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The City of Bethel's fund for community projects is looking for more grant applications

Christine Trudeau

If you have an idea that would benefit your community and you need money to get it off the ground, the City of Bethel is looking for new projects to fund. The committee that runs that fund, known as the community action grants program, is currently short on members and short on grant applications. But they’re definitely not short on cash.

“The take home message is we have money right now,” said Leif Albertson, the vice chair of the committee. “We have had more money coming in than we've had going out, so we've been really encouraging people to apply for this money.”

The grants, which have ranged from $400 to $40,000, are intended to support local projects that benefit Bethel.

About a year ago, Bethel resident Brian Lefferts applied for a grant to purchase equipment to help maintain fields and trails through the non-profit Delta Recreation. With the help of the grant they were able to purchase a lawn mower to maintain a city field where people play pick-up frisbee and soccer. For winter, they bought a snow groomer to sculpt ski trails. Lefferts said that he wanted to create more recreational opportunities for kids and adults around town.

“Sometimes we get really windblown snow or big drifts that make it a challenge to make a nice smooth track to ski on,” Lefferts said. The advantage of having a groomer is it allows you to sculpt the snow and flatten out the track quite a bit, and it was nice for the walkers. A lot of walkers said they really enjoyed having the groomed trail.”

Lefferts and Delta Recreation received $40,000 to purchase the equipment. As Lefferts tells it, the grant application is relatively straightforward.

“It's just an application that was pretty simple to fill out, and the committee was really friendly and easy to work with,” Lefferts said. “They had some great questions for us, so we went back and answered those questions and presented it at their next meeting, and then they voted on awarding the funds.”

The money is disbursed by a committee that grades the applications based on a rubric. After scoring each project, they send the best applications to the city council to approve for funding. In the past, the grants have helped support organizations like Bethel Winter House, the Quyana Cafe (a program of the Bethel Evangelical Covenant Church), and the Lions Club food bank. They’ve also funded guest speakers for local schools and safety reflective tape to put on winter coats to increase pedestrian visibility. Grants are paid for by the city’s sales tax on alcohol.

The application, which you can find on the City of Bethel website, is a three page document that asks a series of questions about the potential project. Applicants are asked to define their goals, objectives, and the community needs the project will address.

The main idea of the grants program is that the money stays in town, but community projects of any scale are encouraged. You don’t have to be part of a non-profit or an organization to apply. Albertson said that you can just be a resident with a good idea.

“As long as it fits inside our mission, we would love to get more applications, large and small,” Albertson said. “I think that our big message is that we really try to make this easy on individuals to do this.”

Lefferts said whatever your idea, it’s worth it to apply.

“I'd say do your best to answer the questions and to turn something in,” Lefferts said. “Because if you have a great idea or a good idea that you think could benefit your community, the money is there to support you.”

The committee is also looking for new members to help review the grant applications. The group meets twice quarterly, and if you’re interested in serving you can contact the Bethel City Clerk at 907-543-1384.

Will McCarthy is a temporary news reporter at KYUK. Previously, he worked as a furniture mover, producer, and freelance journalist. Will's written for the New York Times, National Geographic, and Texas Monthly. He holds a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.