The City of Allentown is awarding mini-grants totaling nearly $7,000 to nine community groups to revitalize city blocks. Mayor Ed Pawlowski made the award announcement at a news conference in City Council Chambers, attended by representatives of many of the applicants. These grants echo the continual focus of the mayor’s office to engage new groups in Allentown and emphasize social responsibility.
According to Pawlowski, “This ‘Love Our City’ program builds on our Quality of Life initiative, my neighborhood walks, the Neighborhood Improvement Ordinance and the Allentown Police Department’s community policing strategy all of which encourage proactive public nuisance abatement. The grant initiative proposes to increase resident participation as a way to sustain neighborhood attractiveness, safety, and resident quality of life by engaging volunteer residents in low risk, high impact neighborhood improvement projects.”
Allentown allocated the funding for this first round of grants from the $25,000 Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund grant awarded to the city last December. The Cities of Service model focuses on impact volunteering – volunteer strategies that target community needs, use best practices, and set clear, measurable outcomes to gauge progress. Dozens of cities across the nation have adopted the model since its introduction in 2009.
Grantee cities were selected based on the quality of initiative proposals, scale and potential for impact, and caliber of implementation plans, among other criteria. Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund initiatives address issues in the Cities of Service priority areas of education and youth, health, neighborhood revitalization, preparedness and safety, sustainability, and veterans. One of 23 cities to receive this type of funding out of 60 applicants, Allentown plans to utilize its base of volunteers and equip them with staff support and mini-grant dollars as they resolve identified neighborhood issues and replace the blight with beautification projects to be completed by July 15.
The “Love Our City” initiative engages individuals where they live, work and worship and provides a sense of ownership by having residents take control of neighborhood issues. The program expands on the mayor’s Quality of Life initiative, which he created in 2006 to address neighborhood and community quality of life challenges. With its focus on Mayor Pawlowski’s goal to sustain the city’s commitment to safe, clean and vibrant neighborhoods, it also complements the city’s existing SERVE Allentown service plan.
“Using volunteers, youth and adults, from schools, faith-based groups, community groups as well as interested individuals, the city is coordinating this initiative to revitalize and clean up neighborhoods one block at a time, said Pawlowski. “Schools, Faith-based leaders, neighborhood watch groups, and community organizations are assisting the city in identifying blight in their neighborhoods and recruiting volunteers to eradicate blight where they live, work and worship.”
A second round of grant applications will be made available this summer.