Battle Creek

Battle Creek nonprofits share in $35 million in relief funds

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.

Arts and culture, food insecurity, and youth programming in Battle Creek are among the sectors of the community that received funding from the MI Nonprofit Relief Fund.

A total of 15 local nonprofits are among 1,373 nonprofits throughout Michigan that are sharing in a $35 million pool of funds that are administered by the Michigan Nonprofit Association, according to a press release issued by the MNA. These are one-time grant funds ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to nonprofits in areas most affected by COVID-19, especially those underserved and underrepresented populations. The full list of grantees can be found here.

Nonprofits in rural areas and those led by, and serving Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities have been disproportionately affected by the ongoing pandemic. As a result, many of the applicants reflected the diversity of impacted communities:
· 12% of the organizations that applied are led by a person with accessibility needs. 
· 12% of the organizations that applied are led by a person at or below ALICE thresholds, 
· 30% of the organizations that applied are BIPOC-led and 23 percent of these are led by BIPOC women.
· 31% of the organizations that applied have a majority BIPOC staff.

One of these BIPOC-led organizations is R.I.S.E. (Re-integration to Support and Empower) Corp. which is led by Damon Brown, RISE founder and President.

R.I.S.E. received $25,000, says Jacqueline Patrick-James, Director of the Student Empowerment Program and R.I.S.E. Board Treasurer.

Jacqueline Patrick-James, Director of the Student Empowerment Program and R.I.S.E. Board Treasurer.She says the Nonprofit Relief Funds “really helps support our budgets during our lean times because we were doing so much disaster-relief programming that we had to tap into our General Fund to make ends.”
The organization has an annual budget of $467,000. James says the pandemic-related funding that has come through has gone a long way to supporting the programming R.I.S.E. offers for the underserved, underrepresented, and youth populations it serves.
“It’s been a real blessing to have the state of Michigan share resources with grassroots nonprofits in particular because we do struggle,” Patrick-James says.

Officials with the MNA say that the Relief Fund is a vital lifeline for Michigan's charitable organizations grappling with the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund, announced in February of 2023 and totaling $35 million, is dedicated to assisting small charitable nonprofit organizations that have been tirelessly serving their communities in these challenging times.

This includes Neighborhoods Inc. of Battle Creek which will put the $25,000 it received towards operations and maintenance of some of its rental properties, says Whitney Wardell, President and CEO of the organization.
Whitney Wardell, President and CEO of Neighborhoods Inc. of Battle Creek
“We have about 54 single-family homes, quads, duplexes, and commercial properties and an annual budget of $1.8 million,” she says.

The MI Nonprofit Relief Fund was established through the collaborative efforts of MNA and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) relief funds awarded to the State of Michigan. The fund was designed to support Michigan-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofits with annual revenues of less than $1 million, demonstrating necessary expenditures and losses incurred after March 3, 2021, due to the pandemic.

The Battle Creek Regional History Museum met this criteria and received $10,000 which will be used to offset the cost of a counter and flooring for its new gift shop, says Douglas Sturdivant, Chairperson of the Museum.
“We have a History Education Center. We had that room dedicated in May and we have to finish the Cultural Heritage Lobby area and within that, we’re in the process of building a new gift shop and the entrance to it will be accessed when people exit the museum area,” Sturdivant says.
The Battle Creek nonprofits were among 2,065 that submitted applications for the Relief Funds which were reviewed by a panel of Michigan nonprofit leaders in the summer.

"The Michigan Nonprofit Relief Fund is vital for helping to remove barriers to economic prosperity and providing residents with the resources they need following the pandemic,” says Kim Trent, LEO deputy director for prosperity. “We’re proud to support eligible nonprofits who have been resilient and innovative these last few years so that we can continue to lift Michiganders out of poverty and empower communities across the state.”

In addition to the MI Nonprofit Relief Fund, an additional $15 million MI Impact Grant program is being administered by LEO to support larger nonprofits that work toward lifting people out of poverty and above the ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed) threshold. This project is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number SLFRF4948 awarded to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Development by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Check the MI Nonprofit Relief Fund to learn more.
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Read more articles by Jane Parikh.

Jane Parikh is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.