by Stacy Hanna
The Battle Creek Enquirer
(Originally published by the Battle Creek Enquirer on March 21, 2005, and used with permission.)
Residents citywide can now apply for Yes we can! mini-grant funding, which originally was limited to efforts in seven Battle Creek neighborhoods.
The grassroots initiative initially was designed to improve economic self-sufficiency and boost children’s academic grades in the neighborhoods surrounding Franklin, McKinley, Post, Prairieview, Roosevelt, Washington and Wilson schools. Now it has broadened its focus to include all low-to-moderate-income areas in the city.
The Battle Creek Community Foundation will administer funds based on recommendations made by a resident-driven steering committee. It recently receiving a $360,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation – the group that pioneered Yes we can!
“These are people that have been involved with Yes we can! from its inception,” said Brenda Hunt, president and chief executive officer of the Battle Creek Community Foundation. “They have a significant interest in continuing the work outside the parameters of those seven neighborhoods.”
Until now, the Community Foundation has administered Yes we can! mini-grant funds, but plans to hire one full-time, salaried employee to act as a neighborhood grantmaking associate and oversee the program.
“We have managed every component of the mini-grant program so far, with the exception of the facilitation of the grant applications and decision-making process,” Hunt said.
Since the program began in July 2002, more than 230 mini-grants totaling $295,000 have been awarded to finance small projects in designated neighborhoods.
Of the $360,000 grant money for 2005, $10,000 comes from the Community Foundation. A total of $230,000 will directly fund residents’ efforts, most with budgets less than $2,500.
The steering committee has led the search for the candidate to be their leader, Hunt said.
“The committee has been very involved in the hiring process,” Hunt said. “They’re doing a great job. They’re doing as good of a job as I would.”
Despite the committee’s excitement about the program changes, some were initially unsure of its potential success.
“I’m going to be honest with you, at first – the way it was explained to me – I did have a problem with it,” said Rose Miller, a member of the committee and a Wilson neighborhood resident.
Miller said she believes residents might have a difficult time adjusting to program changes. Those changes included the dissolution of the physical Yes we can! office and staff – called “neighborhood connectors” – who until now have been a link between neighborhood residents and area services.
“Initially, yes they will, because it’s all about trust, building trust,” Miller said. “But I like the idea of it being decentralized, because now you can start seeing people that you know and getting feedback from them. The way it’s going to be set up now, I think it will be more successful.”
Kenneth White, also a committee member, said the changes are not a big surprise. In fact, he said, they are the natural evolution of the program.
“That physical structure was never meant to be a sustaining part of the initiative,” White said. “The Yes we can! initiative was much larger than that from its inception.”
For more information, call the Battle Creek Community Foundation, 962-2181.