Local charities vying for grant money

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By Chloe Kiple
Entirely East Lansing

Laura Goddeeris, left, and her colleague, Amy, share a laugh before the Community Development Advisory Committee meeting March 14.

Laura Goddeeris, left, and her colleague, Amy, share a laugh before the Community Development Advisory Committee meeting March 14.

EAST LANSING — Over 90,000 adults in the greater Lansing area are functionally illiterate, or cannot read above a third grade reading level, according to the 2012 U.S. Census survey. This makes it difficult or impossible to complete daily tasks like reading food labels, pay stubs and the directions on a bottle of medicine.

The Capital Area Literacy Coalition seeks to empower adults and children with weekly reading tutor services.

“There’s not a lot of funding for [illiterate] adults,” said Di Clark, the assistant director of the Capital Area Literacy Coalition. “A lot of times the attitude is ‘they had their chance.’ The reality is, they probably didn’t.”

The group is one of many seeking money from the East Lansing Human Services General Fund Grant.

The East Lansing Community Development Advisory Committee is in charge of reviewing applicants for grant money. They met March 14 to approve this year’s funding recommendations.

Their recommendations, which have been discussed privately by the committee since December, will be sent to City Council, which will have the ultimate say in which groups will receive funding.

Typical grants hover near $5,000. The general fund has around $47,000 to award. Organizations vying for the money are child abuse prevention services, non-profit music therapy and education services, runaway youth assistance programs and homeless shelters, among others.

Darin Estep, the director of community engagement at the Lansing chapter of the Volunteers of America, said that grant funding would help support his organization’s efforts to create a one-stop center for homeless people. The project, called the “New Hope Day” center, would provide case management, employment and housing resources. The Lansing branch of Volunteers of America has 13 programs that helped nearly 5,000 individuals last year.

“You will find … community mental health, housing strategists, disability advocates and a medical practice on site, operated by Sparrow [hospital],” said Estep. “Those are all recovery-oriented services. The idea is getting some income and stability and working towards independence.”

Organizations filled out applications for funding in December. Since then, the Community Development Advisory Committee has met a few times to review and discuss the applications.The committee is composed of members from eight different city commissions.  Laura Goddeeris, committee member and Planning Commission representative, said it is difficult for the group to decide who to fund.

“Everybody brings their own perspective,” said Goddeeris. “Some years, you get really strong advocacy for youth services. Other years, it’s more housing or domestic issues.”

The committee approved its funding recommendations March 14. Now, the City Council will review the recommendations before ultimately voting on how to allocate the funds.

“There is a tendency to stretch the money so that everybody can get something,” said Goddeeris.

It will be a while until Clark and Estep find out if their organizations were awarded money. The Community Development Advisory Committee’s recommendations will come before City Council the second or third week of April, and the grants will be awarded shortly after.

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