The possibility of creating neighbourhood-driven events and projects just got a little help.
City council approved the “Neighbourhood Grant Program” last week, with two new streams of matching funds for community-planned initiatives.
“Since residents often know just what is needed to enhance the quality of life in their neighbourhoods, the Neighbourhood Grant Program was developed to support residents and organizations that have small but powerful ideas that will bring people together and enhance neighbourhoods,” reads the explanation on the city website.
The two streams are for “Grass Roots Grants” suitable for community projects that reinvigorate or beautify part of the neighbourhood, and the “Celebration and Activity Grants” for events that “enhance connections” in a community like block parties, barbecues or workshops for example.
A pivotal part of the concept involves the “sweat equity” provided by the community members who roll up their sleeves and get involved.
One city councillor is already getting calls about the new funding for community projects and events.
Also key is to have someone at city hall that you can come in and talk about a great idea with, like the soon to be hired Community Coordinator, who will walk people through the process. It’s a new senior staff position to liaise with every single department.
There is an existing pool of funds for larger events, but these new streams are for grants ranging from $150 up to $4000.
“We wanted a smaller pool of funds for neighbourhood events,” Coun. Jason Lum said.
A total of $20,000 per year will be set aside under Community Projects.
It all stems from ideas brought to Chilliwack in a special session last year by Jim Diers, a community builder from Seattle, as well as local volunteer leaders.
Diers’ recommendation was to start with a modest budget and grow from there, Lum said.
“Diers pioneered the neighbourhood matching funds idea, as head of the first Department of Neighbourhoods for City of Seattle,” Lum said. “It’s about trading dollars for sweat equity, and encouraging citizen engagement.”
He hopes the Neighbourhood Grants will fire the imaginations of Chilliwackians to create more vibrant neighbourhoods. So everyone is encouraged to start dreaming big — or small.
“People are always happier when they know their neighbours. There is less crime and vandalism, too.”