The mayor's staff and the Akron Community Foundation have picked 17 ideas to receive a total of $200,000 in support from the first annual Beyond the Table Grant Award Program.

Formerly called the Neighborhood Partnership Program, the city overhauled the program in June to align private and federal funding with issues identified in small-group conversations facilitated through the Akron Community Foundation’s On the Table Greater Akron initiative.

The revamped grant program increased award amounts from as little as $500 to as much as $20,000. Applicants were advised to address three broad issues: diversity, equity and social inclusion; drugs and addiction; or youth development.

Thirty-four applications seeking $575,450 in funding were submitted in July through the Akron Community Foundation's website. With a budget of $200,000, the city and Akron Community Foundation narrowed the field to 17. City Council must approve of the final list of prospective winners. A vote was delayed until at least next week with questions about equity in the selection process.

Applicants included neighborhood groups, churches, mental health agencies and community activists. Some were rejected for an “underwhelming ... amount of information,” said James Hardy, who runs the mayor’s Office of Integrated Development.

Council asked for a breakdown of the proposed grant funding by ward and On the Table category. Hardy reminded the elected body that the new program guidelines they approved in June do not require the $200,000 to be evenly distributed across Akron's 10 wards.

“I’m a little concerned by looking at the list of requests and what was granted,” said Councilwoman Tara Samples, who represents some of the neighborhoods near downtown that have been ravaged by shootings. “We keep talking about youth violence in our community and I see quite a few people who applied for youth and gun violence awards and were given none at all. But we seem to have awarded farms and golf and art.”

“I’m not taking away from people who do farms and love art and that stuff," she continued. "But we have a serious issue in this community and seems like with this grant it was ignored. So I’d like to know what the standard was of giving out these awards."

“I don’t want anyone to think that gun violence was ignored,” said Hardy. “I think this first year was a learning experience for all of us and we can definitely improve.”

Hardy said the increased funding requests required more details on "how you are going to spend the funds and steward the funds and create programmatic impact.”

That level of grant-writing expertise can be a barrier for some organizations, particularly those with few resources or institutional connections, said Councilwoman Veronica Sims.

“It seems like we talk about this all the time,” Sims said, frustrated that assistance is not readily available.

Councilwoman Linda Omobien suggested that the city fund a position to help grant applicants for this and other opportunities. Hardy “pledged” that his office would “work to find someway to resource community-based support to increase capacity for grant writing.”

Pending council approval, the prospective award winners are:

• Akron Promise Inc. with $5,000 to support Kenmore-Garfield High School and the surrounding neighborhood.

• Antioch Baptist Church with $10,000 “to invigorate and support Akron neighborhood wellness and empowerment.”

• Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative (CANAPI) with $10,000 to support Akron Pride Festival.

• First Congregational Church of Hudson with $15,000 for a day of volunteerism in North Hill.

• He Brought Us Ministry with $10,000 for youth in wards 5 and 10.

• iN Education Inc. with $10,000 for youth art programming in West Akron.

• Living Water Association with $13,500 for the “growing justice summer program” in Cascade Valley.

• North Akron Community Development Corporation with $15,000 for Market House, an “intersectional women’s empowerment center.”

• Pastoral Counseling Service of Summit County (Red Oak Behavioral Health) with $18,000 to give social-emotional learning to Hyre CLC sixth-graders.

• Portage Path Community Mental Health (Portage Path Behavioral Health) with $20,000 to reduce the stigma and provide education around addiction recovery.

• Residents Improving Goodyear Heights Together (R.I.G.H.T.) with $10,000 for bi-monthly art classes for youth in Goodyear Heights.

• Shanti Community Farms with $13,500 for a Yard Corps project in North Hill.

• South Akron Youth Mentorship with $10,000 to help disadvantaged youth in southeast Akron.

• South Street Ministries with $10,000 for “Summit Lake & Kenmore Circles.”

• The Akron Leadership Foundation with $10,000 for Akron Cooperative Farms, a community garden in North Hill.

• The First Tee of Akron with $10,000 for the “DRIVE Further into First Tee” program.

• The Packard Institute Inc. with $10,000 to support veterans through recovery coach academy, continuing care and professional development.

 

Reach Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.