SCHENECTADY -- The Schenectady Foundation is looking for a different approach to fostering neighborhood improvement projects.
On Tuesday, the charitable organization will host an information session at the Electric City Barn, 400 Craig St. -- the former location of the Boys & Girls Club -- about a new initiative called Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge.
The effort aims to improve neighborhoods through projects borne out of ideas from the residents who live in them.
Rob Carreau, executive director of the Schenectady Foundation, said the hope is to generate community engagement, because no one knows the city’s different neighborhoods better than residents.
“That’s what makes it a little different,” Carreau said of the Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge. “We’re really trying to get down to the grassroots level and really get people who live in it, and know what their challenges are in their neighborhoods, to come together and think about what they can do.”
The initiative is being launched with the help of $100,000 awarded through the city’s Community Development Block Grant funding, which originates with the federal Housing and Urban Development.
The City Council approved the allocation during its July meeting.
Carreau said his organization is gathering more funding from private organizations to make the project possible. They will share how much they will have to dole out different neighborhood projects, how residents can apply for funding and how funds will be awarded during Tuesday’s meeting.
The hope is to make the Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge a continual self-sustaining effort through various private funding sources.
The fact that the effort can be supported through both public and private funding is important to Carreau. But he also will look to gain expertise from private organizations that get involved with the projects.
“The potential there is that [Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge] becomes more sustainable, instead of a one-source kind of effort,” Carreau said. “You diversify who is at the table -- not just from the financial standpoint, but with the human intellectual capital that can strengthen it.”
Kristin Diotte, the city’s director of development, said the city will look to play more of a supportive role in the effort. It will be able to help facilitate community meetings and provide guidance on what will be feasible, she said.
“That’s what the beauty of this relationship is,” Diotte said. “I really see this as as a partnership with the foundation, the city and other stakeholders.”
Though specifics about the project have yet to be revealed, the initiative already has some neighborhood leaders excited.
Laurie Bacheldor, president of the collaborative group of city neighborhood association leaders known as Schenectady United Neighborhoods, said Tuesday's meeting will be an opportunity to hear from residents from all over the city. She said she is happy that the foundation is willing to hear the needs of the neighborhoods and put into action different projects aimed at improving them.
Bacheldor also likes the fact the funding won't come from a government entity, referring to efforts to raise private funding.
“Anytime you get into governmental funding streams, they are driven by procedures and policies,” Bacheldor said. “Sometimes, the creativity for projects isn’t able to happen.”
Pat Smith, president of the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, said she already has run some ideas by the foundation, including splash pads for kids during the summer or new basketball courts.
Smith said she is excited by the opportunity, and others should be, as well.
“People need to get involved,” Smith said. “We want to hear from you.”
The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.