Better Together Grants set five community improvement projects into action
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Posted by: Daniel Ostenso
The ROC Association Directors have awarded grants to five resident-owned communities for an array of neighborhood improvements in what proved to be the most competitive Better Together Grant season in the program’s six-year history.
“We were floored by the response this year and just so impressed by the work all those communities put into these applications,” said Natividad Seefeld, ROC Association Director for the Midwest Region. “While I wish we were able to fully fund each and every one of these requests, just reading about what all the ROCs are doing gets me excited and gives me ideas to think about for my own community.”
After a marked increase in applications in 2015, ROC USA increased the budget for the Better Together Grants from $4,000 to $10,000 in 2016. The ROC Association Directors, who administer the program and choose the winners, decided to increase the number of grants rather than increase the dollar amount of the individual awards. The 2016 grant program saw 18 ROCs from 10 states submit applications – a 40-percent increase over 2015.
“The fact that 10 percent of ROCs nationwide submitted applications shows that ROCs are becoming more connected – that’s the point really, to provide another example of ‘Better Together’,” said ROC USA President Paul Bradley, noting that applicant must tap non-Board members to lead these projects. “We built ROC USA to give individual ROCs the strength of a nationwide system.”
ROC Association Director Liz Wood, who represents the Mountain/West region, said the applications show the power of resident ownership and control.
“On the one hand, it’s a little sobering to see the needs of so many communities out there,” Wood said. “But on the other, it’s so gratifying to see that Boards able to take steps to improve their neighborhoods with these projects that might not otherwise be considered were it not for resident ownership.”
The Grant winners were:
· Deer Ridge Mobile Home Cooperative of Augusta, Maine. Deer Ridge will spend $2,800 to convert a small building inherited when the 12-home cooperative purchased in 2015 into a community building. The Board currently meets at the Treasurer’s house, and is looking for a dedicated meeting space and office for document storage and a professional feel for when visitors come. The project leaders have established a Community Building Team, priced out labor and materials, and lined up volunteers. They are consulting a fellow Maine ROC for resources to acquire donated furniture and supplies and plan to wrap up the project by summer’s end;
· Duvall Riverside Village of Duvall, Wash. DRV will spend $2,500 to install two banks of mailboxes, allowing its 25 households to receive mail in the community for the first time. Residents now must rent P.O. Boxes at the Duvall post office because of regulations prohibiting mail delivery residents in the downtown. But ROC leaders worked with the Postmaster to provide an exception to the rule, contingent upon installation of commercial mailbox structures. The grant will cover most of the costs for the mailboxes and cement, while the project team will line up volunteer labor to have the boxes in place by the end of September.
· Olde Towne Homeowners Cooperative of Allenstown, N.H. Olde Towne is undertaking a $5,400 project to replace the soon-to-be condemned mailboxes for its 93 homeowners. The local postmaster has told ROC leaders that if the boxes are not replaced soon, mail will no longer be delivered. Project leaders say they will replace the dilapidated mailbox and construct a building to house the replacements and protect them from the elements for years to come. They estimate work will take 4 to 6 weeks;
· Soda Brook Co-operative of Northfield, N.H. Soda Brook will spend $1,500 to replace its dilapidated message boards and improve the surrounding landscaping near the entrance to the community. The existing outdoor boards freeze up in winter and leak in summer. The project leaders will tap community volunteers for labor and tools, and plan to have the new signs up and landscaped by the end of September; and
· Wardtown Manufactured Home Cooperative of Freeport, Maine. Wardtown plans to renovate its office/community meeting space – a construction trailer that has seen better days. The $2,400 project will see the building leveled out, re-skirted and painted. The roof will be sealed and a wheelchair ramp built. Finally new flooring will be installed all in time for the annual barbecue in mid-August.
The ROC Association also made a $50 donation to each non-winning applicant and encourages each Board of Directors – and all Boards for that matter – to celebrate the volunteer efforts.
“Volunteers have to be recognized to be retained, and if you don’t have a culture of recognizing Members’ good efforts then your attempts to recruit will go unfulfilled,” said Kim Capen, Association Director representing the New England region.
He also said choosing Grant winners from among the many applicants was difficult. “It was tough,” Capen said. “In the end, it came down to the projects that we thought demonstrated the most need and would have the most meaningful impact on each ROC.”
The Better Together Grants have been awarded since 2011. Stay tuned to myROCUSA.org for the next round of grants, expected in spring 2017.