Small Is Powerful: Neighbourhood Small Grants Come to Salt Spring by Kisae Petersen

On a recent sunny morning, the Salt Spring library’s program room was filled with conversation, laughter and the occasional squeal from a happy baby. Groups of women were gathered around several wooden coat stands and ladders, busily knotting macramé plant hangers as they chatted.

The macramé workshop was the final one in the Creative Collective series of arts and craft skill-share workshops, one of 11 projects supported by Neighbourhood Small Grants. Over the past memorable winter, this small but powerful grants program has been forging connections between islanders. The program is based on a simple idea—that everyone is a valuable member of the community and that we all have something to share that will make Salt Spring Island a better place to live.

Last fall, the Salt Spring Island Foundation, in partnership with Salt Spring Island Community Services, launched the island’s first Neighbourhood Small Grants program, offering grants of $50 to $500 to projects and events that bring people together, share skills and knowledge, build a sense of belonging and responsibility, and respect and celebrate diversity. Unlike regular Foundation grants, which are only available to registered charities, Neighbourhood Small Grants are awarded to individuals with great ideas to share.

Neighbourhood Small Grants funded block parties, a gathering for young people working on local farms, a clothing swap, a community tea party, an allotment-garden gathering place, the chili cook-off and Christmas light-up, and the Creative Collective series. The Glitter Queens gathering brought together girls in grades 6 to 8 to create community, share skills and song circles, while the Community in the Birthing Year event offered support to families.

Neighbourhood Small Grants were first offered by the Vancouver Foundation in an effort to combat isolation in city neighbourhoods. The Vancouver Foundation is supporting the expansion of the program to the Vancouver Island area, where the Salt Spring Island Foundation is working with the Victoria Foundation and Clayoquot Biosphere Trust.
The Foundation’s 2017 VitalSigns® report showed that Salt Spring generally scores well on community belonging, but that some of us feel isolated. Neighbourhood Small Grants have proven a great fit for Salt Spring’s combination of traditional geographic neighbourhoods and other “neighbourhoods” of shared interests, activities and identity that transcend geography and help us feel more connected to our fellow islanders.

Creative Collective participant Gina McMahon says, “When I think of neighbourhood, I think of community and getting to know people, and these workshops hit every note. The enthusiasm was there, it was well organized and had all those cosy, friendly touches that you think of with neighbourhood, friends and family. The no-cost aspect is definitely attractive too. I can’t say enough good things about it.”

In April, the Foundation and Community Services will celebrate the first Neighbourhood Small Grants projects and launch the next round of grants for 2019. All islanders are invited to the ArtSpring Gallery on Saturday, April 6, from 1 to 3 p.m. to hear inspiring stories from project organizers and learn more about participating in Neighbourhood Small Grants in 2019.

For more information about Neighbourhood Small Grants, please visit the Foundation website at ssifoundation.ca.