Seeds of Promise is a 501C3 organization “dba” that is located within the inner city of Grand Rapids, Michigan and is engaged with a community of ~ 2,000+ residents that surround the Dickinson K-8 public school. The vision of this neighborhood project is to create a self-sustaining neighborhood that fully meets the needs and wants of its future residents and community stakeholders as measured by an overall improved quality of life, abundant service leadership, stewardship of resources, and equal education opportunity. The goal is to seek a balance in economic vitality, social responsibility and civic engagement, and environmental stewardship. The mission is to transform the neighborhood by promoting collaborations and partnerships; applying sustainable development best practices; building local resident leadership and trust; deep listening to community voices; and meeting the expressed needs and wants of the local neighborhood community. Grassroots neighborhood strategies include “Empowering urban residents to direct their own self-sustaining improvement”, which is a guiding principle. Another key strategy is to enable the local residents and endorsing partner organizations to communicate with each other and provide shared resources and best practices to address systemic community sustainability issues. The fundamental belief is that every community has the ability to learn, work, and grow together to leverage their own assets and community resources and become more self-sustaining on their own. Seeds of Promise is shaped by three basic guidelines: 1) Those who live in the community need to direct the strategies for the community. 2) Those who serve in the community need to participate and align with the strategy. 3) The community’s strategy needs to be self-sustaining with endorsing stakeholder assistance and support being appreciated and utilized to accelerate impact. Some of the endorsing partner organizations that provide financial program support and resources include the Kellogg Foundation, Fifth Third Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, Trinity Health, NorthPointe Bank, the City of Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Public Schools and others. Currently, the community residents participate on and make decisions for the impact team areas that also include community stakeholder partners. The impact areas include: educational attainment; job and wealth creation; health and wellness; housing; safe communities; and leadership and governance.
Seeds of Promise now has 25 Host Neighbors that have signed on and gone through leadership and governance training offered through the three year Kellogg Foundation Grant. Each Host Neighbor developed their own community development project for implementation. Host Neighbors now make all the decisions for the neighborhood. Significant milestones include:
- The Boy Scout and Girl Scout inner city troop programs at the Dickinson Academy have been most successful in attracting students.
- The College of Education students at Grand Valley State University now offer homework tutoring for the Dickinson Academy students.
- Through the Fifth Third Bank community outreach funding, residents are receiving financial education. “Pitch” competitions totaling $10,000 took place among local residents and community members for new business ideas and concepts. There were 3 award winners.
- A community health survey was completed among local residents and various healthcare providers, including support from the College of Nursing at Grand Valley State University. Preventative healthcare measures are now of key importance for the neighborhood.
- A new job employment program among local employers and the Department of Human Services will enable resident job training with job positions being available at 5 local companies.
- There also is a concerted effort being made to increase home improvement and ownership levels in the neighborhood through a program sponsored by Northpointe Bank.
- The City of Grand Rapids is sponsoring a program that will enable Seeds to provide safety training for local residents.
- Grand Rapids Public Schools is supporting additional after school programming for students, families, and local residents.
To date Seeds of Promise has been able to generate over $800,000 of program funding. For 2013 Seeds of Promise was able to also generate ~$2MM of direct and indirect of collective economic impact. More information is available at www.seedsofpromise.net