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Spring 2016

community sustaining fund logo 150

Rounding Up
Community Sustaining Fund at the Co-op Register

As a member of the Co-op Board, I am gifted with many opportunities to engage in community activities. I recently volunteered to serve as an Olympia Food Co-op representative at grant cycle meetings of the Community Sustaining Fund (CSF). For some time, I have known about the Round Up at the Register program that the Co-op offers in collaboration with CSF and how it brings in much-needed seed and sustaining funds for local organizations, and occasionally I remember to say “round me up for CSF” when checking out. However, it took attending two of their meetings to understand how vital to the community their work is, how many organizations depend on their help from time to time, and how our Round Up program can quite easily, with member participation, help bring in these needed funds. With less than a dollar for every “round up,” we can all afford to help!

The most recent grant cycle for CSF—held twice a year— was during the month of November, and with more than 6 groups requesting financial help, I learned that “the ask was double the $2,700 that had been gathered in the last 6 months.” The maximum usually awarded in most cases is $1,000, but with limited funds, all valid requests ended up receiving less than they asked for, with careful consideration over how much could be awarded to each grantee.

Following an initial meeting with the vetting of applications by the CSF leadership team, six very local groups were determined for funding: Stonewall Youth, South Sound Estuarium, Fertile Ground, Lacey Loves to Read, the Nisqually Land Trust, and Art Forces/Olympia Rafa Mural.

Eric Mapes, fellow OFC Board member, and I sat in on interviews with representatives for each organization. We both have an interest in how the Co-op can more effectively raise funds for the Community Sustaining Fund in our on-going Round Up at the Register program.

Much of the funding for these grants comes from money collected at the Co-op through the Round Up
at the Register program. I think of this system as a way that all of us shopping at the Co-op can offer up some “spare change” each time we shop, giving less than a dollar each time, to help build the coffers at CSF and support these and many other local groups who are all doing their best to offer their amazing services to our community.

Mostly, for me, it is about remembering to say “round up for CSF” when my groceries are being checked out at the Co-op check-out line. Simple enough, now I just need to learn to make it a habit to remember,
knowing how far my coins can help CSF to spread the wealth!

Here’s a look at these grantees, and the services they offer our community

Stonewall Youth
A local organization working with LGBTQ youth, were looking for stipends to pay for the time spent by 4 youths who will be participating in two anti-oppression/social justice workshops in the next few months. In partnering with youths from the Nisqually Tribe, Stonewall Youth is reaching out to develop collaborations with more local youth who deal with oppression in their daily lives. CSF members were particularly impressed with one aspect of the grant: that those with stipends were empowered to extend their stipends to others also involved in the workshops.

The South Sound Estuarium
Located at 309 State Ave. NE in Olympia, houses the best selection of seawater aquariums in Olympia. With public education on the care and conservation of all sea life in the South Sound, the Estuarium was in need of a cooler system for one of its aquariums. Needing to maintain a steady temperature of around 50 degrees year-round, their old system is fast failing. And losing it would mean losing all of the amazing creatures living there in their home-away-from-home, delighting and educating visitors young and old.

Fertile Ground
Our wonderful Bed and Breakfast, Educational Garden, and meeting house, located at 311 9th Ave. SE in downtown Olympia, right behind the public library, is another excellent source for public education, offering experiences for students of all ages through their amazing garden with seasonal signs to explain and enlighten visitors. Fertile Ground was looking for some funds to create a main street sign that would clearly announce their existence, a community bulletin board, and some seasonal interpretive signs for the garden. With limited funds, CSF hoped to help Fertile Ground at least produce their top priority: the main street sign.

Lacey Loves to Read
An educational group closely connected to the Lacey Public Library, and is concerned about the need for more racial diversity being offered by the library. To facilitate this, they have invited a speaker, Kwami Alexander, Newberry Award poet who has written several books: He Said, She Said (poetry), Crossover (young adult fiction), and Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band (illustrated children’s book). Their project is aimed at getting more books on library shelves that show African-American families. This group was seeking help in funding Kwami Alexander’s speaking engagement.

Nisqually Land Trust
With 1/3 of its holdings in Thurston County, has 15 protected areas, working on riparian habitat preservation and restoration. With public outreach to help fund their many projects, Nisqually Land Trust will be holding trainings for Volunteer Site Stewards who will then be able to advocate for them at tabling events. They were requesting help in funding the workshops to be held early spring to train these advocates.

Art Forces/Rafah Mural Project
In partnership with the Olympia Downtown Association and other local grassroots organizations, works to support and develop the great tree mural that graces the entire wall of the Labor Union Building on State and Capitol in downtown Olympia. Created initially years ago to honor Rachel Corey and Rafah, Palestine, Art Forces has offices in San Francisco, CA, and in Olympia. Recent work is to create a parklet on the street next to the mural, with the hope of providing a safe place for educational and community events, and to purchase a digital application that highlights the history of the mural and educates about the 200+ organizations represented by each leaf on the gigantic tree. They were seeking funding to help with this project.

By Desdra Dawning, Board Member