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Yes we can! expanding its vision

By Christine Iwan
The Battle Creek Enquirer

(Originally published by the Battle Creek Enquirer on June 21, 2004, and used with permission.)

Since Yes we can! launched two years ago, Battle Creek neighborhoods have received nearly 200 grants totaling about $175,000. But the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which funds Yes we can!, wants to move the program forward, expanding its vision in an effort to reduce poverty in the Cereal City. That means making grants – some of them very large, like the $1 million grant to Battle Creek and Lakeview school districts to improve literacy – available throughout the Battle Creek area while continuing to provide assistance to targeted neighborhoods.

“(The foundation) will be partnering with community organizations, both large and small,” said Cherise Brandell, director of operations for Yes we can! “They’ll help them work together with the community.”

Rose Miller of the Wilson neighborhood served on an advisory committee of area residents to discuss the changes to the initiative. She said Kellogg should put out a “call to action” to other area organizations.

“I like that concept because then you’re helping other organizations in the community take responsibility,” she said.

While the young initiative is evolving, people shouldn’t notice any difference in the program’s neighborhood-based involvement, Brandell said, although she said it’s possible the community-based portion will expand out of the original seven neighborhoods – Franklin, McKinley, Post, Prairieview and Roosevelt elementary schools and Washington and Wilson elementary academies.

The Kellogg Foundation is hosting three meetings in the next few weeks to get community feedback and explain its purpose.

Miller said trust is something it takes a long time to earn within the community.

“Sometimes, just when things are starting to work, the rug is snatched out from under people,” she said. “Kellogg is always at the reins; with this, the people thought we could be at the reins. It’s all about trust, first and foremost.”

Brandell said the idea of closing the downtown office was approached, but rejected by the advisory committee. The office will remain open for the time being, she said, although the name will change to become the “community connections” office to separate the community aspect from the larger effort of Yes we can!.

Ken White of the Washington neighborhood said he has been in Battle Creek for nearly four decades and believes Yes we can! has been the best program to work within the city.

“This is a great second phase,” he said. “We’re moving into another phase of it. It’s good because we’re going to engage more residents. … They’re (Kellogg) really turning inward and looking at home. They’re really doing their homework.”

But he also would like to eventually see more neighborhood control of the grant money.

“I’d like to see it go out in the community,” White said. “Then, they’ll really see that Kellogg wants it to be resident-driven.”

Copyright (c) Battle Creek Enquirer. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.

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