The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 31, 2012

Grants help fund dreams projects

MONTGOMERY — A group in Alderson dreams of one day transforming a historic high school in their town into a community arts center run on renewable energy. A recent grant from West Virginia Sustainable Communities provided funds for a feasibility study for the project.

Now, West Virginia Sustainable Communities (WVSC) is once again asking: What is your community’s dream for a sustainable future?

The group is making several grants of approximately $5,000 available to individuals, nonprofits, and local governments that want to hire professional help to advance their sustainability goals.

“These mini-grants give our communities in West Virginia a chance to see real progress and to envision what their communities could be,” said Jamie Durant, WVSC program coordinator.

“We hear a lot of communities say that they want change, that they want things to look better, nicer, but they don’t have the funding to do it.”

The mini-grants helped a group in Shinnston get an architectural consultation to determine how they could renovate a historic building to make it sustainable. A local food store in Huntington developed branding and marketing that raised awareness of how long food traveled to get to the store. Consultants conducted a workshop on deconstruction for at-risk young men from Wayne County.

The grants will pay for technical assistance only, including professional services such as architectural/engineering, marketing/branding and meeting facilitation. Construction, travel, printing, administrative, equipment and overhead expenses are not eligible.

Other examples of the kinds of projects these mini-grants are geared toward include:

n Architectural services to incorporate sustainable design and energy efficiency into an historical building renovation project

n Hiring a consultant to develop a business plan or feasibility study for a new recycling program

n Landscape design to incorporate water conservation, native vegetation and local art into a greenway, trail or community park project

n Engaging a professional facilitator for a sustainability planning process or to update an existing plan

n Hiring a consultant to develop a “buy local” campaign

“To get funding you have to have funding,” said Durant. “A lot of larger grants require matching funds. As such, we help communities attain that goal. This can be matching funds for a larger grant. This gives them a small, reachable goal right off the bat that sets them up for larger goals.”

Sometimes large grantmakers, for example, will require a feasibility study before they will consider a funding request. This mini-grant could help pay for such a report, setting an organization up to bite off the next piece of a big project.

“We help them achieve small, visible successes early on so that they can have the stamina and the drive to achieve larger successes later on,” said Durant.

Durant offers to work closely with applicants to write and edit their grant proposals; gather paperwork; and organize their thoughts.

WVSC also acts as a go-between among communities and technical assistance providers.

“We have a large list of sustainable resource providers who we’ve worked with in the past. They are basically vetted through us. So we can connect communities with these people in a way that helps them achieve their goals,” said Durant.

Durant says WVSC hopes to offer the mini-grants twice a year moving forward.

West Virginia Sustainable Communities was launched by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in 2006. Originally run by the West Virginia Community Development Hub, the program is now a part of the Bridgemont Sustainability Institute at Bridgemont Community and Technical College.

Individuals applying for the funds must be West Virginia residents. Nonprofits; grassroots organizations working with a nonprofit fiscal sponsor; local government agencies; and quasi-governmental entities are all eligible to apply.

Applications for the mini-grant are due Jan. 30, and the awards will be made in mid-February.

Durant will offer review and feedback on draft proposals until Jan. 15.

For more information on the grant program, contact Durant at 304-734-6710 or jdurant@bridgemont.edu.

For more information about West Virginia Sustainable Communities, visit http://www.facebook.com/SustainWV.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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