SB up to $2K Seed Funding Helps Local Kids
Dianne Anderson // —
Any free money is good money, and while $500 to $2,000 may not seem like a lot in today’s economy, some local organizations stretch those
dollars far and wide to help local kids keep on the straight and narrow.
Edwin Johnson with CHORDS at the Boys and Girls Club, said one of his first streams of funding, a $1,500 grant San Bernardino Countywide Gangs and Drugs Task Force, was just enough to get his program idea off the ground. He tapped those grants twice, which came in handy to upgrade their production system.
“The kids had the opportunity to use top notch studio equipment to produce their music. We also used it to buy tee shirts for branding so when the kids performed they had the same kinds of shirts,” said Johnson, founder and CEO of CHORDS Enrichment Youth Program.
Since CDBG grants are not available for city nonprofits this funding cycle, the fear is that kid-based programs will have to cut back on already dwindling local services. Several nonprofits are trying to work around the shortfall.
At one point, CHORDS expected to access CDBG funding, but he said at the last minute his program was denied.
“It’s really bad because there’s a lot of programs that relied on those monies to help the kids,” he said.
Since 2012 when he first started out with the small grant dollars, he has grown a successful program reaching school age teens to make music while raising the bar. He still gets smaller grants from various sources, primarily through the school district. Every little bit helps, he said.
This year, he works with about 300 kids, and tries to emphasize the positive. At the same time, it’s impossible to ignore back-to-back violence. He is concerned that local kids, although resilient, are becoming numb.
“You’d be surprised how these kids are going day to day like nothing is going on. It’s normal to them now to walk over a memorial site where a teenager was just killed,” he said.
His program provides an emotional outlet through music to strengthen their community bond and promote creativity. But, he said mentoring is the key to building the kids up so they won’t become victims.
Often, he hauls a bunch to church just because they ask. Recently, he got a text from one kid saying he’s tired of living the life he’s living.
“He’s tired of smoking weed, not doing anything with his life,” he said. “They just want positivity.”
Johnson works in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, where they are now accepting applications for the income-based summer program.
Terrance Stone, chair of the San Bernardino Countywide Gangs and Drugs Task Force, said that organizations or individuals looking to go after the grants do not have to be long established.
However, they must have a heart and a good plan to divert at-risk kids from drugs or gangs.
They are required to fill out the application, provide budget and documentation that most nonprofits already have on hand.
The mini-grant process is not very intensive. The grant is only available once annually per organization. Lately, he said they are giving out two to four grants per month.
A lot of recipients have used the money in creative ways to reach the kids.
“One program did a school tour speaking on anti-gang violence. We’ve had mentoring programs. We have people that need to get materials, a laptop or printers, or office supplies,” said Terrance Stone, also CEO of award-winning Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy.
Some programs are especially effective. He said they funded an Every 15 Minutes program, which hosts its promotional campaign during prom season to draw awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving. They’ve also funded several other successful local efforts, included the Young Women’s Empowerment Conference hosted annually at San Bernardino Valley College.
He said the seed money is available monthly and without competition. Grant availability depends on the budget, but he added that they have given out more grants than he’s seen in the ten years that he’s been on the Board.
Typically, they disperse up to four grants monthly.
The task force also works closely with the County Superintendent of Schools, and receives strong support from the community and agencies.
“We have these two giant agencies that are really backing it up and keeping it going,” Stone said.