SAN FRANCISCO — Community improvements don’t have to be big projects to make a big difference in people’s lives. AARP is looking for ideas that will improve local neighborhoods.
The 3rd annual AARP Community Challenge grant program is taking applications from government agencies and nonprofits now through April 17. Teddy Fang runs the Florence Fang Asian Community Garden in San Francisco, which used a $7,000 grant last year to expand the garden and food pantry.
“It was enough money to make a big difference, where they spend the money directly on the need and the community members could immediately see improvements in their lives,” Fang said. “It’s a very helpful program for grass roots community organizations.”
Last year, the grant program awarded funds to 129 projects, including five in California: the garden plus a project to cut down on traffic accidents in San Diego, to promote the bike-share program in West Sacramento, and to teach people in Chula Vista about their local public transit.
Fang said the garden and food pantry project provides a place for community members to come together and really connect.
“Most of the participants ended up being senior immigrants from China and Vietnam, who are very limited English-proficient,” he said. “But they’ve found the community garden an important place for them to be able to share their culture, share their traditions, share their food.”
The projects can address almost any problem, but must be able to be finished by November 4. The suggested categories include ideas to improve public spaces, promote affordable housing or use Smart Cities plans, which rely on data to pinpoint and tackle emerging problems around town.