The Empowerment Grant reopens after one-year COVID-19 pause

An+illustration+depicting+a+Corvallis+neighborhood+being+given+%2410%2C000+for+a+community+enrichment+project+from+the+City+of+Corvallis.+The+Epowerment+Grant+recently+reopened+after+a+one-year+pause+for+COVID-19%2C+providing+the+opportunity+for+community+neighborhoods+and+organizations+to+apply+and+potentially+earn+a+portion+of+the+%2410%2C000+available.+

H. Beck, Illustrator

An illustration depicting a Corvallis neighborhood being given $10,000 for a community enrichment project from the City of Corvallis. The Epowerment Grant recently reopened after a one-year pause for COVID-19, providing the opportunity for community neighborhoods and organizations to apply and potentially earn a portion of the $10,000 available.

Lara Rivera, News Contributor

The Empowerment Grant, offered by the City of Corvallis for neighborhood and community grants, opened again on Feb.1 after a one-year pause due to COVID-19. 

The Empowerment Grant was on hiatus until 2015, when the City Council decided to restart it with a new advisory board of community members and Corvallis citizens to serve as an evaluation panel for grant applications. 

There is a virtual grant workshop on Feb. 23. This is an hour-long, drop-in workshop where anyone curious about the Empowerment Grant can ask general questions about the program or request feedback about whether their project could qualify for a grant. The workshop is offered before the March 1 deadline. 

Patrick Rollens, the public information officer for the City of Corvallis since 2015, was responsible for convening board members to create the Community Involvement and Diversity Advisory Board. 

The goal of CIDAB was to redevelop the program and evaluation criteria with new goals that included “generally encouraging neighborhood connectivity and engagement with the city itself,” Rollens said. 

CIDAB has six members and is an all-volunteer board. 

“[The Empowerment Grant] is an opportunity for residents of the community to ask for help and bring into life, or continuously bring into life, an idea that they have, or have with a team or network of people, that improves the experience, the engagement and the sense of belonging in Corvallis,” said Prasanthi Pavuluri, chair of CIDAB.

In 2017, Rollens said the City provided a $5,000 grant to split between eligible applicants. In 2019, the City voted to add an additional $5,000, so today, Rollens said the City of Corvallis will be able to grant $10,000 to eligible applicants. 

Although there is no limit to how much money an applicant can ask for, Pavuluri said the City suggests applicants ask for grants lower than $600 in order to avoid taxes. For grants higher than $600, Pavuluri suggests partnering with a 501c3 non-profit organization. 

“There’s a small grant that may be waiting just for you and your idea,” Pavuluri said.

Brooke Collison, retired Oregon State University professor and previous Empowerment Grant recipient, applied to fix a sidewalk along 35th Street that had a hedge growing into the sidewalk that stopped two people from walking on the sidewalk side by side. 

“I thought it would be a good idea for our neighborhood to get together as a group and trim the hedge, and make it so the sidewalk would be more usable,” Collison said. 

Collison brought some of his neighbors together to his house for coffee to draft a proposal to the City that would follow their guidelines.

Collison and his neighborhood needed the grant to rent equipment that no one in the group owned, such as hedge trimmers, trailers to haul materials and traffic signs to post on the street. 

After presenting the proposal to the City and getting approval, they proceeded to schedule a date to fix the sidewalk. Altogether, Collison said there must have been around 20 people from the neighborhood working on the sidewalk. At the end of the day, Collison and his neighbors celebrated the end of the project with a barbecue.

“It really has accomplished its goal of bringing people together, encouraging people to meet their neighbors, interact with their local community and build new connections with the city,” Rollens said.