Working hard to address the challenges of housing, health, and hunger, Midtown South Community Council (MSCC) recently received some help—and hope—of its own, in the form of a $7,500 grant given to further the organization’s goal of “building better neighborhoods and stronger relationships within the Midtown South community of Manhattan.”
MSCC was one of 15 grantees whose worthy neighborhood initiatives earned them the recognition and support of the West Side Community Fund (WSCF), a consortium of leading companies based on the west side of Manhattan whose grant program supports efforts along the West Side of Chelsea, Hudson Yards, and Hell’s Kitchen.
“We need more of it [grants like WSCF]. The grant itself has to grow and really build communities,” said MSCC president John Mudd, at an October 11, 2022 gathering in celebration of WSCF grant winners. “We need a balance between communities and businesses, said Mudd, adding, “We have to be respectful of each other and live with each other.” (Chelsea Community News was among the grantees. For our coverage of the October event, click here).
At the time, MSCC summarized their Grant Project Goals thusly:
—Provide fresh food for members of the community who lack access to healthy food.
—Promote community well-being and build resilience by mobilizing and co-creating neighborhood support in response to the increasing rates of homelessness, health crises, and community isolation.
Four months later—in anticipation of the March 10 deadline for you to apply for your own WSCF grant, we checked in with two of MSCC’s prime movers, to see what sort of traction the grant facilitated.
Scott Stiffler for Chelsea Community News (CCNews): Knowing what you know now: When applying for the grant, is there anything you would have done differently?
John Mudd (John): The process certainly added to our experience. We’re building more capacity to handle grant applications. They [the grant administers at Hudson Guild] were helpful through the process. One thing to change would be narrow the focus and outcomes.
Sharon Jasprizza (Sharon): Midtown South Community Council operates on minimal funding and lots of volunteer goodwill. Further funding is needed to increase our capacity to ensure our organization continues its grassroots work pursuing housing, health equity, and eliminating food deficits.
CCNews: How has the grant helped you to accomplish the mission of your group/organization?
John: The grant carried us through some of our cuts due to the pandemic. It helped to progress our garden initiatives and bridge the gap for other larger grants. It brought potential partners together for future organizing.
Sharon: The MSCC Urban Farm Program, which started at the Midtown Community Court (319 W. 53rd St.) in 2019, addresses food deficits and the need for improved health education. MSCC connects people who are unhoused and newly arrived immigrants from the southern border with services, including the MSCC Urban Farm Program.
CCNews: Having gone through the pandemic era, what are the lessons learned and the adjustments made?
John: The pandemic has vividly shown the seriousness of the hunger, housing, and health crises that’s been with us for a while. Our work is needed more than ever. While the economic problems are worsening and cuts rather than supportive social economic relief proactively applied, our gardening initiatives with enough help and effort can provide an enormous relief. Distributing 1200 pounds of food in the farm’s infancy stage is very consequential.
Sharon: The pandemic multiplied the inequities and challenges people face. For instance, thousands of people were moved from congregate shelters to Midtown hotels for safe isolation and faced growing opposition from those securely housed in Midtown. Seeing such coldness and disdain for those facing housing insecurity was heartbreaking. MSCC joined many organizations to warm hearts and make people feel welcome. Another example relates to threats of eviction and the consequential education and networking required to keep people safe during the Pandemic.
CCNews: If someone is interested in volunteering, what would be the best way for them to reach out?
John: They can reach out to me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon: Contact can also be made through midtownsouthcc.org.
FOR MORE ABOUT THE WEST SIDE COMMUNITY FUND,
GRANT APPLICATIONS ARE DUE FRIDAY, MARCH 10, 2023.
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