2011 Promising Projects

The projects listed below, from grants awarded last year, provide examples of "on-target" proposals in each of the Foundation's grantmaking program areas that seem to hold promise of high impact if implemented as planned.

Community Capital Projects

Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan - $40,000

www.wrcnm.org

The challenges associated with raising adequate, reliable funding to support the prevention of domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse have led the Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan (WRC) to a thoughtful combination of funding sources that emphasize earned income. The philanthropic funds they secured for this project were leveraged to support the acquisition and renovation of a vacant building for use as the permanent home to their second community resale/thrift store.

Located on U.S. 31 just north of Petoskey, the new Gold Mine North thrift store, like its sister store, the Gold Mine South, will generate unrestricted income for programs that, while highly valued by clients, have proved a challenge to fund in a sustainable way. WRC’s use of a capital project to improve the long-term financial sustainability of their organization and ultimately the self –sufficiency of their clients, help attract Frey Foundation funding.

Encouraging Civic Progress

Grand Action Foundation - $1,000,000

www.grandaction.org

Grand Action Foundation is leading an effort to build a LEED-certified, year-round farmers market (Market) along a stretch of the southern downtown Grand Rapids poised for redevelopment. The planned two-story, 140,000 square-feet Market will replace a cluster of six buildings that are long past their prime. The 3.5-acre site will feature permanent space for more than 50 seasonal vendors and parking for more than 200 vehicles. Inside the Market will boast 2 restaurants, a banquet hall, and more than 20 specialty food vendors.

Once complete, the Market is expected to become a regional hub for the production, distribution and sales of locally grown and produced food; and over a ten-year period generate 1,270 jobs and $775 million of regional economic impact. The potential to help revitalize the surrounding neighborhood while stimulating significant regional economic activity aligns with the priorities of the Enhancing Civic Progress grantmaking focus area.

Midtown Neighborhood Association - $230,000

www.midtowngr.org

In response to stakeholder input and market demand, the Midtown neighborhood Association (Midtown) is leading the revitalization of the Fulton Street Farmers Market (Market), improving its efficiency, accessibility and ultimately its economic impact on the surrounding neighborhood as well as the greater Grand Rapids area.

The new Market will provide increased vending opportunities from current 80-stall capacity to 118 stalls, improved signage, entrance, exit and traffic flow, and add a single story ‘head house’ to accommodate 8-12 stalls for year-round vending.

A strong performer, the seasonal open-air Market provides a direct marketing environment for produce and other farm fresh food and crafts, attracting more than 8,000 visitors per week in season and significant revenue for the farmers and crafters who vend from the site. Investment in the improvement of anchor organizations within older neighborhoods is priority of Civic Progress grantmaking.

Enhancing the Lives of Children and Their Families

Ready for School - $120,000

www.readyforschool.org

Ready for School (R4S), a private-sector led community collaborative, seeking to narrow the burgeoning regional talent gap by advancing a dramatically improved community system of early care and education initiatives that strongly influence school readiness. During just three years of operation, the R4S effort has led to promising improvements in the health and literacy of the young children. Going forward, R4S plans to expand resources and services targeted to successful parenting, improve existing child and parent-centered programming, and scale outreach efforts that mitigate risk factors related to early care and education affordability and accessibility.

Near term, the R4S initiative is expected to lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public and private sector resources. Long term, R4S intends to refine the region’s workforce pipeline, such that the region’s companies that rely on skilled employees can anticipate a future applicant pool that is better prepared for the rigors of the workplace. Readiness for success in school through coordinated early care and education systems is a core element of the Frey Foundation investments on behalf of young children.

The Manna Project, Inc. - $21,000

www.mannafoodproject.org

An alarming number of Emmet, Charlevoix, and Antrim county children arrive at school each Monday having eaten little or nothing over the weekend, compromising their ability to learn and mange their behavior. The Manna Food Project (Manna) received grant support to expand the Food 4 Kids Backpack program that distributes discreet backpacks containing shelf-stable, nutritious food that can help sustain low-income children over the weekend, when they don’t have access to free and reduced meal programs.

Manna serves as the food bank warehouse for 35 northern Michigan pantries and agencies to help distribute more than 2 million pounds of food annually. During the school year, Manna works in partnership with educators to identify eligible children to distribute the backpacks on Friday afternoons as the children go home for the weekend. During the periods when schools are closed, Manna collaborates with several area food pantries as distribution sites to continue feeding chronically hungry children during extended breaks and summer recess. Food security plays an important role in school readiness and academic performance for young children and therefore integral to Frey Foundation grantmaking.

Nurturing Community Arts

Dog Story Theater - $10,000

www.dogstorytheater.com

Operating since 2007, Dog Story Theater is an all-volunteer run nonprofit that provides an affordable, flexible venue for performing artists in the Greater Grand Rapids region to produce their work. They fill a unique niche in offering affordable rehearsal and performance space for fledgling acting companies who do not have or need a permanent home of their own. The also act as an incubator offering back-of house business, box-office and maintenance services and are inclusive of all genres, experience levels, size of show and audience levels. In 2010, they hosted 92 different shows, working with 58 local performing groups – most of which have been in existence for 2 years or less.

Dog Story Theater is at a critical point in their growth. In order to continue to grow and stabilize their operations, they need to focus on donor development and also have an opportunity to expand their rental income through some modest improvements of their leased facility. They have a three year plan to sustainability.

Having access to low-cost performance space including back-of house management is a critical component in the startup of an artist or arts organization’s development. This grant will support Dog Story Theater’s unique and valuable role in the emerging artist community and speaks to the importance of having a vibrant and diverse arts community which includes easy entry points for those artists at the beginning stages of developing their work. Structuring the grant as a partial challenge is intended to help them grow their donor base and meet their sustainability and improvement goals.

Interlochen Center for the Arts - $80,000

www.interlochen.org

Interlochen Center for the Arts is made up of 4 main components - high school, summer camp, public radio and community workshops and classes. The summer arts camp, its flagship component, has recently undergone extensive restructuring focused on increasing programs and instructional focus, thus placing a greater demand on Interlochen’s facilities. A desire to more effectively engage with its 25,000 annual visitors also exists. To address these needs and a desire to showcase a new annual professional theatre (Shakespeare) initiative, Interlochen is moving forward with the construction of a new, intimate-scale seasonal performance pavilion on the north end of its campus.

Construction of a new 500-seat outdoor pavilion with stage, restrooms, green room and removable (sprung) dance floor will create a home for Interlochen’s new, and very popular, Shakespeare professional theatre series making it the only professional theatre available in the region. In addition, the new space allows for program expansion and more appropriate space for performances such as acoustic jazz, poetry readings and summer dance concerts which would benefit from a more intimate setting.

Support for this regional facility typifies the Foundation’s interest in funding capital projects of arts organizations which are broadly supported and help an institution to support its efforts to increase earned revenue and grow program offerings while providing its audience with a higher quality experience. The project is also supported by an endowment which assures its ongoing maintenance.

Protecting the Environment

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks - $75,000

www.friendsofgrparks.org

Continued disinvestment by the City of Grand Rapids (City) in its Parks and Recreation Department combined with a nearly non-existent civic engagement strategy have contributed to the steady decline in the quality of parks and public spaces in the City. This has presented an opportunity for the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (Friends) to partner with the Parks and Recreation Department and energize the Adopt-a-Park program by implementing a new and more robust program – Parks Alive. Parks Alive will identify and proactively recruit and manage new volunteers and private sponsors, have well-defined guidelines and incentives for participation and create a more sustainable support system for community efforts to protect and enhance the parks and public spaces in Grand Rapids. The Parks Alive program is not intended to replace the City’s services but to enhance and improve their quality for the long-term and introduce a new management model for achieving these outcomes.

A robust, well-managed volunteer corps who care about the City’s parks combined with a growing list of corporate and individual donors are keys to the long term success of the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and, indeed, the success of the community’s park system. This funding provides the framework to grow both of these constituencies and is a good example of the Frey Foundation’s interest in the expansion of parks as a way of connecting with community, building strong urban neighborhoods and protecting the natural environment.

Trout Unlimited - $21,500

www.tu.org

Observation indicates that Michigan’s trout and salmon anglers are among the most passionate of outdoor enthusiast, routinely spending thousands of dollars annually in pursuit of their quarry. They also play an important role within the conservation community, often mobilizing around resource-related issues and in turn significantly impacting legislation. However, despite the very real economic impact these fishermen and women confer on the state, very little is known about their needs, preferences, and behavior. To that end, Trout Unlimited will be conducting a survey which will provide baseline data about the attitudes and preferences regarding fisheries management and regulation and the economic impact of this sub-set of Michigan anglers. The interpretation and evaluation of this data will facilitate future resource management decisions and related appropriations that can be suitably awarded to ensure the best possible stewardship of the state’s valuable fisheries.

The appropriate use and management of the state’s coldwater fisheries and knowledge of the economic benefits that this segment of recreation provides should be factors in maximizing the resource while balancing its protection. The project lines up with the Foundation’s interest in preserving the water quality in western and northern Michigan’s streams and rivers.

Strengthening Philanthropy

Grand Rapids Community Foundation - $30,000

www.grfoundation.org

Kent County nonprofit organizations that have been in existence for at least two years, and with annual budgets of at least $50,000 and no more than $2 million have access to technical assistance through the Grand Rapids Community Foundation administered, Kent County Nonprofit Technical Assistance Fund (Fund). Grants of $1,000 to $10,000 are available to local nonprofit to hire a consultant to assist with meeting specific technical or organizational needs. Examples of eligible activities include organizational assessment, strategic planning, board development, technology assessments and planning, fund development planning, financial management assessment, and marketing plans.

Investment in the Fund results in improved levels of technical assistance expertise participating nonprofits, improved efficiency and strengthen organizations to the benefit of the broader community.

Promising Projects Archives

Promising Projects from 2011

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