Shawnee applies for Love Your Block grant

Shawnee Town Commissioners recently voted to go ahead with a grant program application that, if received, could help fund projects in local neighborhoods.

Sara Dame, grant writer at the Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency (COCAA), presented information to the commissioners at Monday night’s meeting.

According to Dame, the Love Your Block Grant is an “impact volunteering grant program provided by the John Hopkins Cities of Service program that supports volunteer-powered projects that address local public issues. The grant program will aim to help cities partner with community groups and activate resident volunteers to repair, mediate or fight the scourge in their neighborhoods. “

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If Shawnee is able to receive the two-year grant, Dame said the city would receive:

• $ 20,000 per year in funding to implement the program and for volunteer-led mini-grant projects;

• $ 30,000 per year in funding to support a local full-time Love Your Block member in the community; and

• Funding of up to two AmeriCorps Vistas (Volunteers in Service to America) each year to help with grant work.

Some of the projects that would be eligible activities to be implemented under the grant, Dame said, include:

• Activation of vacant lots or empty storefront buildings;

• Neighborhood cleaning;

• Transform vacant lots into dynamic community spaces;

• Educational action;

• Competency-based support for individuals in community groups;

• Basic code compliance repairs for homes; and

• Remunerate local partners.

Dame said the grant cannot be used for block parties or faith-based organizations.

Tentatively, Dame said Shawnee’s plan is to focus on businesses, residents and streets south of Independence Street; partner with Community Renewal to use their existing block leader, We Care team members and the neighborhood building model; and the implementation of neighborhood clean-up activities.

“How the city decides to implement the mini-grants, whether it is businesses or local residents, will have to be determined once staff are hired,” Dame said. “They will develop this process.

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If Shawnee receives the grant, Dame said, the city’s responsibilities include hiring the Love Your Block Fellow, oversight, tax oversight and reporting.

She added that the fellow can be employed full time or on contract. However, if the city chooses to hire the fellow as a full-time employee, the city will need to provide an additional approximately $ 14,200 per year for benefits and taxes.

The grant application is due by August 9 and she said the city will receive a notification if it receives the grant by September 1. If Shawnee is selected, the grant agreements are fully executed from October 1 to 29, with the Love Your Block Fellow starting November 1 and the AmeriCorp Visita or Vistas starting in November.

“They intend that you can start implementing the projects in early 2022,” she said.

Only eight cities receive the grant, and Dame said she was not sure whether Shawnee would be selected as one of them.

“In the past, they only opened it to people who were already members. And so this is the first year that they’ve opened it up to other people who were already members of the Cities of Service Coalition, ”she said. “So I don’t think they even know how many people are going to apply. “

Ward 2 Commissioner Bob Weaver asked if citizens were required to participate.

– No, said Lady. “Although we want citizens to be involved in determining how we are going to implement this. There is no requirement for citizens to be involved in the coalition, but if we get this funding we want to be able to get citizens to participate and volunteer to help their neighbors determine where we are. have to focus that.

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Ward 3 Commissioner Travis Flood made a motion to apply for the grant, seconded by Ward 4 Commissioner Darren Rutherford and the commissioners in attendance. voted unanimously in favor of the motion. Ward 1 Commissioner Daniel Matthews was absent from the meeting.

After the vote to apply for the grant, the city also voted to become a member of the John Hopkins Cities of Service Coalition. Being an active member of the coalition is a condition of eligibility to receive the grant.

“The Cities of Service is a group of cities across the country that is helping mayors build stronger cities by changing the way local government and residents work together,” Dame said.

Dame said membership in the coalition requires Shawnee to participate in bi-monthly conference calls and learning opportunities, as well as an invitation to an annual meeting where members can network.

“It’s mostly a commitment on your part,” she told Mayor Ed Bolt.

“I have no problem doing it if we can help some neighborhoods. Absolutely, ”Bolt said.

Rutherford put forward a motion to join the coalition, seconded by Ward 5 Commissioner Mark Sehorn, and the commissioners voted 6-0 in favor of the motion.

In the Commissioner’s comments later in the meeting, Flood praised Dame for her work.

“Three weeks ago she found out about this,” he said. “So it wasn’t something that we had been sitting around that we just decided to continue on. It happened to us so long ago, and she was able to give a pretty awesome presentation and launch the app. is something to recognize.

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