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Feb. 12 is deadline to apply for $500,000 in community-building grants
By Chris Barnett / February 9, 2016 /   Loading Disqus...
To mark its centennial this year, the Rhode Island Foundation is offering $500,000 in grants to fund community-building activities in every city and town.

“We will celebrate each of Rhode Island’s unique 39 cities and towns by funding proposals that bring life to communities throughout the state,” said Jessica David, the Foundation’s senior vice president of strategy and community investments.

The maximum grant is $15,000. Nonprofit organizations, municipal governments and public agencies such as libraries and schools are among the entities that are eligible to apply. The deadline is Feb. 12.

Potential uses include improvements to parks and other public spaces; the creative use of art in public spaces; and staging programming that invites people to experience community in public spaces. Full details are posted here.

The Centennial Community Gifts program is just one in a series of activities planned for a year-long celebration of the Foundation’s 100th anniversary.

Founded on June 13, 1916, with a $10,000 gift from industrialist Jesse Metcalf, the Foundation’s assets have grown to more than $800 million. Over the past five years, the Foundation has awarded more than $165 million in grants.

The center piece of the centennial celebration is a $10 million campaign to restore Roger Williams Park. The work will include improvements to the park’s entrances, new signage, expanded walkways and bicycle paths and repairs to the Museum of Natural History, the Bandstand, the Casino and the Temple to Music.

“Community is at the heart of what we do. Community lives where people gather and a sense of belonging begins. It seems only fitting that we honor and support one of the state’s best-loved places to commemorate our centennial,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

The park was created in the 1870s after Betsey Williams donated 102 acres of farmland and woodland including land that was originally obtained from the Narragansett tribe by her great, great, great, grandfather Roger Williams. Since then the park has grown to 435 acres under the management of the City of Providence Parks and Recreation Department. More than 1.5 million people visit the park every year.

The Foundation has already raised $4.5 million. The support includes $1.5 million from the Foundation itself as well as a $1.15 million gift from The Champlin Foundations to restore the historic Bandstand and Museum.

“We are very excited to partner with the Rhode Island Foundation to restore Roger Williams Park. This donation builds on the investments we have made over the years to care for this wonderful place. I hope others will join us in supporting this campaign,” said Keith Lang, Champlin’s executive director.

In addition, nearly three dozen other donors have combined to contribute $2 million to the campaign.

“This is a critical time in the life of the park. We thank our donors for having the vision to preserve it for future generations,” said the Foundation’s Steinberg. “We look forward to working with other far-sighted supporters to ensure the park remains an economic engine and community treasure.”

Plans call for $5 million to be spent on repairs and improvements to the park over the next five years. Many of the current buildings, roads, bridges and sidewalks were built by the federal Works Progress Administration from 1935 to 1940. Structures such as the Temple to Music and Betsey Williams Cottage are even older.

The Foundation commissioned a study that identified the scope of work that needs to be done. Many of the buildings have not had substantial renovation in decades. Work is expected to begin early in 2016.

In addition, the Foundation plans to create a $5 million endowment that will provide a permanent source of funding for the Roger Williams Park Conservancy, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to ongoing stewardship of the park.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2014, the Foundation awarded $34.8 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.
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