Community Challenge Grant Provides Unique Opportunity for WA Cities

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A grant program to improve communities is open for applications.

Started in 2017, the AARP Community Challenge program provides grants to communities for projects that can be turned around quickly and improve cities and towns for people of all ages.

Mike Rizzitiello, city administrator for the City of College Place in the Walla Walla Valley, said the city received a grant in 2021 for more than $18,000 dollars to install four free wireless internet hot spots. He explained the Community Challenge is able to fill a gap in the grant world for cities.

“There’s very few grant opportunities that I would say are geared toward, really, community development type needs,” Rizzitiello pointed out. “Whether it be free Wi-Fi, infrastructure, playgrounds; stuff like that.”

He noted cities are also limited in the funds they have available to complete such projects. Since 2017, the program has awarded $12.7 million to more than a thousand projects, including 19 in Washington state.

The Community Challenge program is adding two new grant programs this year. One is a capacity-building microgrant for improving walkability, and starting or expanding a community garden. The other is a demonstration grant focused on transportation improvements and the benefits of accessory dwelling units as a housing solution.

Rizzitiello has advice for people who apply.

“Think out of the box,” Rizzitiello urged. “Think about whatever is a major need in the community where you can work with partners and maybe where without this grant, there isn’t really a discernible pathway forward to fund it, and then tell your story.”

The program prioritizes nonprofit organizations and government entities. The deadline for applications is 2 p.m. PT March 15. Once funded, the projects must be completed by Nov. 30.

Featured photo: The City of College Place, Wash., received a grant to improve wireless internet connection in the community. (City of College Place)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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