Last spring, undergraduate students studying social work, helped develop a grant proposal awarding $5,000 to Gemeinschaft Home.
By Paige Riddle (summer intern)
Harrisonburg, VA - Gemeinschaft Home recently participated in a collaborative grant-writing process with students from the Grant Writing for Agencies class at James Madison University. The process allows groups of students to join local nonprofit organizations in applying for a $5,000 grant. The grant funding comes from the Learning by Giving Foundation, which was founded by Doris Buffet.
The main goal of the foundation is to engage students at institutions of higher education in the United States about philanthropy. Some other university partners of the foundation include Columbia University, Ohio University, and Stanford University.
Each class distributes $10,000 to nonprofits in their community with the grant writing processes they deem appropriate for their learning goals.
I joined two other students, Hayley Jenkins and Courtney Fennel, to collaborate with Gemeinschaft Home. Public Relations and Outreach coordinator, Dr. Jennifer Jacovitch, introduced us to the organization and served as our primary contact for the process. My experience with Gemeinschaft Home was incredibly eye-opening. I did not expect to feel so welcomed and familiar at the organization after only a few meetings, and I certainly did not expect to feel so attached to the work we created together.
Dr. Jacovitch shared her expertise with the population and the organization, but she trusted us with the actual writing of the grant. Our proposal focused on a College Outreach Program to expand the organization’s community presence. Our classmates were extremely receptive to this concept, and we placed first out of nineteen organizations, awarding Gemeinschaft Home $5000 to implement the proposed program!
College Day Open House
The majority of students in the Grant Writing for Agencies class do not see the results of their proposed grant project, as the funding is distributed after the class ends. My internship at Gemeinschaft Home this past summer allowed me to see the plans shift and settle with the needs of Gemeinschaft Home and the community. Our current plan is to host an Open House for young adults in the Harrisonburg community and creating materials for promotion and educational presentations.
The Open House will take place at Gemeinschaft Home on Friday, September 21 from 11:00am to 4:00pm. The goal of this event is to reach out to college-age adults who are interested in learning about the population we serve, the nonprofit sector, and Gemeinschaft Home. We will offer food and games, dialogue with staff and residents, and information on ways to serve and advocate for ex-offenders.
The main idea behind the Open House is to address the stigma that is associated with ex-offenders by offering college students like me an opportunity to engage comfortably with members of the population. I shared with Gemeinschaft staff how surprising it was to walk onto the Gemeinschaft property and immediately feel safe—despite some early preconceived notions and fears.
I want others to experience this important shift in perception, too. This is a rare opportunity for many to confront their assumptions prior to their entrance into the workforce. More importantly, it is an opportunity for students to connect with a significant portion of every community that needs advocacy and to identify ways to get more involved.