Members of the Charlestown Community Fund Committee voted to awards some much-needed infusions of cash to local non-profits on Monday, but the more important business of the day was to begin outlining how the “new” mission of the fund would be deployed in coming years.
The advent of COVID-19 hampered the distribution of funding in 2020 and left many non-profits starving for funds they have come to depend on after several years of twice-yearly distributions of money generated by licensing fees from Encore Boston Harbor.
The distribution this week was seen as a catch-up round and there were 35 applications for a total ask of $524,935. However, 33 applications were approved at $373,000 – which was just above the annual goal of $350,000 in grants per year. For many of the youth sports, the ask was for $20,000 due to hampered fundraising abilities and different dynamics in participation. However, the Committee agreed to give almost all youth sports a $15,000 grant, which reportedly most were happy with.
Only four applications received the maximum of $20,000 from the funding round. They included the Battle of Bunker Hill Parade Committee; the Charlestown Sprouts Community Garden renovation; the Friends of City Square pedestrian safety project; and the Turn It Around film making project.
“We will execute the letters and agreements out this week so we can get the funding out the door so these Charlestown organizations can utilize them as soon as possible,” said Emme Handy, Boston chief of Administration and Finance.
Meanwhile, the bigger discussion was about how to transition the Community Fund to its new mission of funding non-profits and also funding larger capital projects and public safety needs. When the casino opened, it triggered new yearly payments of $2 million into the fund – and there have been two of those payments since 2019, making a tidy sum of cash available. That new funding also triggered the expanded mission that includes the usual non-profit distributions, and also other capital project and public safety expenditures.
First of all, the City’s Meghan Alldredge proposed to have distributions in the fall once a year, discarding the bi-annual process that took a great deal of time and effort. Instead, they will begin the yearly process this fall – in 2021. Then the process will be repeated in the Fall of 2022 and every year thereafter. She said that was seen as a positive by many organizations as it would cut down on confusion and the time needed to fill out paperwork for the grants twice a year.
That and the new mission would be publicized with community meetings this spring and summer in preparation for an application process in the fall.
The new set-up would include three types of grants – the usual non-profit grants; a new Challenge Grant of up to $50,000; and a new Transformational Grant of up to $1.5 million for special projects.
State Rep. Dan Ryan said one of the keys will be to make clear how much will be allocated each year to non-profits and keep that as a set amount not to change.
“I think it would be a good idea to make it clear to the community how much the non-profits are going to get,” he said. “There will be pushback because there are people in Charlestown who think $2 million a year should go to all non-profits. The community is used to having money for non-profits and we need to be really clear about what they will get and what’s left over.”
Members of the Committee said they envisioned continuing with around $350,000 a year for the non-profits in the Town, and then creating a pipeline for larger projects to come about. Those kinds of larger projects could be something that cobbles together a large Community Fund grant with other sources, such as Community Preservation Act money.
Handy said they could envision existing City projects getting some of the money, perhaps for extras or upgrades to existing projects, and maybe also used to pay off debt service for the City’s Capital Projects in Charlestown.
One such idea along those lines was to look at the school playgrounds – one of which at the Warren Prescott had a grant tabled on Monday. Those are larger projects and most are in the construction queue but can be as far away from construction as 2023. The Committee agreed that looking at expediting or upgrading school playground construction could be a good use of the larger grant opportunities.
Rep. Ryan also said supplementing larger federal and state projects like the Rutherford Avenue/Sullivan Square reconstruction project would also be a good use, and consistent with mitigating the casino traffic.
He also said he wanted to steer away from regular expenditures and make sure the money is used for something the Town can be proud of in years to come.
“I want to make sure we can look back on this money in 20 years and say we did something really great with it in partnership with the City Council and Administration and community,” he said. “I don’t want to be looking at it like just another developer fund and there are a lot of developers coming into Town looking to throw money around. I don’t want to be sitting in my neighborhood with a tower next to it and say what happened to that (Wynn) money? I want to be looking at a new park, a new playground, and a school building.”
It was also agreed that concentrating on some funding for trees would also be a good idea, given the recent elongated discussion on trees and the tree canopy in Charlestown.
2021 Spring Grant Awards –
•Artist Group of Charlestown – Visual Arts Events Sept/Dec. – $5,000
•Battle of Bunker Hill Parade Committee – Parade – $20,000
•Boston Debate League – After School Charlestown High – $2,500
•Charlestown Boys & Girls Club – Learning Enrichment in-person learning – $15,000
•Charlestown Coalition – Trauma Response Team – $15,000
•Charlestown Dogs – Support waste bags/dispensers/Dog Park – $2,500
•Charlestown Girls Softball – registration/fees/banquets – $15,000
•Charlestown High School – Art Programming/ELA Supplies – $5,000
•Charlestown Lax and Learning – Teen Mentoring – $15,000
•Charlestown Lion’s Club – Low Vision Needs Program/Diabetic – $2,500
•Charlestown Little League – Upcoming Season/COVID losses/equipment – $15,000
•Charlestown Nursery School – professional development teachers – $10,000
•Charlestown Preservation Society – funds for Preservation Park Ph. 1 – $10,000
•Charlestown Sprouts Community Garden – renovation project funds – $20,000
•Veterans History Project – support research and resources for records and footage WW2/Vietnam – $5,000
•Charlestown Working Theatre – virtual programming, planning events – $15,000
•Charlestown YMCA – Safe City Swimmers Program/90 youth lessons – $15,000
•CYHA – Scholarships/registration support/pandemic losses – $15,000
•Courageous Sailing – REACH initiative/meals/transport – $10,000
•Friends of City Square Park – Howard Stein Hudson to evaluate pedestrian safety/educational programming and activities – $20,000
•Friends of Memorial Hall – Operating Costs/Lost Rent/No Fundraiser – $10,000
•Friends of Memorial Hall – Veterans Outreach Program – $5,000
•Friends of John Harvard Mall – beautify park/replace temporary fence with decorative fencing – $3,500
•Gavin Foundation – Charlestown Recovery House Residential Treatment Program – $10,000
•Harvest on Vine – Food Pantry increase food to those in need – $12,000
•Kennedy Center – Renovate some playground equipment for Head Start – $15,000
•NEMPAC – continue to grow programs/partnerships in CT-Harvard Kent School and older adult Sr. Choir – $5,000
•Special Townies – programming/help with operating costs and PPE – $15,000
•Dignity Institute – youth leadership programming/social-emotional – Tabled for a future round.
•Old Charlestown Schoolboys – support annual banquet/scholarship – $5,000
•Town Track Club – support programming and uniforms/new hurdles and storage costs – $15,000
•Turn It Around – create a short film on equity and peace/develop film – $20,000
•USS Const. Museum – welcome back/free CT admission/community day/Harvard Kent – $10,000
•Warren Prescott Foundation – social emotional learning program/expand – $15,000 •Warren Prescott School – playground renovation extra money – Table for more information