Community LIFT awarded nine micro-grants to support community improvement projects in three neighborhoods that the organization has selected for comprehensive redevelopment.
by Tarrin McGhee
Special to the Tri-State Defender
The recipients didn’t know what was coming, but they could not have been more pleased, even with advance notice.
| Community LIFT awarded nine micro-grants to support community improvement projects in three neighborhoods, with three winners each from the South Memphis, Binghampton and Frayser communities. (Courtesy photo)
Three winners each from South Memphis, Binghampton and Frayser communities were surprised by the announcement made at a reception and program dubbed for finalists by Community LIFT. It was an attempt to keep the winners a secret until the grants were awarded.
“It was a very competitive application process, and we wanted to do something fun to notify the winners,” said Eric Robertson, president of Community LIFT.
“The individuals and organizations who received the Uplift grants were all chosen for having innovative projects that will make a substantive impact in their communities once implemented.”
The grants are intended to enhance small-scale projects that support placed-based, grassroots community action activities; and promote neighborhood pride, cultural history, healthier living, sustainability, educational exposure, community peace and unity.
In February of this year, Community LIFT issued a request for proposals to community development corporations, neighborhood associations, community-based organizations, teachers, principals, and individuals within the South Memphis, Binghampton and Frayser communities.
Uplift grant winners include: Historic Broad Avenue Business Association; Binghampton resident Susan Kizzee; Give Youth a Chance; Fresh Start Life Inc.; Baby Feat; Lifeline to Success; Communities of Shalom; Venezia Spencer (teacher at Booker T. Washington High School); and Michele Mason (principal at Carver High School).
The projects that the Uplift grant recipients are leading address a variety of community needs and concerns. Among them, blighted homes will be painted along Sam Cooper, a new community garden will soon sprout in Binghampton, a book club and mentoring program for juvenile offenders will be established in Frayser, and field training for cosmetology students and assistance with job readiness will be provided to South Memphis residents.
“I was very encouraged and excited after receiving the Uplift grant,” said Minister Derek Flake, Founder of Fresh Start Life Inc. – a non-profit organization focused on improving literacy rates among urban youth in Frayser, and helping them to make positive life choices.
“The funds provide an opportunity to help prove the credibility of our organization and to build upon it,” Flake said.
Community LIFT was created on November 10, 2010 as a local community development intermediary to fill the void of scaled, comprehensive neighborhood redevelopment.
The organization serves as a clearinghouse to aggressively pursue access to and gain the trust of wider capital and political markets, with the purpose of channeling funding from public and private sources to make sound investments in resource-poor neighborhoods and community development organizations.
Community LIFT is the only intermediary of its kind in the city of Memphis.
Ashley Cash, program officer, said the Uplift grant initiative, sponsored by Regions Bank, was designed to provide project funding to grassroots groups, community organizations, and individuals that would otherwise find it difficult to obtain financial support.
“There are a lot of really great people working to do some great things in their neighborhoods who often confront challenges to getting their projects off of the ground,” said Cash.
“We know that the individuals that we have selected will put the funds to good use.”