Kiwanis Children’s Fund awards first microgrants

Erin Chandler | Dec 14, 2022
William Paca Elementary School students pose with holiday gifts from the Kiwanis Club of Mitchellville, Maryland

In rural Kentucky, a child goes home from school with a backpack full of food that will keep him from going hungry over the weekend. In Maryland, a young immigrant receives a backpack filled with notebooks, binders and pencils that will help her settle into her new school. Kids in a small town in Oregon pick up free books from the Little Free Library in front of the café, while in a Chicago suburb, they get them from a booth at a local holiday festival. On the surface, these children and their communities across the United States don’t seem to have much in common. But they are all connected in one special way: the first Microgrants awarded by the Kiwanis Children’s Fund.  

The Children’s Fund has a long history of awarding grants to clubs that need help funding service projects supporting the three Kiwanis causes: health and nutrition, education and literacy, and youth leadership development. The Microgrant Program acknowledges the huge impact that even small projects have on children’s lives. If your club has 35 members or fewer and a limited service budget, you can now apply for a Kiwanis Children’s Fund Microgrant of US$250-$1,000 to support a project that will help children in your community.  

“The Kiwanis Children’s Fund is excited about the Microgrant Program,” says Children’s Fund Community Impact Officer Traycee Lane-Gess, who assists clubs as they go through the grant application process. “This new program was created with smaller and newer clubs in mind, especially clubs that don’t yet have the time and resources to apply for our traditional Club Grant Program.”  

The Microgrant application is shorter than the application for a traditional club grant and requires less funding from other sources. The decision period is also shorter — applications received by the first of each month will receive a decision via email by the 15th of the same month. If your club is chosen to receive a Microgrant, you will typically receive your funds within 2-3 weeks of your application’s acceptance.  

All four of the clubs that were awarded the first round of grants submitted their applications on October 1, as soon as the online submission portal opened. They found the process worthwhile and say they would encourage other clubs to apply — even those without previous experience in applying for grants.  

The Kiwanis Club of Salyersville, Kentucky, saw local children eagerly waiting for the school cafeteria to open on Mondays because they hadn’t had enough to eat over the weekend.  

“This is heartbreaking to hear in ‘the land of plenty,’” says club secretary Tommi Lemaster. The community has a high rate of poverty, with over 80% of school children qualifying for free lunch and breakfast at school. The club’s Microgrant from the Children’s Fund will help establish a weekend backpack program: Every Friday, they will distribute backpacks filled with nutritious food for students and their families.  

The Kiwanis Club of Mitchellville, Maryland, will also distribute backpacks to students, but theirs will be filled with essential school supplies. The club will also use their Microgrant funds to give warm clothing to students and their siblings during the holiday season. For the past eight years, club donations like these have helped the children at William Paca Elementary School, many of whom are immigrants, feel like they are truly a part of their community. Over the years, the club has noticed how their project not only enhances academic performance, confidence and engagement in students, but also reduces stress for parents and teachers who no longer have to worry about whether they can afford the supplies themselves.  

“This project is significant to our club because it touches the lives of and, hopefully, makes impressions on young people so that they learn that others care about them and their success,” says club treasurer Rose McClyde. 

Indeed, McClyde recognizes how supporting these students also benefits the whole community: “Our goal is for the students to be influenced to make a contribution to the community — to ‘pay it forward.’”  

The Kiwanis Clubs of Echo, Oregon, and Crystal Lake Noon, Illinois, are both using their Microgrants to support the Kiwanis cause of education and literacy by getting free books into the hands of more kids in their communities. Kiwanians in Crystal Lake will take advantage of the annual holiday festivities in their town, setting up a booth across from the Santa House to give away free children’s books. They hope that doing so will raise awareness of the 10 Little Free Libraries they support throughout the community.  

There is only one Little Free Library in Echo — built, stocked and maintained for four years by Kiwanians and friends. It has proved popular in the community but finds itself constantly running low on books for young readers. Microgrant funds will help fill this gap.  

Club presidents Carol Heisler of Crystal Lake and Mike Duffy of Echo know how difficult it can be for parents to afford to buy books for their kids and to take the time to drive them to the library. Their projects aim to place free books within easy reach of the young readers who need them most.  

“If we can encourage children to read by using these resources,” Heisler says, “we can influence those children’s lives and livelihoods.”  

According to Heisler, one of her club’s main motivations for the book giveaway was its “do-ability” for a small club. Through the Microgrant Program, the Kiwanis Children’s Fund hopes to shine a light on “do-able” projects like these that have a big impact on kids’ lives, regardless of the size of the club or community.  

“The interest in this program has exceeded expectations,” says Lane-Gess of the Kiwanis Children’s Fund. “We hope it continues to grow and impact as many children as possible.”  

If you want to amplify your impact to reach children around the world through the Kiwanis causes of health and nutrition, education and literacy, and youth leadership development, you can make a gift to the Children’s Fund or learn how your club can apply for a grant to help kids in your community today.


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