Celebrate Kent! program makes financial funding more accessible to organizations

Erica Crist

Organizations in Kent seeking financial support, especially smaller ones, may have an easier time getting it in 2007 through the Celebrate Kent! Grant Program.

Michael Weddle, the city’s economic development coordinator, is in the process of creating a new application for this grant. The biggest change is that applicants no longer need to demonstrate past experience in programming – they just need an idea that is viable to the community, he said.

The Celebrate Kent! Grant Program is the modification of an existing program that Kent has had in place called the Kent Economic Development Promotions Grant Program, Weddle said.

“Celebrate Kent! is the reincarnation of that program,” he said. “It creates a more user-friendly program to community groups in the city who desire financial support.”

The original application for this grant was eight pages long and required the applicant to generate multiple budget and qualification reports, Weddle said.

“Since a majority of the grants are smaller and community-based groups, there is no sense in putting them through all of those bureaucratic demands,” he said. “We have reduced the grant application to a single page, and the reporting requirement was also reduced to single page.”

City Council said it also wants a match requirement, which was in the original program, to be required for 2007. Weddle said organizations will need to match the funding received from the grant on their own or through another outside contribution.

Councilwoman Beth Oswitch said this is intended to make organizations more accountable.

“We want them to be honestly working hard at their goal instead of just getting a free handout,” she said.

Currently, $10,000 is allotted to the Celebrate Kent! Grant Program. Last year, $8,000 was given to the Kent State Folk Festival and $2,000 was given to the Downtown Innovative Community Events organization, known as D.I.C.E., Weddle said.

D.I.C.E. is a partnership between Standing Rock Cultural Arts and Main Street Kent with the goal to revitalize downtown Kent through cultural events.

“They celebrate Kent for what Kent is – a vibrant community – and they like to bring people downtown,” Weddle said.

The ideal candidate for the Celebrate Kent! Grant Program is an organization with a project or event that will bring people downtown, whether they are residents of the city or visitors from out of town, Weddle said.

“The ideal applicant would be a nonprofit organization that has a project that will generate interest in attracting crowds to Kent to promote commerce and appreciate what our community can offer.”

Thomas Simpson, director of the Kent Stage and assistant director of the Center for Student Involvement, said the Kent Stage has used funding from this grant in the past to advertise events in the Akron Beacon Journal and the Free Times.

However, Simpson said the demand for this grant money is much bigger than the supply. City Council and Weddle agree.

“I’m anticipating a demand for these monies based on interest from agencies in past years that says $10,000 won’t be sufficient,” Weddle said.

Weddle said if City Council approves the new application, then all proposals will be reviewed by the community development department and given to City Council to consider and allocate the funds. The council may choose not to fund some of the proposals.

“If you dilute the pool by giving out smaller amounts, then you dilute the purpose of the funds,” Simpson said. “In order to be effective, you need to properly fund activities and, instead of a smaller slice, you need a bigger pie.”

Contact public affairs reporter Erica Crist at [email protected].