The recipients of the 2023 RiNo Art District Social Impact Grants have been announced. The East Denver Food Sovereignty Initiative (EDFSI) and Globeville-Elyria-Swansea (GES) Coalition’s Tierra Colectiva are the two recipients of the grants, and each organization will receive $25,000 to support their specific missions in the RiNo community. To learn more about what these grants are and how the money will be used to help the community, 303 Magazine sat down with Charity Von Guinness, the Executive Director of RiNo Art District, and the Deputy Director, Alye Sharp.
What are these grants, and how will they help?
The RiNo Art District is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization with the mission to foster and empower the community through art. These social impact grants are allocated by the RiNo Art District’s Business Improvement District and have been distributed for the past three years to organizations in the RiNo area that work to better the lives of the people that call the area home. This year, those organizations are the GES Coalition’s Tierra Colectiva and the EDFSI.
When asked what the application process for these grants is like and how the organization decides to allocate the funds, Von Guinness talked about how they want to remove long arduous applications and government reporting that hinder the work they want to do.
That’s where RiNo Art District came up with a solution. “How we decide is by working with the district nine council office to choose community members who are very active in all five of the neighborhoods that make up RiNo,” said Von Guinness.
“The members of the community with links to various social causes in the area decide who will get the grants. It’s about really re-evaluating and dismantling a lot of these systems that are inequitable. We give this money to them, fully trusting they will use it where it is needed most to do this incredible work that they have been doing.”
How will the grant money be used?
The East Denver Food Sovereignty Initiative (EDFSI) is administered by the Center for Community Wealth Building and focused on promoting equity and inclusion in the community so everyone has access to nutritious food. “Parts of RiNo are a food desert, so this food sovereignty organization is looking to partner with a lot of farms and agricultural entities to bring, not just food, but healthy nutritious food to these communities that don’t even have grocery stores,” explained Von Guinness.
EDFSI plans to introduce a community-owned grocery store and a commissary kitchen and a business incubation program to increase access to good food in the neighborhoods. The $25,000 from the grants will directly go towards making these ideas a reality — making RiNo better for everyone.
Paul Bindel, the Cooperative Development Director for EDFSI talked about how the money will be used. “Our community-driven project will increase access to healthy food and expand opportunities for residents to build wealth through a local food system,” said Bindel. “These funds will additionally help us center the leadership of Elyria-Swansea residents, whose voice is most important since the cooperative will be community-owned and benefiting.”
The Globeville-Elyria-Swansea (GES) Coalition’s Tierra Colectiva has the lofty mission of preventing displacement in the Globeville, Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods through the building and preserving affordable housing.
“We are so grateful to RiNo Art District for the opportunity to receive this $25,000 grant,” said Alma Urbano, Co-Director of GEST Coalition. The coalition has already managed to build ten permanently affordable homes, and the money from the grants will go toward creating more and working toward their goals of collective stewardship. The Coalition is also in the process of securing more land for housing, green spaces and other communal needs.
The community is at the heart of the RiNo Art District. Everything the organization does is about improving the locale. And while many nonprofit organizations decide how they should operate, RiNo Art District actively seeks advice and feedback from the community.
Their most recent survey can be found here if you would like to contribute to their feedback. “It’s about empowering the community, and we can’t dictate what that looks like. So we need you to tell us what is going to be the most helpful,” said Von Guinness.