Regardless of age, gender, income, physical ability, or cultural background, everyone wants the same things when it comes to the places they call home: accessible and affordable housing and transportation options; the ability to learn, make a living, get the services they need, and have some fun; and, social connections with friends, family, and neighbors.
But these core elements of what we at AARP call “livable communities,” aren’t available everywhere. The last year has shone a spotlight on a host of disparities that persist across the country, particularly in communities of color – from health care and housing to transportation and safe places to enjoy the outdoors, just to name a few.
AARP is committed to helping address these challenges. One way we’re doing this is through our Community Challenge grant program. Now in its fifth year, the program is part of our nationwide Livable Communities initiative that supports the efforts of cities and counties to become great places to live for people of all ages.
Responding to local leaders who told us that getting quick wins helps build momentum for longer-term change, the Community Challenge grants fund fast-turnaround projects without a lot of red tape. Awards, which can range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands, will be announced this summer with projects scheduled for completion by early November.
This year, we are bolstering our support for efforts that focus on diversity and inclusion, as well as those that aid in the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Since 2017, AARP has awarded 560 grants totaling $6 million to government entities and nonprofit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For example:
In El Cajon, California, Circulate San Diego created educational resources for older adults, particularly the community's large Iraqi refugee population, to help them become more comfortable using public transit and lay the foundation for future transit use.
In Falcon Heights, Minnesota, the Philando Castile Peace Garden Committee received funding to support the groundbreaking, soil testing and a foundational level of plantings and pathway creation for a new public space and peace garden that is being created in memory of area resident Philando Castile.
In Atlanta, Georgia, the Lifecycle Building Center received a grant to construct 10 accessible garden beds and seven Little Free Pantries using 90 percent reclaimed materials, to support older adults in largely refugee and marginalized communities experiencing food insecurity.
In addition to delivering tangible benefits to community residents, many of Community Challenge grant projects have sparked the kind of ongoing investment and dialogue that can lead to broader improvements. A significant percentage served as demonstrations or pilots that helped overcome policy barriers. Nearly half attracted additional financial support from public and private funders, and all of our grantees report increased community awareness and engagement with their efforts. Apply here by April 14, 2021.