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Madison grant program aims to up community engagement, improve neighborhoods

MADISON, Wis. - The City of Madison's Neighborhood Grant Program, which awards a total of $25,000 to neighborhood projects every year, is accepting applications through mid-February.

Grant money will be awarded to small groups of neighborhood volunteers, neighborhood associations or business organizations that are involved with community-building or civic engagement. The program supports projects that seek to build community engagement and improve neighborhoods.

"Strong and healthy neighborhoods make a strong and healthy city," Linda Horvath from the City Planning Division said.

There are typically around 10 to 12 grant awardees, and in the past, grant money has been used for a vast variety of neighborhood projects. Projects have ranged from huge murals and neighborhood welcome signs, to little libraries and sculpture gardens. The Hawthorne community created a kiosk with information that would serve as a link between the neighborhood and school, Horvath said.

In 2017, the Worthington Park neighborhood received a $1,000 neighborhood grant. Using the grant money and a supplemental GoFundMe account, the neighborhood held a pop-up market with entertainment, food and products for sale from neighborhood vendors. 

"The market itself was awesome. We tried super hard to get a diverse amount of vendors to represent the diversity of the neighborhood," Jenny Green, a Worthington Park resident who was instrumental in planning the market, said.

There was something for everyone at the market -- 10-minute guitar lessons, a fitness lesson over the PA system, a mural painting, homemade candles and perfumed body oils for sale, Green said.

Many of the vendors were either residents of the Worthington Park neighborhood, or had ties to the area, Green said.

"It was a great experience. We lucked out on the weather, it was super lively and we had great attendance," Green said. "My experience with the neighborhood grant project was nothing but positive."

The project itself was a lot of hard work, and Green said she spent hundreds of hours of her time planning for the pop-up market. However, Horvath specifically was helpful and made the grant process simple, Green said.

Help is available to grant applicants at every step of the way -- from developing project ideas and writing the application, to thinking about technical issues and whether or not other parties such as a landscape architect or traffic engineer need to be involved, Horvath said.

The application for the Madison Neighborhood Grant is due by Feb. 19 at 4:30 p.m. by mail or online. From there, the applications will be reviewed and recommended, and awards will be decided around early May.


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