WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI – A slew of community organizations, including those working with veterans, people dealing with substance use issues and children, are set to be on the receiving end of $3.2 million in COVID relief dollars from Washtenaw County.
On Wednesday, Oct. 5, county leaders gave a preliminary OK to a second round of funding from a new $8-million program aimed at powering grassroots groups, especially those serving the Ypsilanti-area 48197 and 48198 ZIP codes, hard hit by the pandemic.
Much of the money will help groups providing preschool and child care, including the Bottles-N-Backpacks Child Development Center, the largest Black-owned early childhood education center in the county, officials say.
For nearly a decade an a half, the organization has served “communities of great promise and high potential,” its co-owner Kier McLemore told county commissioners during the Oct. 5 meeting, saying he preferred the term for the children the group supports, which have been “labeled for years as underserved or at risk,” he said.
The investment comes as part of the county’s Community Priority Fund, money set aside from federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to power social services groups that are small and not used to contracting with the county.
“The (Community Priority Fund) represents such an impactful opportunity for organizations who have worked diligently throughout the pandemic and since,” said Commissioner Justin Hodge, who represents the Ypsilanti-area District 5, in a statement.
“While some of these agencies have been around for a while, most haven’t done business with us before, so we are absolutely expanding our ecosystem of service providers and supporting crucial work for our residents in community,” he added.
The funded organizations, chosen by a citizen-led community review body and OK’d by county administration, are meant to expand access to child care and address housing and homelessness issues, among the priorities of the new fund.
Previous allocations from the fund have targeted groups working to interrupt gun violence, many led by people who were formerly incarcerated.
The groups funded in the measure approved on first reading Oct. 5 are listed below, as well information on the projects they will undertake.
Foundations Preschool – $20,000
Founded as the Perry Nursey School in 1934 as the area reeled from the effects of the Great Depression, Foundations Preschool now serves a student body of majority Ypsilanti-area residents.
Over 97% of families that participate in the preschool are low-income households, according to the county.
Funds will be used to modify the organization’s current preschool model, according to a county memo.
Bottles-N-Backpacks Child Development Center, Inc. – $600,000
Bottles-N-Backpacks, a family-owned business, has served more than 700 families in the Ypsilanti-area since 2008, officials say.
The group intends to expand its STEAM curriculum serving children of color ages 3 to 12, implementing it year-round. The program introduces kids to robotics, engineering, gardening, yoga and other holistic educational experiences, the county memo states.
Child Care Network – $1,180,000
Based in Ann Arbor and with locations across Michigan, the Child Care Network is a nonprofit founded in 1971 and helping families find and afford child care, as well as aiding early childhood education professionals to provide quality care, according to the county.
The funding will flow to the group’s Family Support Program, providing child care scholarships to needy families, the county memo states.
Huron Valley PACE – $278,181
Ypsilanti Township-based Huron Valley PACE serves older adults aged 55 and up with ongoing health care needs, providing medical care, transportation, prescription drugs, therapy and other services, according to the county.
With the funding, the group intends to partner with a real estate company to secure 10 apartment units and subsidize rents to allow tenants to remain in their communities. Additional services will include home-based care, meal preparation, grocery shopping, medical oversight and other support services, the county memo states.
Life After Incarceration: Transition and Reentry – $142,000
Life After Incarceration is an occupational therapy program serving justice system-involved people and operating a reentry program with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.
The funding will help the group expand current services now offered with one part-time occupational therapist to programming staffed by two full-time positions, according to the county memo.
The House by the Side of the Road – $75,000
The now volunteer-run group The House by the Side of the Road opened in 1970 through a partnership with the county and area churches. It is now based in Ann Arbor and provides free clothing, linens and household items to people in need due to poverty, job loss, unexpected disasters or other events, county officials say.
The funding will go to support the organization’s 2022 expenses to continue to meet community need, according to the county memo.
Michigan Itinerant Shelter System Interdependent Out of Necessity (MISSION) – $55,900
MISSON provides direct support for the houseless community in Washtenaw County, including meals, winter clothing, hygiene items and shelter. It served 400 people during the past winter season, according to the county.
The funding will be used to expand an existing daytime shelter, improve its Ypsilanti-based food pantry, purchase warming equipment and develop an emergency mini-grant program to support needs of the unhoused, the county memo states.
2Marines – $22,000
2Marines serves veterans and their families in Ypsilanti-area ZIP codes through intervention programs, also working with Veterans Affairs to help participants access benefits, according to the county.
The funding will be used to provide a temporary housing allowance for people with short-term need and to purchase technology allowing for remote communication for service delivery, according to the county memo.
Dawn Farm – $21,040.20
Dawn Farm, founded in 1973, provides substance use treatment services to help addicts and alcoholics navigate the long-term recovery process, regardless of the ability to pay for treatment, county officials say.
The group will use the funding to expand transitional housing capacity in Ypsilanti, where there are currently more than 30 people on a waitlist for the program, the county memo states.
Community Family Life Center – $676,582.80
The nonprofit Community Family Life Center serves as a hub for the Ypsilanti-area Sugarbrook neighborhood and surrounding communities with programming for youth and families focused on their well-being.
With the funds, the center plans to expand its K-12 After School Youth Enrichment Program from one day per week to four days, according to the county memo.
One of its co-founders, Willie Powell, thanked commissioners for thinking of the residents of the southeast part of Ypsilanti during the Oct. 5 meeting.
“We know definitely that they have been underserved,” Powell said, adding the center will do its best to aid the community.
Family Empowerment Program at Eastern Michigan University – $129,296
The Family Empowerment Program, housed at EMU, is coordinated by on-site social workers who help individuals and families navigate social, economic and health issues, serving all families living in Ypsilanti Housing Commission communities, according to the county.
The funding will let the program expand the duration of an existing education and wellness coordinator position, a key contact point for families living in Ypsilanti’s Hamilton Crossing, Strong Housing and New Parkridge communities, according to the county memo.
More from The Ann Arbor News: