The United Way Waterloo Region Communities group is looking to support small, community-driven projects in the Wellesley Township through its community matching grant program.
Whether it’s with something as simple as installing a park bench, holding a community barbeque or beautifying a part of the township, United Way is offering grants of up to $500 to community members to help make those visions a reality.
“The community matching grants that are available in Wellesley Township are grants that have been made available through the partnership with United Way and with the Township of Wellesley,” explained Nancy Bird, vice-president of resource mobilization for the local United Way.
The organization is specifically targeting resident-led initiatives in the township, explained Bird.
“So it wouldn’t be for an established agency, like a service delivery agency. We’re not looking at organized, registered charities or other groups. It needs to be really resident-driven,” she said. She added that service organizations like the Lions Club, would be considered for the grant.
Filling out a grant application can seem daunting, and for that reason the United Way is more than willing to work with people on their community project ideas. The organization has a dedicated office space at the township office in Wellesley to meet with applicants and talk about their ideas.
“So I think encouraging people if you have an idea, even if it’s not maybe fully developed yet, if you want to talk to us or even like put in an application, we’ll give feedback or we can ask questions,” she said.
It’s perhaps closer to a partnership than a straight grant, as United Way is offering to match in dollars whatever the applicants contribute toward the project, and the contribution doesn’t necessarily have to be in cash.
“They might get supplies donated from someplace, they may have volunteer hours that are then valued at approximately $16 an hour – we look at a living wage for Waterloo Region. And that’s sort of what they’re bringing to the table along with their idea,” said Bird.
“And then through the funds that United Way has provided, there’s up to $500 per project available for actual cash to go into the initiative as well. To allow them to maybe do some advertising, perhaps get some materials that they need that maybe they can’t source out in other ways. To really just provide a little bit of extra resource and leverage to make it happen in their community.”
Put in 10 hours towards a tree-planting project in the township? United Way could match that with $160 of grant money to help purchase seeds and other supplies, for example.
The grant program launched last year, but the applications have only just started to come in, said Bird. Up to $500 is being offered per project, but there is a total of $5,000 earmarked for grants in Wellesley this year, and the grants are given out on a first-come-first-serve basis. For that reason, Bird is encouraging people interested to apply early, even if their projects aren’t until later in the year.
Currently, Community Matching Grants aren’t available in neighbouring Woolwich or Wilmot townships.
“It’s kind of like a pilot for us, but we’re going to learn about working with the township,” said Bird of the Wellesley grant. She added though they were interested in expanding similar programs into Woolwich and Wilmot in the future.
Applications for the matching grant are being accepted throughout the year, and can be found on the Wellesley website under “Living Here” tab. People can also call United Way at 519-621-1030, ext. 234.