In June 2021, Co.act Detroit and Community Development Advocates for Detroit (CDAD) awarded nearly $300,000 in funding to 53 organizations for costs related to pandemic-related critical response services. McGregor Fund and the Hudson-Webber Foundation supported the grant program, with $200,000 and $100,000, respectively.
“We chose to focus on smaller, community-based organizations because of the relationships they’ve fostered and their critical connections to the communities they serve. When you consider the impact of all their work in the aggregate, you can see clearly how they form a critical safety net for people throughout the city,” said Co.act Detroit executive director Allandra Bulger.
With eligibility limited to organizations with budgets less than $500,000, the mini-grant was designed to leverage the specialized expertise and intimate relationships that small nonprofits and community-based organizations have with the communities and neighborhoods they serve. A glance at the list of grantee organizations reflects the inclusive philosophy beyond our grant programs; organizations are engaged in a variety of core capacities designed to stabilize and improve the quality of life in Detroit, including physical development, land use planning, and community organizing, and all seven city council districts are represented.
We followed up with 12 of the 53 organizations awarded to hear the stories of how they used the funds to serve the complex needs of their communities and neighborhoods.
20 Books, Inc. and Bandhu Gardens
20 Books, Inc. is an incentive based, pro-literacy nonprofit. Bandhu Gardens is an organization that amplifies and recognizes the talents of Bangladeshi women living in Detroit by offering catering, pop-up events, cooking classes and selling the fruits and vegetables they grow.
With special attention to the unique needs of their neighborhood, the two organizations shared the grant funding to complete two projects.
20 Books, Inc., in partnership with Bradford Academy, worked with 40 students — 20 from 3rd grade and 20 from 4th grade — to complete a tailored reading program. Students who successfully completed the program received books and a reading tablet; students who completed part of the program received specialized reading books and a gift card.
Bandhu Gardens used the grant money to purchase eight pallets of food and fresh vegetables and fruits for residents of Davison/Banglatown neighborhoods, provided free of charge. They served 50 families a week, many of whom chose to help with food distribution, further strengthening community ties.
The two organizations also provided masks and hand sanitizers to families served.
Chosen Generations Community Center
Chosen Generations Community Center offers programs and services that enrich the lives of those in their community through a multifunctional facility that includes a banquet hall, library, classrooms, a gymnasium and space for local small businesses.
Chosen Generations used their funding to purchase materials and resources necessary to keep their gymnasium and a few other spaces safe and clean so children, teens, and adults could use them for a multitude of daily activities, including a youth basketball camp and programming for seniors.
Detroit Change Initiative
Detroit Change Initiative‘s purpose is to educate people about resources that are available in their community, connect them to opportunities to influence changes that they want to see, and create a platform that amplifies the voice of the people for collective change.
In partnership with a number of local nonprofits, they used their grant funding to complete a project that combined food boxes for families with accurate information on a range of issues, including political redistricting, elections, right-to-counsel and COVID-19.
To gain understanding of specific needs of the community amidst the pandemic, they also regularly distributed surveys alongside the food boxes. “The communities we serve have the answers to their needs,” said Norman Clement, founder of the Detroit Change Initiative. “We need to listen to them.”
Detroit Impact, Inc.
Detroit Impact, Inc. is a youth center established to work with the young people in the Detroit Cody Rouge community to educate, mentor, guide, motivate, and encourage them in the areas of reading literacy, STEAM, and career development training.
They used their funding to provide internet access to the community, including through the purchase of Chromebooks for their computer lab, and provided technology related workshops and alternative energy summer camps.
Healthy Kidz, Inc. at the Tindal Activity Center
Healthy Kidz, Inc. provides a safe haven for youth (ages 3-18 years) and seniors (ages 62 years and above) to participate in uplifting physical fitness, learning, and life enhancing activities.
Over a five week period, they used their grant funding to hire 10 youths to assist seniors with minor outdoor home repairs, paint, cut grass, and debris and brush removal. All projects were outside of the home, providing youth and seniors alike the opportunity to get outside, strengthen bonds, and address much needed home repairs and clean ups in the neighborhood they share. They also provided the seniors with PPE and cleaning supplies.
Journey to Healing
Journey to Healing is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to connecting families who have experienced trauma related to grief and loss to resources, education, and awareness to decrease stigma associated with mental health. Their trauma-informed community spaces are located in multiple zip codes in Wayne county.
In alignment with the numerous programs they provide to create safe spaces for their community, Journey to Healing used their grant funds to provide gift cards worth $25 to 250 Detroit families. “Everyone was going through financial hardship,” said Kenzie FuQuay, Treasurer and member of the board of directors of Journey to Healing. “We wanted to help as many families as we could.”
NW Goldberg Cares
NW Goldberg Cares, a community development corporation located in the heart of Detroit’s NW Goldberg neighborhood, aims to improve upon the lives of residents in the predominantly African American community by incubating neighborhood businesses, building a strong community and ensuring a family friendly neighborhood.
They used their grant funds to provide 100 public care boxes to 100 residents. These care boxes included practical, everyday items that were in high demand, including sanitary and cleaning supplies.
One New Humanity CDC
One New Humanity CDC is a community development corporation serving three groups of people in the Banglatown neighborhood of Detroit and in Hamtramck: low-income residents, immigrants, and refugees.
They used their grant funding to complete a heated greenhouse, which allows them to provide more fresh food to the community, lessen their reliance on purchased goods, and maintain their Banglatown community garden in the winter months.
Rebirth a Non Profit Organization
Rebirth A Non Profit Organization is a community based 501(c)(3) non profit organization that raises awareness and brings housing and supportive service opportunities creating stability and independence to underprivileged communities facing negative generational social, economic, and community development barriers.
They used their funding in a number of different ways. They completed necessary elecrical work on a home that will serve as a resource center and emergency home for women and children escaping abusive situations. They also used funding to provide essential items, including PPE equipment, formula, diapers, and household and sanitary items. Finally, their funding helped them jumpstart a food distribution program for their neighborhood.
SDM2 Project Education
The mission of SDM2 Project Education is to promote, support, and build confidence of our youth toward a successful school year. Through utilizing outdoor recreational activities in a safe, clean, and inviting environment, SDM2 cultivates educational development in the community.
In 2020, Jackie Moore, co-founder of SDM2 contracted COVID-19. As she recovered, she said, “I needed a space to walk and get fresh air‚ then I realized the seniors in my community needed it even more.” SDM2 used their grant funding to install a community walking path for seniors to enjoy and exercise. That walking path was also connected to a fair food program, allowing seniors to connect with one other and access nutritious food in their neighborhood.
Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition (SWCBC)
The Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition is a community-initiated organization with an elected community board that has been working on behalf of hundreds of residents and community stakeholders to identify the community’s needs for mutually beneficial development in exchange for hosting the Gordie Howe International Bridge (GHIB) project.
They used funding to provide free weekly food deliveries to twelve homebound families. They also sent out weekly bilingual text messages to over 200 Delray and Southwest community residents, notifying them about free food distribution, COVID testing & mobile vaccine sites in the area. Finally, they conducted a random drawing to provide seven families with Chromebook laptops and 12 months of free internet service. Of the households selected, three were English speaking and four were Spanish speaking.
Urban Unity CDC
They provided 100 starter bags to children entering the foster care system. The bags were donated to Ennis Children Center. Items in the bags included clothes, journals, pens, socks, toothbrushes, and encouraging notes. They also used funding to purchase bookbags, which were given to various community and nonprofit partners to donate to the families they work with.