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Civic engagement fund supports projects in and out of the community
by Adam Reinherz, Staff Writer
Aug 25, 2016 | 2885 views | 0 0 comments | 100 100 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<i>Participants of World Refugee Day 2016 pose for a photo. The recent allocation will support next year’s celebration in Pittsburgh. <br>

Photo courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh</i>
Participants of World Refugee Day 2016 pose for a photo. The recent allocation will support next year’s celebration in Pittsburgh.
Photo courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
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A new dose of vibrancy has arrived for local organizations. Mini-grants, ranging from $600 to $7,000, were awarded to 13 initiatives aimed at strengthening, supporting and engaging Pittsburgh’s diverse communities. The funds, which total $50,000, were paid for by a joint venture between Vibrant Pittsburgh and the Urban Affairs Foundation of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

“The purpose of these grants is to reach out from the Jewish community to some of our friends and allies in other communities of interest in Pittsburgh to try to make Pittsburgh a better place to live,” said Adam Hertzman, director of marketing of the Federation.

“It’s critically important while building our own community that other communities are vibrant, thriving and engaged,” echoed Josh Sayles, director of the Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. “These funds from the Urban Affairs Foundation of the Community Relations Council give opportunities to communities in Pittsburgh to demonstrate their vibrancy to people throughout greater Pittsburgh.” The grants also create a “working partnership with established organizations like Vibrant Pittsburgh and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh,” he said.

Beneficiaries included projects or organizations representing or benefiting a diverse, underserved or minority population, said Melanie Harrington, CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh, an organization self-described as dedicated to “supporting regional growth and economic competitiveness by engaging the region’s employers and diverse community groups.”

The mini-grant program has expanded since its conception years ago.  

“We did it for a couple of years and then realized we could only do so much by ourselves,” said Harrington. “We had become really good friends with the Federation through their Community Relations Council and Urban Affairs Foundation and approached them and asked if they would like to join us. They came right on board, and for last three years, it’s been a really great partnership. We’ve been able to do some really great things across the footprint of Southwestern PA.”

Over the years, various organizations have received allocations. In 2012, Hillel Jewish University Center-J’Burgh received a mini-grant, as did the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania. In 2013, Jewish Family & Children’s Service was an awardee, as was Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania.

Among past grantees, Harrington cited the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh for its continued communal efforts.

“There is a combination of people from Bhutan and Nepal who have been resettled or come here to join families,” she said. “It was a fairly insular community that needed broader support.”

A previouse grant supported a dispatching initiative to improve communication among members of the Bhutanese community, many of whom have limited access to computers or email. While these modes of communication are in short supply, phones are not, said Harrington, so the project will rely on robo-calling as a method for disseminating information.

A panel of eight community leaders nominated by the fund’s controlling agencies whittled the pool of applicants to the 13 grantees. Among the recipients is a partnership between JF&CS, the Northern Area Multi-Service Center, Acculturation for Justices, Access and Peace Outreach and Catholic Charities. The group is collaborating on next year’s World Refugee Day Celebration.

Hertzman noted that groups of all stripes often have “very similar interests and goals to the goals of the Jewish community.”

“By working with these other communities of interest, the joint influence and power of these projects is multiplied,” he said. “We reach different people, but the combination is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamr@thejewishchronicle.net.
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