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Neighborhood grants build relationships, community~ RH April 15, 2015

Neighborhood grants build relationships, community
By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli
Staff Writer | April 15, 2015

Gail H. Johnson walked 5.1 miles Saturday, handing out newsletters door-to-door in her Southwest Rutland neighborhood.

“There are others doing this, too,” Johnson said about the efforts of Historic SW Rutland, a group she founded.

And Johnson was back at it Tuesday. It takes a long time to hand out 1,500 newsletters to one person at a time.

“The newsletter is a way to reach our neighbors,” she said.

Johnson is one of more than 300 partners involved in the city’s Project VISION efforts to collaborate with the community to improve neighborhoods and reduce crime.

Johnson applied for a Project VISION mini-grant to help Historic SW Rutland reach out to the community.

“I thought I should give it a try,” she said.

In 2013, Project VISION applied for a Byrne Justice Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. “We worked feverishly to get that grant,” said the project’s leader, Rutland City Police Capt. Scott Tucker.

But the group was not chosen at that time.

“They were only selecting six places. I think now that it was for the best,” Tucker said. “Going forward, it is not about the money; going forward it is about the people.”

Money for the Project VISION grants came from individuals and grassroots partnerships and community endeavors, none of which was solicited. The project does not actively engage in fundraising, according to Joe Kraus, Project VISION chairman.

“We don’t want to compete with our partners,” he said.

The group started with $18,900 and have about $13,000 remaining. Some of the money has also gone to support Project VISION committee outcomes that the committee chairman can request.

Project VISION leaders call these $1,000 grants pearls — stringing them together for the good of the city.

“These mini-grants add to what we are already doing — they are like frosting,” Tucker said.

The Historic SW Rutland group received one of the mini-grants this month, and Johnson has big plans for its efforts.

“This says to others in the neighborhood, our work is important enough that Project VISION showed their support of what we are doing,” she said.

Rutland Blooms also received a mini-grant to help with its bigger effort.

“Rutland Blooms was created as an offshoot of Project VISION,” said Steve Costello, a Green Mountain Power vice president and head of Rutland Blooms.

“When we first started, (former) Rutland police chief Jim Baker said you need to change the environment to change how people behave in that environment,” Costello said.

With the help of the mini-grant, along with $30,000 from other donors, Rutland Blooms will plant about 30 trees on West Street, 40 on Main Street, and 80 more in the northwest neighborhood, mostly flowering crabapples.

The 2014 West Street project included 75 flowering crabapple trees planted by volunteers under the supervision of City Forester Dave Schneider.

Costello said that, in keeping with Project VISION’S mission of people helping people, the number of volunteers is why Rutland Blooms have accomplished so much.

“We would not be very successful with two or three people,” he said. “This collaboration is really gratifying.”

Anyone can seek a Project VISION mini-grant via an online application. The project must have at least two nontraditional partners, meeting the Project VISION goals of community collaboration.

Tucker said applicants are encouraged to partner with other individuals and organizations with whom they would not typically collaborate.

This is bringing about creative solutions through true intra-community involvement, he said.

Johnson said the mini-grants serve as seed money for bigger projects.

“It is supposed to encourage others to do something for the community,” she said.

Johnson said the reaction to the newsletters, part of the Historic SW Rutland initiative, has been positive.

“I’m encouraged as to what I’m seeing,” she said. “The reactions are priceless.”

kathleen.phalentomaselli@rutlandherald.com

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