The Floreciente neighborhood is one of Moline’s historic downtown neighborhoods, full of vibrant people and promising businesses, and as a low-income neighborhood, it attracts a range of non-profit organizations eager to provide assistance. These non-profits provide a wide range of services including housing, education, child care, health care, and immigration assistance, but all these are programs to help individuals, with few to engage the community as a whole. Although individual assistance programs are an important part of revitalization efforts, a strong neighborhood also needs opportunities for its people to engage with and build up a sense of community cohesion.
To address this gap, Flourishing Communities set out to design a grants program where projects not only addressed individual needs, but included an element aimed at strengthening community cohesion in the Floreciente neighborhood. From November 2015 to February 2016, Global Communities reached out to with neighbors, business owners, and non-profits and convened meetings where these groups could interact with each other to discuss their vision for the future, possible interventions to advance this vision, and areas for collaboration in the community. Inspired by their ambitions for the Floreciente neighborhood, Global Communities was pleased to announce the requirements for their grants program in March 2016. The grants program allows non-profits, educational institutions, community organizations and other associations to apply for a wide range of grants, but each proposal needed to address a need previously-identified by the Floreciente neighborhood and include a community mobilization component. In addition, proposals must address one of the overarching objectives of the Flourishing Communities program: 1) to create an engaged, supportive and collaborative network of non-profits and policy- makers that rally their collective efforts to deliver strategic programs and services; 2) to empower residents and other stakeholders of Floreciente to implement strategic neighborhood revitalization projects, including social services; and 3) to facilitate economic development opportunities for small businesses and households in Floreciente by connecting them with the broader Quad Cities economy.
Since announcing the grants program, Flourishing Communities has awarded almost $325,000 to nine organizations, all of which will help strengthen the sense of community in the area, through art projects, cultural celebrations, rehabilitation efforts, and more (see chart above).
Although every grant provides an opportunity for community members to engage with each other, the following grants contain particularly interesting community mobilization components:
- Habitat for Humanity Quad Cities – Since most of the home repairs under this program require skilled labor (electricians, plumbers, etc.), homeowners cannot put in their required “sweat equity” hours into their own houses. As a result, Habitat has identified several projects on the same block that can be done with unskilled labor (driveways, sidewalks, painting, etc.) and homeowners from several repair projects are working together on these projects.
- Boys and Girls Club – A rarely used parking lot serves as an ideal location for members from the community to work with Boys and Girls Club students on a variety of community strengthening projects. For two consecutive summers, the space has been used to paint a mural depicting the history of the community, build fences to secure a safe play area for children, plant flower pots for distribution throughout the neighborhood, and install a new bus stop for the neighborhood.
- Moline Community Development Corporation (MCDC) – Repairs for the Lincoln-Irving/Stephen’s Park ball diamond, which allow youth from for both the Floreciente and Stephen’s Park neighborhoods to play ball in a local park. In addition, the Dad’s Softball Club in Moline now uses it for practice games. Students from Lincoln-Irving celebrated the opening of the ball diamond with a year-end field day.
- WQPT – A series of community discussions serve as a safe space for neighbors to explore current events and discuss how the community could come together to address such recent community challenges as school closings and declining voter turnout. The discussions will lead to interviews with a variety of neighbors to produce short clips for broadcast that will promote the history, culture, and diversity of the neighborhood.
Unlike other donors who award grants and walk away because not all the grantees have a strong background in community development and organizing, Flourishing Communities remains an active participant in programming, monitoring activities and providing feedback to the non-profits to ensure the grant money maximizes opportunities for neighbors to collaborate and strengthen the Floreciente community as a whole.
Flourishing Communities released a second call for proposals at the end of 2016. Awards are made on a “first come, first served” basis, and Flourishing Communities anticipates awarding another $200,000 in grants, for a grant total of more than $500,000 for the duration of the program.
Funded by the John Deere Foundation through May 2018, the Flourishing Communities program is working in Floreciente to create long-lasting, community-led change by organizing and educating residents and business owners to participate in community and economic development decisions affecting their neighborhood. For more information on our programs in Moline, Illinois, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.globalfloreciente.org.