Can Whatcom be brought together after election? Project Neighborly aims to do so

The Whatcom Community Foundation is putting up $50,000 to bring people together in the wake of the 2016 election with its Project Neighborly. The project asks people to “Act on (their) Idea!”

The foundation, which strives to “amplify the force of philanthropy – by connecting people, ideas and resources – so that communities flourish,” sees Project Neighborly as the perfect example of their mission statement, according to Mauri Ingram, foundation president and CEO.

What is Project Neighborly?

Project Neighborly offers grants up to $5,000 to “inspiring, actionable and relevant projects and activities” that promote a strong sense of community.

“What we know from research is that best decisions are made when people with different perspectives and ideas are brought together. That is exactly what we are aiming to do with Project Neighborly,” Ingram said.

The foundation got the idea from the Chicago Community Trust, which funded people and organizations working to curb youth violence ahead of the Labor Day holiday.

“We hope for more and better relationships among local residents of all views and beliefs: in short, our community functioning like a true community. If we respect and trust one another, we can truly solve any community challenges,” Ingram said.

What might a project be?

A Neighborly project might be a work party to help repair a grange building. Such a project would require people to identify others beyond their usual social circle and engage with them to “roll up your sleeves as a team and break bread together” and talk, Ingram said.

Another project might ask people to finish sentences on a large public chalkboard, allowing them to share different perspectives and lead to more conversations.

“In this way, Neighborly requires people to be creative so that both introverts and extroverts would feel comfortable participating,” Ingram said.

How is Project Neighborly funded?

The funds came from The Satterberg Foundation, a family foundation that provides grants to nonprofit organizations in Washington and California. The Whatcom Community Foundation is also inviting contributions from the community and additional sources.

How do I apply for a grant?

Applications for Neighborly are online and due Nov. 30. For information, call the Whatcom Community Foundation at 360-671-6463. Applicants will hear back by early January.

Javaria Khan: 202-383-6011, @javariakh