Campus & Community

$100,000 in grants go to community projects

4 min read

Artists and others in Allston and Brighton get first round of Harvard funding

Over the next five years, Harvard will award grants to nonprofit groups serving North Allston/North Brighton.

The first round of funding from the Harvard Allston Partnership Fund totals $100,000. Recipients were announced last Friday (June 26) in a public gathering at the Harvard Allston Education Portal on North Harvard Street.

An advisory committee made up of neighborhood residents chose the grant recipients after a detailed review process.

Six organizations share in the inaugural funding, with grants that range from $5,000 to $20,000. The money will go toward new projects, including an arts workshop, health education classes, and a poetry program for schoolchildren.

Harvard President Drew Faust – acknowledging “the hard times, the challenging times we all find ourselves in” – called the grants an example of the University’s sustained commitment to surrounding communities.

“We stand pledged to support that neighborhood connection,” she said, “to be your good neighbor, and to work together as partners in bringing some of these hopes and dreams to fruition.”

Joining Faust was Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who praised Harvard and its neighborhood partners.

“You judge a city by its neighborhoods,” he said. “If your neighborhoods are strong, your city is strong.”

John Palmieri, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority – which assisted the awards committee – pointed to a durable town-gown collaboration. “There is no better model,” he said, “than the Harvard-Allston model.”

Karen Smith, one of seven committee members, said the grants process was “an opportunity for true collaboration” that included voices from the neighborhoods, the city, and the Harvard Allston Task Force.

She called the grants process “joyful and easy.”

That was also true because of the quality of the applicants – many of whom already do great good with “modest dollars,” said Smith.

“They were all thoughtful; they were worthy,” she said of the applicants. “So many people are stepping up, often very quietly.”

John Hoffman is one. He’s executive director of The Fishing Academy, which received a grant this year.

For five years, his nonprofit public charity has sponsored river and ocean boat trips for urban youngsters. “It changes lives,” he said afterward.

Of the grant recipients, “We wish you every success,” said Smith. “We know you will inspire others to apply.”

Committee deliberations begin in September for the 2010-11 round of funding for Harvard Allston Partnership Fund grants.

The partnership fund is part of a cooperation agreement between Harvard and the city of Boston that has introduced new programs and neighborhood improvements in North Allston/North Brighton.

One such improvement already in place is the Harvard Allston Education Portal. More than 80 Allston-Brighton children are mentored by Harvard students there in science, math, and writing.

Forthcoming is Library Park, a one-acre public green space behind the Honan-Allston Library at 300 N. Harvard St. It’s currently in design and scheduled to be finished in 2011.

A closer look at the winners of this year’s Harvard Allston Partnership Fund grants:

  • The Allston Brighton Arts Bridge – an arts project created for local teenagers by a filmmaker, director, and actress – will sponsor 18 weeks of workshops and culminate in a public screening.
  • The Charles River Watershed Association will convert a barren paved lot alongside the German International School Boston on Holton Street into a lush, green, sustainable landscape.
  • The Fishing Academy will increase scholarships to help local children attend a recreational fishing camp this summer.
  • The Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center will offer health workshops and one-on-one patient education for at-risk populations.
  • The Massachusetts Poetry Outreach Project will host a poets-in-residence program for fourth- and fifth-grade writing classes at Gardner Pilot Academy, readings at the Honan-Allston Library, and a letterpress studio.
  • St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church will offset the costs of diapers for 90 families that use the church’s free diaper service every month at the Allston-Brighton Baby Diaper Pantry.