Seattle handing out $1M in community-building grants

SEATTLE -- It's not quite the lottery, but Seattle is handing out more than $1 million to people who dream of building better neighborhoods.

Easy-use planter boxes are just one idea Mike Stringer and his friends used to turn a run-down lot into a community treasure. Neighbors were tired of the brush and broken fences bordering a city park, and they set out to create a multi-generational space.

"The park that was here already was really designed for young kids," Stringer said. "So they wanted something that would be good for older kids, teens, even up to senior citizens."

Stringer turned to the Neighborhood Matching Fund program to get the project going, and now the city is getting ready to distribute another round of grants.

"We're looking for people with good ideas," said Karen Gordon with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. "With the capacity and the capability to do a match, whether it's cash or volunteer labor or materials from a community business."

The program provides up to $100,000 for each community project that enhances a neighborhood.

Stringer's group used the money to construct a P-Patch with an art fence and benches.

"It's really grown a community," Stringer said of the project.

Grant money will soon transform a second lot into a sports courtyard.

"So you can play soccer, street hockey or basketball all in the same courtyard," Stringer said.

Another applicant used his grant to help immigrant families make a smoother cultural transition. The money bought camera equipment so children could document their family's stories as they adjust to life in America.

The city says the sky's the limit for the projects, so long as applicants match the money and build community in the process.

"It does really bring people together," Stringer said. "It gets people to be creative."

If you have an idea that needs money behind it, you can attend one of the two remaining workshops. The next is Tuesday evening at the Greenwood Library. The final workshop is on the 28th at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.
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