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Self-Development of People announces COVID-19 grant recipients

Nearly $120,000 awarded to fund 30 community-based organizations in the US

by Margaret Mwale, Self-Development of People | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People has awarded $118,000 to 30 community-based organizations in the U.S. The grants were made to help the organizations deal with the impacts of COVID-19. (Contributed photos)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) has approved grants totaling $118,000 to 30 community-based projects in the United States aimed at alleviating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money is from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s One Great Hour of Sharing offering. SDOP receives 32% of undesignated OGHS gifts.

In 2020, SDOP marked 50 years of partnering with economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged community groups. The funds that would have been used for its 50th anniversary celebration have instead gone toward awarding COVID grants to communities facing critical needs.

SDOP Coordinator, the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, says, “This is an unprecedented time. After hearing from a number of our communities about how COVID-19 has strongly impacted them and their work, we knew it was important for us to walk alongside communities in this way.”

The National SDOP Committee approved 21 COVID grants in November. Nine COVID grants were approved by mid council SDOP committees in December. SDOP is constantly looking for ways to engage communities of economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people in partnership.

Projects funded include food distribution to assist communities struggling with food insecurity, the purchase of personal protection equipment by New Orleans residents still recovering from recent hurricanes and winter care packages to Native American elders in New Mexico.

SDOP enables members and non-members of the PC(USA) to form partnerships with oppressed and disadvantaged people in order to help them achieve self-sufficiency.

Groups awarded funds include:

  • Serve Squad Society in Royal Oak, Michigan, was awarded a COVID grant of $1,942 to assist low-income youth and their families impacted by the pandemic with wi-fi access. These youth and their families struggle with lack of wi-fi access which has become a critical need as COVID-19 has resulted in an increasing reliance on wi-fi and remote access for distance learning for students and for work for adults.
  • South Sudanese Foundation in Fargo, North Dakota, was awarded a COVID grant of $1,945 to hire a distance learning coordinator and a rapid response community coordinator. The distance dearning coordinator will help refugees and immigrant students access and acclimatize to distance learning and work with students, parents, and teachers to make sure all students have what they need to learn outside of school. The rapid response community coordinator will keep up with and translate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal, state, and local announcements, as well as information from medical professionals and information about available resources.
  • Oakdale Neighbors in Grand Rapids, Michigan, received a $1,945 COVID grant to enable the organization to assist its economically disadvantaged residents struggling with the adverse impact of COVID-19. Community residents are wrestling with unemployment and evictions exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • Wayside Recovery Center in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, was awarded a $1,943 grant to assist it in keeping its clients and staff safe at its women’s and family residential treatment facilities. As winter approaches, behavioral health needs in this community will escalate when isolation increases, encampments are dismantled, and shelters are at capacity, making the services of Wayside Recovery Center even more critical.
  • Prism Economic Development Corporation in Milwaukee received a $1,945 COVID grant to help to get meals to food-insecure households and individuals. The organization has forged several partnerships with area food ministries and organizations to obtain donated food in bulk to be used in the preparation of freshly cooked meals. The COVID grant will help with the payroll costs of the community meals coordinator and half the payroll expense of the kitchen manager.
  • Food Depot to Health in South Euclid, Ohio was awarded a $1,945 COVID grant to enable it to purchase materials for indoor and outdoor growing of vegetable crops. Their project, Urban Homesteading through Community Caring-Emergekit, will provide materials to project members for growing nutrient dense greens including kale, collards, swiss chard, and frequently used culinary herbs. The kits will include a manual and a calendar that includes the module training dates and times. Participants will be enrolled from community groups, afterschool care and senior living buildings.
  • BECOME in Chicago is a community-based organization that received a $1,945 COVID grant to help South Shore community residents who have lost loved ones and jobs amidst the pandemic.  BECOME will host listening forums to hear from community residents about their needs and increase the number of people served through strategic outreach by asking those who have been served if they know of anyone else in the community who has a need related to the pandemic that they need to connect to and sharing community needs with city and state leadership.
  • Solo Saving Our Lost Ones in Detroit was awarded a $1,945 COVID grant to a project that will provide “mobile haircuts” for low-income students while practicing social distancing on the school bus. Students that are virtual learning from home will receive a surprise mobile visit from the SOLO team with a haircut, school supplies and incentive of their choice.
  • Wesley Community Center in Dayton, Ohio, received a $1,945 COVID grant to support destruction of PPE supplies including hand sanitizer, disinfecting cleaner, disposable face coverings and cloth face coverings. The center also plans to purchase 3 laptop computers to support the infant mortality prevention program.
  • Domestic Workers United in Brooklyn, New York, received a $7,500 COVID grant for its project that seeks to continue to provide support to domestic workers during the pandemic by helping to maintain a sense of community, educating its members, promoting self-advocacy, and improving workers’ quality of life through financial coaching and medical/nutritional/mental health consultations. This has included sharing collective knowledge and resources. The project has invited healthcare professionals to share about COVID and related health concerns on some town hall calls. Its Maple Street Community Garden partnership has provided free farm fresh food to workers.
  • West End Pantry in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania, was awarded a $5,000 COVID grant for its volunteer-only food pantry that gives free food to low-income neighbors. It also provides other resources to families that cannot afford food. Programs include a free bicycle program, new back to school supplies, haircuts, and a food pantry closet program in every school of the Pleasant Valley District. The elderly are provided winter clothes, flu shots and tax return preparation help. During the pandemic, the project is focused on food collection and distribution, which has intensified.
  • The Alumni Group (TAG) in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, was awarded a $7,500 COVID grant for a project focused on finding alternative means of funding as the primary means have been severely restricted due to COVID. Project members are seeking to continue maintaining mentoring and transitional housing ministries.
  • Movement for Justice in El Barrio in New York City was awarded a $7,500 COVID grant to aid immigrants in the community who are adversely impacted by the pandemic. The group will assist other immigrants by providing PPE care boxes, meal delivery, distribution of monthly MetroCards, grocery certificates and a bilingual COVID-19 emergency telephone hotline, among other services.
  • Multicultural Center for Health/Education and Community Development in Clarkston, Georgia, was awarded a $6,875 COVID grant to assist in carrying out monthly food distribution. Residents to be helped include refugees, immigrants, and homebound seniors. The program seeks to improve family stability by removing the uncertainty of when or where the next meal will come from.
  • Familias Unidas en Accion in New Orleans received a $6,875 COVID grant to assist it in responding to the harmful impact of the Pandemic by purchasing and distributing boxes of culturally specific food, PPE and basic hygiene supplies to local families. Project members also plan to hire a skilled interpreter/translator who is deeply engaged in the community thus ensuring that their communities have up to date culturally relevant information in their native language.
  • GAP Ministries of Augusta in Augusta, Georgia, was awarded a $6,875 COVID grant to purchase personal protection equipment (PPE) and to employ a professional cleaning service. This will allow the organization to continue to provide a safe environment to conduct its programs for area residents.
  • Haywood Pathways Center in Waynesville, North Carolina, received a COVID grant of $6,875 to assist it in providing meals, emergency shelter, short-term housing, and rehabilitative services for community residents experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Safe Ground Sacramento in Sacramento, California, received a $7,500 COVID grant to help people experiencing homelessness exacerbated by the pandemic. The organization has leased some land and prepared the site with grading and ground covering, accessed water sources and built platforms that hold tents. The group hired a person to help residents organize, maintain cleanliness and safety, and access services in the community. Group members continue to meet with the mayor and city council members, currently working on a shelter crisis ordinance that would allow the tiny house communities to pass zoning ordinances.
  • Masjidul Taqwa in San Diego received a $7,500 COVID grant to combat the problem of food insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic. The SDOP funds will help increase the organization’s capacity and efficiency and to serve more community residents. MTSD has outgrown its allotted space and the SDOP funds will help pay for a warehouse to accommodate more food and office space to coordinate the program and train staff members.
  • Indigenous Lifeways in Gallup, New Mexico, received a $7,500 COVID grant that will enable it to provide winter care packages to Native American elders. They hope to serve 200 seniors with blankets, gloves, scarves, socks, hats and a first aid kit. The region experienced an unusually early cold front which has brought urgency to keep their elders warm this coming winter. Most Navajo Nation roads are unpaved, which is a primary barrier in obtaining essentials for many elders when the roads are wet.
  • Urban Fresh Food Collective in Seattle received a $5,000 COVID grant to help South Park families dealing with food insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic. South Park is considered a food desert and access to fresh food has always been a challenge. UFFC is helping consolidate food distribution efforts. It also helped create flyers and social media communication and set up a bilingual subscription service over text to let families know in real time of food opportunities for pickup and delivery, including setting up six food pantry locations around the neighborhood providing shelf-stable food.
  • NEO Black Health Coalition in Cleveland received a $1,500 COVID grant to purchase healthy fresh and shelf-stable holiday meals and beyond for families of disabled children isolated due to disability, economic hardship, and pandemic restrictions.
  • Project Hope for the Homeless in Painesville, Ohio, received a $1,000 COVID grant to assist homeless persons seeking shelter. The homelessness problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • The UAFS Nature Academy in Akron, Ohio, received a $1,500 COVID grant to help bridge the gap created by the pandemic for environmental education outreach for area students. The Nature Academy is in Bath Nature Preserve on the edge of the urban-rural interface. The free programs make it possible for local low-income students to participate and learn about the importance and impact of the environment on their general well-being.
  • Cooperators’ Advocacy Project (CAP Masaryk) in New York City was awarded a $700 COVID grant to help fund the organization’s youth development training program.
  • Project Connect in Brooklyn, New York, the Church of Gethsemane, primarily a congregation by, of and for formerly incarcerated members received a $1,000 COVID grant to help members struggling with the impact of COVID-19. The funds will primarily help keep church staff and membership digitally connected in order to continue meeting their spiritual needs and to avoid isolation which negatively impacts mental health.
  • Age Friendly Central Brooklyn in Brooklyn, New York received a $1,000 COVID grant. The funds will assist in the publication of a newsletter for older adults living in Central Brooklyn. The newsletter helps keep them emotionally connected, builds a sense of community and helps their mental state made fragile by the isolation due to COVID-19 that they are experiencing.
  • Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church’s Mutual Aid Network in Brooklyn, New York received a $1,300 COVID grant. The funds will help group members struggling with the impacts of COVID-19, including job loss, by paying rent and providing food.
  • Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Gardena, California, received a $5,000 COVID grant. The project is by and for low-income people who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Per Aspera Ad Astra Outreach Community in San Bernardino, California was awarded a $5,000 COVID grant to assist persons experiencing homelessness.

 “As COVID-19 continues to devastate communities, especially communities of color (disproportionally), as well as those with vulnerable populations, we knew that it was of great importance that we as a ministry of Christ live out the Gospel of poverty eradication and the promotion of hope and support in this way,” Johnson said. “Our communities are centers of hope and healing and they have much to teach us about what it means to take care of one another in these difficult times.”

Through these challenging times of the pandemic, the work of National SDOP and nearly 30 mid council SDOP committees who are partnering with economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged communities continues. These partnerships are made possible due to the generous contributions of Presbyterians to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.

For information on an upcoming community grant webinar to learn about SDOP’s grant application process and funding criteria or to learn more about the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, contact the national office at:

Self-Development of People
100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, KY 40202-1396
Toll Free Telephone: English – (888) 728-7228 x5782 / 5792
Spanish – (888) 728-7228 x5790
Fax: (502) 569-8963


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