BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Giving good ideas their vote of confidence and the money to make it happen, the minds behind the recently reactivated West Side Community Fund (WSCF) have kept the name of the 2018-founded small business seed money initiative while expanding its coverage area and turning administrative tasks over to a longtime, Chelsea-based nonprofit.
“I think what we offer is an ability to manage operations—to provide the back office support,” says Hudson Guild Executive Director Ken Jockers. “We know the logistics and operations of how to get the word out, get the applications in, then help present the awards and track the progress of each grant. These are the same things we do for our own programming and activities—and we are good at it. So we’re here to provide the same assistance to West Side Community Fund.”
To be precise, Hudson Guild will be working to support an expanded, “next gen” version of the original short-lived but prolific WSCF—which from late 2018 through 2020 managed to distribute over a half million dollars to 70+ grant recipients in Chelsea and Hudson Yards. (The last two cycles funded 22 businesses deemed essential, but at risk because of COVID-related distress. Chelsea Community News received $10,000, which allowed us to be prolific at a time when advertising revenue was nearly non-existent.)
The late 2019 passing of Jay Kriegel, Senior Advisor to The Related Companies, “left a lull in activity,’ recalled Jockers, noting, “Now, this group of initial participants have revived WSCF as a unique initiative undertaken by businesses and firms based on the West Side. Some of them are longstanding, some are more recent—but they are all driven by a desire to foster new, creative activity.”
Google, Jamestown, and Related/Oxford Hudson Yards have returned. Joined by new members Amazon and Cooley, they comprise WSCF’s Board of Directors. Over a dozen other businesses have joined as Member Donors who contribute financially and serve on various committees.
A May 13, 2022 tweet from @WSCFgrants, the account’s first communication on that social media platform since 2020, announced the relaunch of the West Side Community Grants program as a “fund to support innovative programs and initiatives for the Chelsea/Hudson Yards/Hell’s Kitchen area.” Adding that third neighborhood now puts them in alignment with Community Board 4’s borders, meaning organizations and groups from West 14th to 59th Streets are, as the tweet concluded, “encouraged to apply.”
Considering what’s up for grabs, potential applicants won’t need more encouragement than that. The first of two yearly West Side Community Grant cycles is happening right now. Applications are being accepted through June 17, and winners will be announced in early July. Potential candidates set to share a minimum of $100,000 in funding include neighborhood organizations, city agencies, health clinics, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) projects, and individuals who work for the betterment of their community. Access the complete list of eligible applicants and submit your application by visiting www.wscf.nyc.
“The one thing I think is very unique about this fund and this grant is, you don’t have to be a 501c3 [nonprofit] organization in order to apply,” notes Marlyse Rush, Program Development Officer for the West Side Community Fund at Hudson Guild. “So that means a block association or a tenants’ association can apply. A group of teachers is able to apply, and so is somebody who has an idea for a community improvement project.”
Idea in hand, putting it into consideration for funding is a breeze—if you come prepared. Hudson Guild’s Chief Operating Officer, LeeAnn Scaduto, recommends using “clear, concise” language that presents your idea as “a well-defined project with the goal of improving the quality of life on the West Side.” As for the online application’s design,“We don’t want this to be burdensome,” says Scaduto. “The process we created, we believe, is friendly—because we want to be a friendly funder.”
A grant cycle Year One, Round One awards ceremony planned for mid-July will serve as the revitalized WSCF’s first large, formal, in-person event. Grantees in attendance need not worry about being left adrift once dessert is served and the check clears. Rush assures that grant recipients will have access to the institutional knowledge gained by Hudson Guild over their decades of developing and expanding community-based programming. “We’re willing to come alongside them, to offer our support and expertise when it comes to things like monitoring their metrics,” said Rush, noting that this is the debut round of an effort considered to be open-ended, with each new cycle benefitting from previous innovations by all involved.
Deciding who gets to be involved, however, is the domain of a dedicated few tasked with pouring over each application based on the idea it presents, the past effectiveness of an applicant, or the great promise seen in an untested newcomer. “The West Side Community Fund Grant Engagement Committee determines the award recipients,” notes Scaduto. “Hudson Guild is responsible for administering the grants and collecting data to measure the impact these funds have on the community. One hope,” she says, “is that these microgrants support organizations to run impactful, short-term projects and potentially opens the door for even larger funding opportunities. That would be a great outcome for our community, and is one of our long-term goals.”
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