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Making grants more accessible to the community

Community Building Grants, led by EC2C’s Advocates for Action and supported by ECF, give individuals the power and resources to make meaningful change in their community.

Evanston Cradle to Career established the Advocates for Action in 2017, recruiting a group of neighborhood residents to be leaders in the efforts to make Evanston a place where all children and their families get the resources and support they need to succeed.

With the help of Kim Holmes-Ross, Cradle’s Director of Community Engagement, the Advocates threw themselves into talking with neighbors to hear their ideas for the community. The Advocates wanted to support these ideas. 

ECF worked with the Advocates and HolmesRoss to create a grassroots grants program aimed at supporting individuals rather than organizations.

Individuals could apply for grants for amounts less than $1,500 to support projects that bring people together to share skills and knowledge that make the community better.

Since the first round of Community Building Grants in 2018, thirty-eight grants have been awarded.

Grants have supported a wide range of projects, including: a neighborhood share for tools and toys; a support group for mothers who have lost a child; and a program that utilizes storytelling to help people gain financial skills. 

The Advocates review all the applications and interview the applicants.

Once projects are selected, each recipient is paired with an Advocate for support. 

ECF provides back-office support.

In 2022, the Community Grants Program came back after a COVID hiatus. Once again, community members brought innovative ideas to the table.

As Holmes-Ross says, “The Community Grants Program works because we trust the community. We build relationships and meet the people where they are at.”

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Kim Holmes-Ross

DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT, EVANSTON CRADLE TO CAREER

Kim-Holmes-Ross.jpg“We started off wanting to build a community leadership team, where the community led, had a voice, and received leadership training. Then all of a sudden, different organizations said, ‘We need community voices too.’

The Advocates for Action were a model group to come in and provide community voices to boards and different organizations. They are trusted people in the community, so they were able to get into spaces and places where others couldn’t.

The Evanston Community Foundation came to us with the opportunity for this team to lead a community-building grants initiative. There were a few places doing them already, and we eventually landed on a model where the community creates the guidelines for the grants. 

The process is theirs—Advocates for Action. They own it. ECF and I are just here to support. They’ve funded several projects including a celebration of textured hair for young girls; the vision of a young guy who wanted to see more minorities in the game of golf; and a grief support group for moms who have lost their children. We are now in our fifth round and have awarded thousands of dollars to individuals who want to make their communities better.”