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Grants Awarded to MI Groups to Make Communities More Age-Friendly


Friday, July 29, 2022   

Five projects in Michigan have been awarded grants from AARP to make communities more livable, especially for older residents.

Types of projects considered for the Community Challenge grants are those that improve public spaces, transportation, housing, digital access and civic engagement, to name a few - and they must be completed by Nov. 30.

Nichole Smith-Anderson, special projects director for the Greater Flint Health Coalition, one of the grantees, said their plan is to recruit volunteers and install raised beds in community gardens at food pantries and centers for older adults.

"There's really a need for our senior population, in particular, to be physically active to make sure that they have access to nutritious foods," she said. "We've also found during the pandemic, in particular, there's been a lot of social isolation."

Smith-Anderson said she hopes the project will help foster a culture of healthy eating and physical activity through gardening. Studies also have shown that community gardens play a role in reducing crime.

Other grantees include the City of Lansing, the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association, Road to Freedom and Arboretum Detroit.

Birch Kemp started Arboretum Detroit, a nonprofit with a goal of reforesting urban landscapes. Now president of its board of directors, Kemp said they plan to use the Community Challenge grant to install an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant boardwalk behind Mission Point, a nursing and rehab facility in Detroit. It's part of their Circle Forest Native Restoration Project, with a goal of bringing native trees to more than an acre of vacant land in the city.

"Nature is so restorative and healing, and we know that's powerful," he said. "So our goal is to get all those residents out into the forest. So we're making the pathways in the project accessible on about half of the project, the half that sits right behind the facility. "

Community Challenge grants are meant for civic leaders, nonprofits and residents to take quick actions that spark long-term progress towards more livable communities. Since 2017, AARP has been awarding these grants, and this year, the program awarded its largest amount so far - roughly $3.4 million.

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