From gardens to festivals, city's mini-grants make neighborhood living better

Neighbors were the prime movers behind alley improvements and a new community garden, but they couldn’t have done it without the city of Holland’s neighborhood mini-grant program.

“It’s a way to promote and foster some neighborhood pride,” says Holland Community Development Coordinator Mark Kornelis. “It’s not a huge financial outlay on the city’s part, but it’s  a way of encouraging neighbors to work together on a common project and to enhance the livability of an area.”

Rally for the Alley

On any given day, people can be found picking the blueberries, green peppers, tomatoes and other produce or just taking a walk through the improved alley between 19th and 18th streets and River and Central avenues.Raelyn Long, 9, trims flowers in a raised bed garden while her neighbors Reese and Jimmy Weeks water and trim the flowers on the opposite end of the garden in the alley between 19th and 18th streets along River and Central avenues in Holland.

A 2018 city of Holland mini-grant got things started and made it possible to put in raised beds. The next year, neighbors collaborated with nonprofit community building organization 3Sixty. A 2020 Neighborhood Enhancement Program grant helped buy new plants. 

The city mini-grants are a maximum of $1,500 and require a nonprofit to be the official applicant to ensure accountability, Kornelis says. So far, the city has worked mostly with neighborhood improvement organizations such as Eastcore, 3Sixty, and Washington School Neighbors. 

From garden tools to neighborhood festivals

The city started the grants in 2014. Since that time, it has approved about 15, some for as little at $300, but most for around the $1500 maximum. The grants have funded bike racks, a neighborhood festival, garden materials, tools for a tool lending library, and a neighborhood composting project, among others.
This past summer Washington School Neighbors used a grant to replace a community garden on property that had been borrowed from a local church.

The organization bought the lot at the corner of Maple Avenue and 10th Street from the city. They installed garden beds, a space for neighbors to gather, a rain barrel and shed. They used a city neighborhood mini-grant to create a solar-powered wifi hotspot and lighting in the shed. 

The city has a goal of four grants a year, Kornelis says, and still has grant money available.

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.