Temple Times Online Edition
    APRIL 27, 2006
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Community groups get boost with Temple’s help

Photo courtesy Centro Nueva Creacion
Destiny Martinez and Nicole Marcote of Centro Nueva Creacion, a community center in North Philadelphia, show off a puppet made by students in the center’s arts program. The University’s Center for Social Policy and Community Development is administering a federal grant to support local community organizations including Centro Nueva Creacion.  

After the schools in North Philadelphia have closed for the day, the learning is just getting started for youngsters at Centro Nueva Creacion, a community center in the Fairhill neighborhood.

About 40 percent of this predominately Hispanic neighborhood’s population is under the age of 18, and the center is a rare haven for enriching after-school activities.

“There’s not a lot of space to hang out or play in this neighborhood,” said Katey Metzroth, the center’s development director. “We focus on giving the youth something positive to do and providing skills they aren’t getting in school.”

This includes helping students with homework and fostering creativity with art and photography classes. Pre-work programs allow teens to plan for the future with community service and career exploration.

However, funding sources can be unpredictable and hard to come by, so their own long-term planning is important to the survival of a grassroots organization like Centro Nueva Creacion.

That’s where Temple is stepping in to help.

Centro Nueva Creacion, along with 15 other local community service organizations, soon will be receiving funds for capacity building through Temple’s Center for Social Policy and Community Development. In 2005, Temple was one of 20 intermediary groups to receive grants through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Compassion Capital Fund, which provided $890,000 to support faith- and community-based organizations.

Over the past two months, the center, part of the School of Social Administration, has been guiding the organizations through a rigorous grant application and training process. On May 1, the center will formally announce the recipients of its Building Leadership and Organizational Capacity (BLOC) grant program.

The CSPCD will provide $20,000 to $25,000 in aid to each qualifying organization — an amount that could double the budget of a grassroots organization, said Trish Biedron, the center’s program coordinator for the project. The money is earmarked for capacity-building purposes such as technology improvements, staff training and strategic planning. The remainder of the federal grant is allotted to the center to help defray operating costs.

Recipients must adhere to strict federal guidelines for how the money is used. For example, the grant cannot be used for religious purposes or even to cover direct programming costs.

However, for the organizations — which had to be relatively small operations serving populations including at-risk youth — the grants provide an opportunity to infuse structure, increase effectiveness and develop a long-term vision for their groups’ future.

“It’s something you know you need to do, but when you have so many demands and needs in the immediate, it’s hard to put money and time into things that are more long term,” Metzroth said. “It would also be nice to be able to do some much-needed renovation and offset some of our operating costs, but in reality this strategic planning funding is a top priority before we can move forward.”

Although the CSPCD has received other grants to work with community groups, this is the largest project it has undertaken for capacity building, Biedron said.

“There’s a lot of talk about supporting the surrounding community, and now there are the dollars to do it,” she said.

To qualify for the funding, representatives from the community organizations had to attend regular training sessions and one-on-one meetings with Temple staff and a peer mentoring organization. The center will continue to oversee the grant recipients and monitor their progress over the next 10 months.

Biedron is optimistic that the organizations’ newfound knowledge will translate into even better service to the community.

“Our aim is to strengthen these organizations so that they can serve more people with more services,” Biedron said. “The community is going to benefit immensely.”

Metzroth said the organizations were able to learn a lot from CSPCD’s expertise as well as from each other.

“It says a lot about Temple and their willingness and passion to work with and better understand the community that they have undertaken such a project,” she said.

- By Patti Truant

BLOC grant recipients
The 16 recipients of the BLOC grant funding will be recognized by the CSPCD at a reception on May 1, from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Walk Auditorium in Ritter Hall. They are:

3-D Community Services & Housing
Berean Act II
Brighter Light Community Center
Centro Nueva Creacion
Centro Pedro Claver Inc.
COLT Coalition
Crossroads Community Center
H&S Learning Center
Hope Christian Tabernacle Church
Open Borders Project
Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Center
The Place of Refuge
Tioga United
Voice of Salvation Community Outreach Services
Women’s Institute for Family Health