PUP grants already paying dividends

June 25, 2013

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Harvest Foundation created its Pick Up the Pace! (PUP) grant program with the idea of accomplishing big things in the community through a series of small grants.

Though it’s too early to judge whether that has been done, Harvest President Allyson Rothrock said the experience has paid some tangible dividends.

Rothrock said one goal was to “empower people” and agencies in the community to come up with new ideas and find ways to impact the area with small projects. So far, she said, that is happening.

For example, Sanville Elementary received a $10,000 grant in February to renovate the school’s baseball field and add a walking track around it. Though the obvious benefit was improving the quality of the field, Rothrock said the walking track had an equally important effect on the elderly residents of the community, who had few outlets for exercise in the neighborhood.

Once the trail was added, the senior residents of the area became excited and “they became advocates,” Rothrock said.

The Pick Up the Pace! Program was announced Oct. 28. Harvest said it would award 10 grants — although 11 actually were given — of no more than $10,000 each. Applications were to be answered within 14 days, and projects have to be completed within 90 days, Rothrock said.

Harvest wanted to “open things up” to organizations other than ones it usually deals with and “do other types of grants,” hence the $10,000 limit.

“It isn’t always big amounts of money that make the biggest change,” she said.

Among grant recipients were the Mt. Olivet Ruritan Club, $10,000 to improve the Randy Dove Baseball field; Smith River Sports Complex, $10,000 to improve the access road to the lower field at the complex’s river access point; Gateway Streetscape Foundation, $10,000 to support an anti-litter campaign called Put Litter in its Place; and the Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI), $8,425 to complete renovations to its museum and multicultural center, which held its grand opening last week, among others.

Harvest likely will continue to issue grants through traditional applications, Rothrock said, but the short turnaround and smaller dollar figures associated with PUP represented a departure from the foundation’s traditional model.

“We were doing a lot of studies in the early days” on what types of projects would be the best use of grant funds, “and we’ll never stop doing that,” she said. “We’ve really moved to a different place now.”

The PUP grants are what Rothrock called “initiative grant making” rather than responsive — analyzing a need and acting on it before it becomes obvious.

One major difference in the program has been the quick turnaround time. The process of writing and receiving grant funds “typically takes months.”

However, the grant applications for the PUP program were designed to be quick, like the projects themselves. “Anyone can write a compelling one-page summary,” she said.

The PUP initiative is “as much about ideas as writing,” she added. With the right amount of teamwork, she said, it’s possible to “take good ideas and make them great.”

One of the best aspects of the PUP initiative, Rothrock said, has been the fact that it has stimulated discussion among local nonprofits about what can be done locally.

“If you don’t give people an opportunity to think about things, why do you expect them to do it?” she added.

Staying on target has been the biggest hurdle to the program, Rothrock said. Harvest’s self-imposed requirement was to respond to grant applications within 14 days.

The PUP program was announced in October, and grant applications began to come in around the holidays, which was not the best time to keep the process moving, she said. Therefore, a quick response — “doing what we say we’re going to do,” she said — was difficult.

Since many of the grant projects involved outdoor work, weather also has played a role in getting them accomplished. While the grants have been awarded, most of the projects are not complete.

One grant recipient was the Henry County Department of Public Safety, which devoted its $10,000 grant to developing its “Get Through 72” emergency preparedness program.

Matt Tatum, deputy director of the department, said the program had existed for a few years, but the grant “really improved the quality of the program.”

The department has visited every elementary school in the city and county, as well as several adult day cares, to detail what types of emergency items are needed during the first 72 hours of an emergency.

“We were limited in our resources,” and so “when we would do a (public education) program, we could give people information, but weren’t able to leave them with anything” in written form, he said. With grant funds, the department was able to create published materials to hand out.

In addition, “we had a total overhaul of our web page done,” he said, so people can easily navigate tools that will help them be better prepared. “We’ll be able to use this for years to come,” Tatum said.

Rothrock said she hopes all the PUP! projects will be finished by the end of the summer. After that, she said, the Harvest board will assess the process and impact of the program and determine its future at its grant meeting in October.

“I’m in hopes that we can continue something like this,” she said.


Select News Year: