From a pool of almost 100 applicants, Neighborhood Allies chose seven recipients to receive $478,000 in funding.
These catalytic grants will be used to spur action and create forward momentum for a wide net of issues facing Pittsburgh’s distressed and transitioning neighborhoods—communities that have been “left behind or are falling off the map,” says Presley Gillespie, president of the nonprofit.
Neighborhood Allies targeted six priority communities for this round of awards: the Hill District, Hilltop (which includes Allentown, Beltzhoover and Knoxville), Homewood, Larimer, Millvale and Wilkinsburg,
Larimer: To fight economic segregation, CARE Ownership wants to take back blighted properties from absentee landlords and put real estate in the hands of residents. The grant money will help to renovate housing in low-income neighborhoods, empower and mentor residents in the ways of real estate management and support these mentees to become occupant-owners of multi-unit buildings. Award: $60,000.
Millvale: This riverside mill town sits at the bottom of the Girty’s Run watershed—and development upstream stripped away the land’s protective methods to slow and absorb stormwater. The business and residential districts now flood regularly. Through the efforts of staff at the Millvale Community Library, the community now has an EcoDistrict Sustainability Plan. The grant money will be used to hire staff to help guide community development to support this plan, which includes implementing green infrastructure—rain gardens, terraced farms and tree plantings—to decrease the negative effect of stormwater. Also on their docket? Food and energy sufficiency. Award: $74,000
Larimer: In 2009, the Larimer Consensus Group was formed to help the group meet the goals of their Community Vision Plan. This group includes key players from the community, including business owners, residents, representatives from neighborhood groups, folks from the faith-based community, and volunteers who organize community action teams. This grant will help the Larimer group hire its first paid staff person tasked with helping the community continue to achieve its Vision Plan benchmarks and meet goals the group outlined when they applied for—and were awarded—a $30 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods grant. Award: $68,000
Hill District: Reverend Glenn Grayson opened the Center That C.A.R.E.S (Children/Adult Recreational and Educational Services) 14 years ago, and this nonprofit serves some 250 youth each year with after-school and summer enrichment programs that provide academic, emotional and psychological support.
In 2010, the reverend’s son, Jeron X. Grayson, was accidentally killed by gunfire. The reverend bought the former Ozanam Community Center and renamed it for Jeron. Neighborhood Allies awarded the Center that C.A.R.E.S a grant to help launch Tech Central, to be housed at the new Jeron X. Grayson Community Center. Tech Central’s mission is to bridge the social and economic inequalities of tech education and connect Hill District kids to technology and its resources. Award: $60,000
Hilltop: Community WorkZ, Inc. works to strengthen neighborhoods by building capacity (i.e.: identifying leaders, engaging residents and providing the tools to get things done) to better execute community change initiatives. Award: $65,000.
Wilkinsburg and Homewood: The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh was founded three years ago to teach non-college bound individuals a trade (masonry) as a way of out the minimum wage job market. Many of the students have spent time in prison, juvenile centers or rehab facilities, so the institute also helps them learn life skills, deal with personal challenges, and find jobs after graduation. This grant will be used to expand their facility and programming offerings. Award: $75,000
Mobile location: Farm Truck Foods is an updated twist on the ‘huckster,’ or farmer who would drive into the city to sell produce. Farm Truck Foods will be Pittsburgh’s first mobile grocery and will visit city neighborhoods that have been overlooked by grocery stores (i.e.: food deserts). Because Farm Truck employees pick up the produce from the farms, package it on the spot, and sell straight from the truck, prices will be below supermarket costs. This will be a full-service grocery—not a food truck that sells hot meals—that also sells chicken, dairy, beef and grain products. A model that has succeeded in 26 other cities, Farm Truck Foods will be Pittsburgh’s first foray into the mobile grocery market. Award: $75,000.
Funding comes from a “core group,” says Gillespie, that includes The Heinz Endowments, The Pittsburgh Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) and the Roy A. Hunt Foundation.
Look for the next round of Neighborhood Alliance grants in early 2015.