For five years, the Community Foundation of Central Georgia was able to finance projects through the Knight Neighborhood Challenge that residents of the College Hill neighborhood had proposed to improve that part of town.
Now, the foundation hopes to foster similar change in other parts of the city -- and in Milledgeville.
The foundation announced Friday that it will award $30,000 in grant money to residents of the Village Green and East Macon/Walnut Creek neighborhoods in Macon, as well as the Harrisburg section of Milledgeville who want to develop ideas designed to improve those communities.
One of the main things officials learned from the Knight Neighborhood Challenge is that a neighborhood’s residents usually have the best ideas on what their part of town needs, Community Foundation President Kathryn Dennis told about 30 people who attended the announcement at the Boys and Girls Club at Burghard Elementary. The new grant series, called the Neighborhood Grant Program, will encourage emerging leaders in those communities to start creating programs.
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“We want neighbors to tell us what they think is important,” she said. “You’re going to draw it, and you’re going to do it.”
Residents have a June 30 deadline to send in their grant proposals, and the foundation will provide coaches for people who have never applied for a grant. The winners will be announced in September.
The projects should improve a neighborhood in at least one of the following aspects: neighborhood pride; neighborhood connection (neighbors getting to know each other); beautification; arts; education; health; or leadership development.
Nonprofit organizations, government entities and neighborhood groups are all eligible for the grants.
The three neighborhoods are part of a pilot program that Dennis hopes will branch out into other neighborhoods.
Next week, Dennis said the foundation will announce 17 more grant winners for a different program, the community grant program. The foundation is awarding $220,000 to 17 winners in Macon, Warner Robins, Hawkinsville and Milledgeville.
Dennis awarded one of those grants for $15,000 to Frank Austin, founder of the Austin Center in Village Green. Austin said he will use the money to buy equipment to help maintain work that community volunteers have done to help eliminate blighted houses in the area.
“(The grant) will let us take things to stage 2,” Austin said. “I’m so thankful for this funding, and the courage and respect (the Community Foundation) has to roll out this program like they are doing.”
Macon-Bibb Commissioner Al Tillman, who represents the Village Green neighborhood, said the grant program will have a major impact.
“I think it’s going to be tremendous,” he said. “Folks can take pride in their community -- that’s what it’s all about. ... To give money and resources to grass-roots organizations is great. ... I encourage everyone to get on board. Stop talking and join a grass-roots organization.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.