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"Fast Tracks" wanted

Grants are aimed at improving communities

Imagine community projects that can be turned around quickly. Sounds unlikely? A program that does just that is now open for applications. Started in 2017, the AARP Community Challenge program provides grants to improve cities and towns for people of all ages. The city of Tigard is one recent recipient. The program helped fund what's called a Launch Pod food business accelerator.

Lloyd Purdy, economic development manager for the City of Tigard, said two food cart businesses have been selected and will launch in the spring. He said the Community Challenge program focuses on projects that build communities.

"Whether it's starting new businesses or making a community a healthier place - in my experience, that grant program is willing to put financial support behind a wide range of ideas because AARP knows that a healthy community is good for not just seniors but for everybody," Purdy said.

Last year, six projects in Oregon were funded through the program. Since 2017, the program has awarded $ 12.7 million to more than 1,000 thousand projects. The program prioritizes nonprofit organizations and government entities.

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

Bandana Shrestha, state director of AARP Oregon, said the program is geared toward fast-tracking ideas that will get tangible results.

"Whether it's a community garden that somebody wants to put out or make their park more accessible by putting benches, these may be small grants but can make a really lasting impact in their community," Shrestha said.

In addition to the projects funded by the national organization, Shrestha said the Oregon office provided grants to four projects last year and will likely have the capacity to help fund projects again this year. The deadline for applications is 2 p.m. PST time on March 15th. Once funded, the projects must be completed by November 30th.


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