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Published in Nonprofits

GR nonprofit lands $1M in state funding for planned early childhood, senior center

BY Sunday, October 25, 2020 03:54pm

GRAND RAPIDS — United Methodist Community House will receive $1 million in state funding for an early childhood education and senior activity center planned on the city’s disadvantaged southeast side.

The funding was allocated in the state’s current fiscal year budget, which took effect on Oct. 1 following a budget agreement between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-led Legislature.

While details about total project cost and design are still being worked out, UMCH Chief Executive Director Eric Williams said the state budget allocation “gives us the breathing room to move this project forward.”

The state funding as well as the project timeline were both delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams said. The nonprofit plans to provide childcare for 200 infants and toddlers as well as offer daily activities for more than 500 seniors at the facility. Williams cited recent local studies showing the need for both types of services.

State Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, helped secure state funding for the project. UMCH is a “staple of our community that brings together generations of Grand Rapidians and helps foster respect, understanding, and cultural awareness,” Brinks said in a statement. “I am proud to have fought for, and won, the inclusion of funding for them in the state’s budget so they can continue that mission. I am eager to see the wonderful initiatives that will grow from it.”

The state funding comes as UMCH plans broader organizational changes involving how it’s funded. Williams said the nonprofit wants to move away from a traditional funding model of grants and donations, and the new childcare and senior center represents a potential new revenue stream. Within five years, UMCH hopes to generate enough internal revenue to cover routine operational expenses.

“So when we go to donors and ask for funding, we can ensure 100 percent of the dollars go to end users or the clients we want to support,” Williams said. “Our goal is to serve more people.”

Founded in the early 1900s, UMCH opened the first childcare center in Grand Rapids in 1936 and was an early adopter of serving senior congregate meals in the city.

UMCH typically served about 100 children and 40-50 seniors on its campus before it closed in mid March as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. It reopened in June at 30 percent capacity, which recently increased to 50 percent.

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