February 26th, 2016

Grant Evaluation Season Has Arrived!

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It is that time of year where we stop and think about all the cool stuff we have been up to! And it is often with heartfelt thanks to granting organisations, like the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Cambridge & North Dumfries Community Foundation, that these amazing opportunities are possible!

These two particular granting foundations have seen the value that addressing inclusion and belonging at the neighbourhood level has. With their support, three neighbourhoods in the region have been pilots in our strategy of building up the capacity in a given neighbourhood to welcome all residents, regardless of ability. Families we support tell a story of isolation from their neighbours and broader community. Yet, that story doesn’t have to remain true. In the three neighbourhoods, we are encouraging families to share their dreams of what a connected/safe/welcoming community looks like – what it sounds like, what is feels like – and then support them as they make this a reality.

I thought in sharing what has been happening in one particular neighbourhood – the Blair Road/West Galt community in Cambridge – it serves to give you a taste of what is possible.

Ontario Trillium Foundation, who provides funding for the structure of this work for a total of three years – salary, rentals, supplies, food, etc. – have made possible some pretty funky gatherings and events in this particular neighbourhood. To name a few: Fall Fun Days, neighbourhood walks where food is collected for local Self Help Food Bank, a Jane’s Walk led by long-time local, Blue Jays/ Maple Leaf game days at local restaurant , and other collaborations with the local neighbourhood association, Blair Road Neighbourhood Association.

In the past year, with specific funding from Cambridge and North Dumfries Community Foundation’s community grant, as well as a donor-advised grant from the Dian and John Bell Family Fund, we developed an inclusive youth group. This is a place for youths, aged 9-12, to get together and have fun, be themselves and make new friends. Youths who belong to this group may or may not be connected to Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region. It isn’t a group about disability, but rather a group that celebrates youth being youth!

While writing evaluations for these grants may not exactly be considered the biggest highlight of my role, I by no means loath to complete them. Pouring over pictures, sifting through flyers for events, talking to people about their memorable moments, and providing a recap to these funders who have made this all possible … my heart feels full today. Gratitude abounds in me.