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Dept. of Neighborhoods offers community grants
Dept. of Neighborhoods offers community grants
Pride planning qualifies for Small Sparks program

by Nick Ardizzone - SGN Staff Writer

As the community begins preparing for Pride festivities, the Department of Neighborhoods seeks to remind shrewd planners that the deadline to apply for its Small Sparks fund-matching award is Thursday, May 15. Peter McGraw, the Department of Neighborhoods Public Information Officer, explained how the organization is "putting a dollar value on something that people would likely be doing anyway."

"We put your volunteer hours at a dollar value, then whatever receipts you have, we match that with money - up to $250," McGraw told the Seattle Gay News on Thursday. While the Department has multiple large-scale grants open for application, he stressed how the humble Small Sparks award could be used to help defray the cost of Pride activities, or "anything quick, fairly small, anything folks might need a few bucks to help out with."

Volunteer work is valued at $15 an hour.

To qualify for the award, a group must fill out a short application online before the deadline. The website tells applicants they will be expected to "tell their story" for organizers and participants, but McGraw assured us the application process is painless. "Folks can really do anything they want, so long as they're involving the community and they put in some volunteer hours," he said. "This is something anyone can access, so long as it's a group of folks - it doesn't have to be any kind of organization, just be people getting together for one single purpose, and we're there to help them out and help them build community."

Although the Small Sparks award is available throughout the year, McGraw feels now - with Pride on the horizon - is a perfect time to take advantage of the program. "I would say we just kinda saw this as a timely opportunity," he said.

"We've partnered with LGBT groups throughout the history of the matching fund, and they've always been real strong participants in our larger fund streams. We saw this as an opportunity to . . . get people thinking, what is it they can do to easily access funds, and how is it they can maybe get their roommates involved in a quick, fun project, or maybe folks at work, or folks at their local establishment, and how they can make use of $250."

"We're pretty all-inclusive," McGraw said. "Really, any individual with an idea for sparking an involvement in their neighborhood can be considered for an award."

One might expect fierce competition for the Small Sparks awards, but the experience of the Department of Neighborhoods is that the program enforces the community spirit as people band together for the awards. "I wouldn't say it's very competitive, [the application] just has to meet some criteria . . . we're certainly open to all comers," McGraw said.

"Although, if we had 100,000 applications, things might be a little tight," he added with a laugh. To fill out an application, visit www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/nmf/smallsparks.htm.

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