over the past year with over $100,000 of mini-grant funds provided through Yes we can!  


The theme of the day’s events was leadership. “Servant leaders are like a ringmaster in a circus, directing people to their place and letting them shine.” said Reverend Elmer Hess, pastor of First Pentecostal Church of God in Christ and a mini-grant award recipient, in the opening remarks to the workshops. He talked about how the role of servant leaders is to connect people together to make something great, adding, “A wedding cake is just a bunch of crumbs put together.”


Dr. William Richardson, President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, continued on the theme of leadership at the awards ceremony. “Think about leadership not as us sitting at a desk at the Kellogg Foundation. It’s about all of us working out in the community,” he urged the audience. “Leadership doesn’t have to do with job titles, it’s the degree to which we open up to others, take them into our circle, share our vision, follow through and say ‘yes we can’—and we can, and we are and we will.”


Residents are using mini-grants for projects that can make immediate, positive changes in community life and involve the greatest number of residents in seven Battle Creek neighborhoods. Mini-grants are awarded to projects that fall into one of three categories:


·         Improving educational achievement – to help build skills and create programs such as increasing parent involvement in schools, tutoring and mentoring.

·         Improving family and neighborhood economic conditions – to help build economic success in areas such as income earning, job training, managing finances and starting neighborhood businesses.

·         Neighborhood capacity building – to help neighbors get to know one another better to build neighborhood groups, develop leadership or build relationships with local organizations


Grant applications are reviewed by the Yes we can! mini-grant steering committee made up of residents from the Franklin, McKinley, Post, Prairieview, Roosevelt, Washington and Wilson elementary school neighborhoods. Committee members meet twice a month to evaluate grant proposals.


Mini-grant activities are as diverse as the residents who benefit from them.


Southwestern Impact was developed by the football coaches at Southwestern Junior High School, Spencer Tuggle and Jeff Gordon, in order to provide positive after-school activities for the members of the football team once their season ended. The project provided homework help and tutoring, study skills and positive youth development activities every day for the remainder of the school year for over 60 7th and 8th graders. Organizers say it helped the students do better in school, stay out of trouble after school, and learn some positive self esteem, conflict management and other important life skills.


The Creekside Community House Grand Opening was developed by a group of residents from the Creekside neighborhood who were working in partnership with Neighborhoods Inc and the Battle Creek Police Department to create a safe and welcoming neighborhood meeting space in a once-abandoned house. The Grand Opening allowed this small group of neighbors a chance to introduce the house as a neighborhood meeting and gathering place to the rest of the neighborhood and helped them increase not only the number of requests for activities at the house, but the number of neighbors interested in participating in the community house’s committee.


The Post Community Closet was created by a group of neighbors on the Post/Franklin community house committee who were frustrated with the cost of clothing, particularly items like prom dresses that were usually worn only one time. The group has developed a clothing exchange program and set aside space at the community house where neighbors can bring their lightly worn prom dresses and other clothing and exchange them for other clothing items they need – including next year’s prom dress.


Partner organizations contributing to the workshops included: the City of Battle Creek, Battle Creek Police Department, Neighborhoods Inc., Neighborhood Watch, NonProfit Alliance, One Economy, Prairieview PTA, Volunteer Center, Williams Group and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. The event was organized by Yes we can!, a neighborhood-based, resident-led approach to community development in Battle Creek that brings residents and organizations together to build healthier neighborhoods, help kids succeed in school and help create a solid economic future for adults and youth. Yes we can! is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


For more information about mini-grant funding for neighborhood projects or to get involved, call the Yes we can! office at 269.441.2185.

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