Agency Lands A $650,000 Grant


    GRAND RAPIDS — As part of the first round of national funding for faith-based organizations, Hope Network has received a yearlong, statewide $650,000 grant from the United States Department of Labor.

    The grant comes as part of $17.5 million in money the Bush Administration has worked to secure for faith-based community initiatives. Twelve states received $1 million each and nine agencies will share the remainder. Hope Network was one of those agencies across the country that was chosen to further its efforts.

    As an intermediary organization Hope Network was awarded the grant as a way to assist in building bridges between state agencies and state resources that currently exist for job development.

    “What we received the grant to do is to work with grassroots faith-based community organizations who are working with people, very similar to what Hope and Faith (Inc.) are — what you might call mom and pop organizations, people with a lot of passion and volunteering a lot of time,” said Derric Baker, Hope Network’s vice president of corporate communications and advancement.

    “What our job is going to be is to really help build a bridge between the public and private sector there and between state agencies and state resources that currently exist for job development and to get these agencies and the people they are helping into the Michigan Works Centers and help them access those resources — all the while using our expertise and the federal grant funds.”

    Baker feels that the grants have been structured in a way that will help avoid pitfalls and problems along the way. By giving the money to intermediary organizations, he feels the government has made a smart decision because it will then be able to better control what the money is used for.

    “It ensures the money goes to what they want it to go for, which is really working with these organizations to get people into jobs and not redesigning the whole system,” Baker explained. “There are resources and assets out there and they just need to be paired and aligned in the correct ways to make them more efficient for job placement.”

    One thing Verne Barry, president of Faith Inc., finds unique about this grant is the fact that it comes directly from the White House. It doesn’t have a chance, as he said, to trickle down.

    “Normally if you get something out of the government, it usually starts at the top and it is usually kind of like one of those pinball machines and it ricochets all over the place and something finally gets down to you. And then again when you go back up, there are so many levels of bureaucracy that things get diluted and confused,” said Barry.

    The grant also comes at a time when Faith Inc. and Hope Network have merged and now embody exactly what this grant money was aimed to do — serve the underserved and help people get back on their feet by teaching them basic job skills, as well as life skills, to help put them in a position where they are ready to hold a job.

    Barry and Charles Bearden, Hope Network’s director of employment services, will work together in the bridge-building endeavor, with Bearden basically running the program and Barry traveling throughout Michigan to tell the story, form partnerships and find out which grassroots organizations could use a partnership and what resources are out there that would fit well together.

    “They didn’t come to us with this grant money and tell us to add 100 people to our organization and add some square footage on to the back. What they have done is said, ‘You go to 25 other places and get them up to speed, energize them, motivate them and get them to follow things you have done over the past 11 years.’ Then each one of them could be up to 500 people like we are, and it begins to become a geometric progression that really becomes very interesting,” said Barry.

    The grant also will be used to purchase technology that will make job training, computer training and tutoring more effective.

    He added that while the specifics of the program have not yet been ironed out, Hope does hope to have its first partnership established within the next couple of months.

    “We have one year and while that can seem like a lot of time, it can also seem like a small amount of time once things get rolling. We want to cover as much area and make as much of a difference as soon as we can,” said Barry. “Hopefully we can show that we are worthy of a second round after our year is up.”

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