In December 2017, the Ruth Mott Foundation held two community forums to solicit feedback from residents and community members about our work to date after we shifted our focus to north Flint in late 2015.
Our query to participants was threefold: What are we doing right? What could be improved? What questions do you have for us?
We promised to compile the feedback and report back to participants, and below you will find a summary of the results. Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who participated. Across both forums there were about 170 attendees who engaged in earnest and provided thoughtful comments and concerns.
At the Ruth Mott Foundation, we recognize that getting regular feedback helps us continuously improve our work and improve outcomes in our north Flint focus area. As we continue to make grants here in the years to come, we pledge to connect with north Flint residents and use their ideas in our strategies. Our commitment to north Flint is a commitment to always listen to the people who live and work here every day.
When the Ruth Mott Foundation shifted to focus on north Flint in 2015, we held a series of forums in which we asked residents to identify their top priorities. At the time, Youth was overwhelmingly No. 1 on the list and, accordingly, we adopted Youth as our own top priority. We were gratified to learn at our December forums that this is still a priority for the community, illustrated by participants’ inclusion of Youth under what we’re doing right AND what could be improved. We, too, recognize that while we have made great strides toward fostering interventions designed to improve outcomes for young people in north Flint, there is still much work to be done. We remain committed to continuing to serve Youth as our top program area. We were also pleased that residents recognize that community engagement is critical to our work, and that we’re on track with our north Flint strategic focus.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we received from residents at the community forums.
How do you find out more information on obtaining grants? There are several ways to learn about how to apply for a grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation. We hold regular information sessions at our downtown office, 111 E. Court Street, Suite 3C (Plaza One Building at the corner of Court and Harrison Streets). At these sessions, program staff review the Foundation’s strategic plan, evaluation expectations, and grant application process. There is time for attendees to ask questions during the session and members of the program team are available to discuss grant proposal ideas after all sessions. Information session dates are listed on our website calendar, posted on Facebook and sent to anyone who has asked to be on our mailing list via email newsletters. You can also find information on what we fund, grant application guidelines, application deadlines, and helpful resources such as evaluation and Applewood in the Grants section of our website under What We Fund.
We encourage and welcome anyone who believes their project is a good fit with the Foundation’s funding priorities and values to start by talking with one of the program team members listed below.
Do you need to be a non-profit? Grants are awarded to non-profit 501(c)3 organizations and to other qualifying tax-exempt entities such as schools, units of government, hospitals, and religious institutions. We do not make grants to individuals. If your organization does not have 501(c)3 status but wishes to propose a project, talk to one of our program team members to learn about your options.
How are you helping the youth? We heard from north Flint residents that youth matter and are their top priority. As a result, youth are the Ruth Mott Foundation’s top funding priority and grant proposals for programs serving youth must address the strategies north Flint residents identified: youth development outside of school time; job training or employment; or parenting education or daycare support. Since the beginning of our strategic plan, we have awarded the most grants and the most funding to organizations and programs serving north Flint youth. As of March 2018, we have awarded 56 grants in the youth category totaling $3,381,254.
Have you reached out to all of the youth in north Flint? How do we integrate the youth voice? Engaging youth in north Flint is an ongoing process and priority for the Ruth Mott Foundation. During the Foundation’s strategic planning process, we surveyed over 800 Summer Youth Initiative teens for their input (42% of whom were from north Flint), including what they felt were the biggest problems facing youth in the community and what resources are most needed by their families and the community. When we held community forums in 2015 and 2016 to ask residents about their priorities related to our north Flint focus, we reached out directly to youth by holding forums at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Flint and Northwestern High School. To encourage youth participation at the forums we hosted in December 2017, we partnered with a number of Flint’s youth-serving organizations to help us get the word out about the forums and we contacted youth directly to invite them to attend.
In 2017, the Foundation engaged more than 100 north Flint youth through focus groups and a youth survey to gather information about what motivates them to participate in community change, the type of community change activities they like to engage in, and the barriers that prevent them from getting involved. We heard that young people need youth development and leadership supports, skills training, learn by doing projects to apply the skills they learn, and community collaboration to address specific community concerns/issues. We are using this information as we evaluate grant applications and are sharing what we heard from youth with community organizations that work with youth to inform their programming. Also this year, the Foundation is partnering with community-based organizations and neighborhood groups serving north Flint residents to engage youth and young adults (ages 14 to 23) in a youth development and youth leadership program to provide opportunities to build their confidence and capacity to become active community leaders. If you would like to learn more about this youth engagement, please contact Tryphena Clarke, the Foundation’s Community Engagement Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 810-396-3416.
Is there a job corps program for youth? Yes. The Flint-Genesee Job Corps Center is located at 2400 N. Saginaw St. It offers career technical and academic training to young people ages 16 to 24. These skills are meant to help youth become employable and independent and place them in jobs or further education. For more information and eligibility, please contact them at 1-800-733-JOBS (1-800-733-5627/1-877-889-5627 TTY) or through their website at https://flintgenesee.jobcorps.gov/.
The Ruth Mott Foundation also supports youth employment by awarding grants to organizations that equip young people with job skills and help them find a job. Examples of organizations that provide these opportunities include the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce’s Summer Youth Initiative, Faith Foundation Resources, and Flint STRIVE.
How do you support redevelopment to build continuity through vacant spaces/neighborhoods with lots of demolition? One way the Ruth Mott Foundation supports stabilizing and improving Flint neighborhoods is through a two-year Neighborhood Planning Initiative (NPI) grant awarded to the City of Flint’s Planning Division. The city’s planning staff has been working with residents in several neighborhoods to develop block- and neighborhood-specific plans and strategies to improve quality of life and restore vibrancy in the community. So far, these groups in our north Flint focus area have completed Imagine Flint Neighborhood Plans: Ballenger Highway Neighborhood Association, Brownell Holmes Expansion Neighborhood, and Eastside Franklin Park Neighborhood Association.
Neighborhood plans are meant to provide detailed strategies and action items that reflect resident needs and goals, are tailored to specific residential areas, and provide a framework for future investments. The plans highlight ways to invest in every type of neighborhood—whether a traditional neighborhood with a high level of density, or a green neighborhood with bigger lots and gardens where individual homes once stood. Each group has identified neighborhood revitalization projects that are at various stages of completion. Funding to implement these projects is coming from a variety of sources, including the Ruth Mott Foundation (NPI and other grants), City of Flint CDBG (Community Development Block Grant allocation), Community Foundation of Greater Flint (Neighborhood Small Grants program), Genesee County Habitat for Humanity (Flint BRAND grants), and private businesses.
Another way the Foundation supports neighborhoods is through grants to neighborhood centers/hubs. The Flint Development Center, for example, is located in the former Bunche school. In addition to general operating support for the Flint Development Center, the Foundation provided a loan guarantee to Evergreen Community Development Initiative for a loan to complete the first phase of the building’s renovations. Other redevelopment proposals are currently being reviewed by the Foundation for consideration by our board.
Neighborhoods are one of the Ruth Mott Foundation’s grantmaking priorities and we welcome proposals that align with resident voiced strategies: neighborhood centers/community schools; neighborhood engagement supports; and quality and affordable housing.
What are we doing for blight?
Addressing blight was a key public safety strategy that residents identified and the Ruth Mott Foundation supports organizations that provide the groundwork for residents to clean up and care for vacant properties. One of these programs is Keep Genesee County Beautiful, which is managed by Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission. Resident volunteers logged more than 29,000 hours helping to keep neighborhoods and parks clean last year and Keep Genesee County Beautiful supported more than 500 clean-ups. Another large-scale program addressing blight is the Genesee County Land Bank’s Clean and Green initiative. The Foundation’s grant to the Land Bank supports stipends for community groups to mow and maintain vacant land in their area. Together, almost 60 groups teamed up to take care of 3,265 vacant lots in 2017. Not only do these efforts improve the look and feel of a neighborhood, they can improve the safety too. A University of Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center study looked at crime rates along 662 streets that had a Clean and Green program compared to similar streets that did not. It found that the Clean and Green areas had 30 percent fewer assaults and 40 percent less violent crime overall.
Resident-led groups are helping to make the difference for blight in north Flint. The North Flint Neighborhood Action Council, as one example, has mobilized volunteers to cut brush, mow lawns, board houses, and clear sight lines as part of a “learn by doing” project. After learning about crime prevention though environmental design (CPTED), they applied CPTED principles to a multi-block area. Making such a visible commitment to the neighborhood inspired others to become involved too.
Grantmaking is one way that we support resident priorities, but it is not the only way. Foundation staff based at Applewood provide technical help on projects designed to reclaim and revitalize vacant places. One recent example is the rose garden and seating area installed in 2017 at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Genesee Street. Applewood staff worked alongside members of the MLK Plus neighborhood group to plan, design, and implement the garden project. Applewood has also helped neighbors on Flint’s east side work on converting empty lots into fruit orchards. Repurposing land in a Green Neighborhood is one way that residents can transform what used to be a source of blight into a source of beauty and sustenance for the neighborhood.
Yes. North Flint residents identified small business development/support as one of the strategies within their economic opportunity priority. The Ruth Mott Foundation has already made some grants to focus on supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs in north Flint and continues to work actively on others. Our work has included helping existing businesses, helping upcoming businesses get off to a good start, and working with non-profit organizations on social enterprises. Knowing that access to fresh food is a particular need identified by residents, the Foundation made a grant to the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce for the Flint Grocer Improvement Program. It provided capital for four existing grocery stores (Hutchinson Food and Drug, Mr. B’s Foodland, the Local Grocer, and Landmark Food Center) to make changes to their operations, grounds and facilities to improve access to fresh, healthy food. The Foundation has also awarded funds to assist with the preparation work involved with two new grocery stores – the North Flint Reinvestment Corporation’s co-op grocery planned for Pierson Road (where residents who contribute financially will own the grocery store), and the Fresh Start Grocery planned by Fresh Start CDC.
We recognize that entrepreneurship is another avenue for supporting business growth and investment. Residents are perceptive and have ideas about what services are needed in their neighborhoods. Combining that knowledge with technical support and access to capital can be one way to meet community needs while providing economic benefit. The Foundation has partnered with groups such as Flint SOUP to provide opportunities and support to people starting new businesses. In other cases, the Foundation has funded programs such as the commercial sewing job training program at St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center, which has developed a business sewing apparel and air filters that employs north Flint women who have been structurally unemployed.
The Foundation has also been intentional about patronizing north Flint businesses. Being deliberate about the caterer we choose for a community event, for example, is a small but important indication of our commitment to encourage north Flint businesses.