Schenectady County

Groups eager to get hands on share of $2 million in Golden Grants

Representatives from community organizations filled the McChesney Room at the Schenectady County Pub

Representatives from community organizations filled the McChesney Room at the Schenectady County Public Library on Tuesday, eager to learn how they could apply for $2 million in grant money.

The funds are being offered by The Schenectady Foundation in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

The grants, which represent a significant increase from the charitable trust’s past annual contributions, were announced in April.

Half of the grant money will be dedicated to a single project designed to be transformational for the community. The second $1 million will be divided into smaller grants, including ones to seed innovative projects, to recognize outstanding community leadership and to support young community leaders.

Attendees had aspirations that ranged from obtaining the $1 million grant to walking away with just a small portion of the funds being offered.

Peg Miller, grant writer for the Schenectady Home Furnishings Program, which provides furniture and housewares to the needy, said she wanted to apply for money to purchase more beds.

“That’s such a basic need, and so many people do not even have beds enough for their children,” she said.

According to Miller, during the past several years, Home Furnishings has raised between $8,000 and $10,000 to buy beds for those who can’t afford to purchase their own.

“Last year we provided 470 beds to the community, so we’d be looking to move it up toward 1,000,” she said.

Representatives from the City Mission of Schenectady were also in attendance Tuesday. Executive Director Mike Saccocio outlined his vision for a transformative project that will involve a wide range of community organizations. The focus will be on helping people get out of poverty and then thrive, he said.

“It’s got to bring together health care, business, education, social, government, faith-based, arts and entertainment,” he explained. “It’ll be a big focus on building indigenous leaders, recognizing that the best hope for transformation in our communities is not from folks coming from the outside but from the folks who live there, who work there, are raising children — that they become the stakeholders, they become leaders of the transformative movement.”

The newly formed Schenectady Tenants Association Meeting Program was also represented at Tuesday’s meeting. Organizer Deborah Rembert said she hopes to secure grant money to help the program become more efficient.

“I’m wanting to get a grant to help us to organize better, to reach out more to the public to see if we can help get people doing better in their housing situations and possibly people trying to purchase houses — being homeowners instead of renters,” she said.

The first grant ever provided by The Schenectady Foundation was $250, given to the Schenectady YMCA back in 1963.

That organization was represented at Tuesday’s meeting by Cheryl Hardcastle, regional aquatics director, and Donna Gigone, executive director of the Greater Glenville YMCA.

Gigone said she would like to obtain money to use for teen programs and urban initiatives.

“We’re actually working on getting some of the Schenectady [summer] camp kids out to Glenville so they can experience what we have out there — our trails and our campfire and archery,” she said.

Young people are also the focus of the Salvation Army’s latest initiative.

“We have a new vision just to strengthen our services and be a better community partner for children and families,” said Syreeta Garbarini, regional social service director for the organization.

Garbarini said she wasn’t quite sure what the Salvation Army’s grant proposal would involve, but she was eager to gather information about the process.

Meeting attendees received a 19-page packet detailing the grants being offered and instructions on how to write a proposal.

Robert Carreau, The Schenectady Foundation’s executive director, urged applicants to take their time in the application process.

“I think sometimes you see grant opportunities come up … they get pushed out and then everyone has 30 days to scramble to put something together and honestly, I think that sometimes you’re not getting people’s best work under those circumstances,” he said. “We do have a plan and we have a time frame, but we’re not putting specific deadlines around it. We want people to come to us when they’re ready.”

Financial commitments are slated be made by June 2014.

Carreau also encouraged applicants to share their project ideas with the foundation before proposals are officially submitted and to think about collaborations with other organizations.

The Schenectady Foundation holds $32 million in assets exclusively dedicated to the well-being of Schenectady County residents. Most of the money comes from trusts, wills and estate plans.

Since its inception, the foundation has granted $16 million for community programs and scholarships. It also established the Rebuilding Families Fund in response to the devastation caused locally by tropical storms Irene and Lee and helped more than 75 families restore their homes.

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