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On March 9, 2023, longtime residents of Austin, student volunteers from the University of Texas at Austin, and staff from UT’s Center for Community Engagement came together at the Willie Mae Kirk Branch of the Austin Public Library to break bread and discuss the community members funding priorities for their neighborhoods. This event was catered by Central Market, and after the attendees had an opportunity to select their meal and mingle, the night kicked off with a brief introduction by the Director of Community Driven Initiatives, Stephanie Lang.
Stephanie described the Center for Community Engagement’s programming process, which stemmed from community feedback gathered during an October 2022 Front Porch Gathering. This method is a guiding principle of equitable community relationships with institutions: ensuring that community members have opportunities to share their ideas and expertise, that their needs are listened to, and that their comments and responses are implemented. After her introduction to the night’s programming, Stephanie invited her colleague, the Assistant Director of the Texas Grants Resource Center, Amy Loar, to speak.
Amy gave a brief presentation about consulting with the TGRC and how the community can leverage this program as an asset as they seek grants. After her presentation, the attendees were split into breakout groups to discuss their experiences with seeking grants, their questions about accessing the TGRC, and issues within their neighborhoods they would like to see addressed by grants. Many of the attendees described positive previous experiences applying for and receiving grant funding and could describe grant-funded projects within their communities. Across the attendees, the most urgent issues for grants were to address children’s needs within the community––particularly those of Black children, and to preserve and make more accessible important historical and cultural institutions in East Austin.
The evening ended with a report-out session where representatives from the breakout groups shared their priorities for grant funding and asked questions about the TGRC. Through this report-out time, attendees were walked through the process of setting an appointment with TGRC, which is located at the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building. Community members also learned about utilizing the TGRC’s Candid (a national grants database) subscription during their appointment and about other community resources that could review their applications before submission. Stephanie closed the event with an invitation to the next Front Porch Gathering event about collaborative opportunities to work with student volunteers from The University of Texas at Austin.
She also invited attendees to participate in Community Driven Initiatives storytelling project. Those who wish to have their history recorded can visit the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building (1191 Navasota Street, Austin, TX) on the second Thursday of every month between 11:00 am – 1:00 pm to share a personal story (up to 20 minutes) about the community. These stories can be personal, political, or simply a happy neighborhood memory. To participate in this initiative, make an appointment via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject heading “Thursday Storytelling – [Your Name].”