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2 local nonprofits make up much of city's CDBG funding requests

Enid News & Eagle - 3/26/2022

Mar. 26—An after-school youth nonprofit plans to fund a new summer aviation program for middle-schoolers with the city of Enid's allocation of federal funds for community projects.

Together with another funding proposal from a long-running Enid men's transitional living program, these requests account for much of the $700,000-plus that over a dozen community organizations are seeking from this year's Community Development Block Grant funds.

The city's CDBG coordinator, Dawn McCarty, said the total requested amount is likely more than how much the city will receive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That anticipated amount is set to be announced next month, McCarty said.

Leaders of the Enid nonprofits and organizations presented their project and activity proposals to members of the city's CDBG funding commission on Wednesday, requesting amounts ranging from as little as $7,000 to more than $160,000.

The nonprofit Making a Difference is requesting the latter amount in two proposals to fund its new "Red Tails" multi-partnership aerospace education summer program.

Kinsley Jordan, Making a Difference board president, said the program would teach middle-school students STEM tools, career pathways and personal life development skills and would be housed in an 8,000-square-foot building currently owned by Northern Oklahoma College.

Jordan said $100,000 would be used to acquire and renovate a youth center facility in a classroom building owned by Northern Oklahoma College, while a separately requested $60,000 would cover operations and staff payroll.

A newly hired director is creating a syllabus and will run the program during the summer and school year, Jordan said.

Vance Air Force Base also has donated 15 virtual-reality simulators for students coming from Enid Public Schools and Chisholm Public Schools to use, said Jordan, a flight instructor pilot at the base.

Making a Difference also has partnerships with Enid Public Schools and Autry Technology Center, which both have aerospace and aviation courses.

"... So it is a smooth, seamless transition from Enid Public Schools during the day, straight into the Red Tails program and the after-school program," he said. "We are the only community that has half their day focused on aviation and aerospace development."

Making a Difference recently canceled plans for a future lease agreement with the city of Enid to use the current Great Plains Bank building for its existing after-school program, after criticism from city commissioners and residents about the purchase and renovation.

The city purchased the downtown building in December 2020 with hopes that the renovated second floor eventually would house the youth program.

Leaders of Hope Outreach Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit, have asked for $104,900 to purchase another home for the nonprofit's men's transitional housing ministry, in order to meet demand for more potential residents.

The current home, located on the 200 block of West Oak, is operating at 100% capacity, ministry director Rodney Fowler said, and Hope Outreach received $35,000 in CDBG funds to do improvements on the house last year.

Pre-COVID, the house would get one or two phone calls a week requesting services, Fowler said.

The home, which has eight rooms for residents, limited its occupancy during the initial pandemic, but Fowler said he's now getting two to three calls a day.

"We need another home," he said, "and we need your help to provide life-changing hope to these participants in our ministry."

Men coming out of treatment, incarceration or emergency shelters live in the house while they work on finding affordable living and job assistance.

Residents also attend life skills training meetings twice a week at the house, learning budgeting, setting goals, overcoming barriers and so on. They also are required to be active in a church.

Men usually stay in the house between six months to a year, Fowler said, and over 150 men have lived in the house since it opened seven years ago.

Around 70% of Hope Outreach's former residents have gone on to re-establish new lives, Fowler said, while he estimated another 10% have recidivated.

The national rate of recidivism — or chance of arrest for a repeat offense — is 68%, he said.

CDBG funding commission members will determine and recommend final allocation amounts each fiscal year to the Enid City Commission, which then approves requests in the spring.

Last year, the city received $469,150 in federal CDBG funding, after requests from 14 organizations had similarly reached nearly $700,000.

All of the organizations requesting funding from the city this year have done so in previous years.

CDBG entitlement funds typically must be used to support programs and activities that meet one or more of three criteria: "provide primary benefit to lower-income persons or households," "aid in the elimination of slums or blight" or "meet other identified community development needs having a particular urgency."

A percentage of the funds must go to the CDBG office, which has again been allocated $80,000.

Another percentage also must go toward youth service programs. These include Making a Difference, Booker T. Washington Center, Zoe Kid's Cafe and Youth & Family Services, which together have requested $160,000 in funds earmarked for youth services.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department is requesting a total $70,000 to repair the Champlin Pool house's roof and refurbish the city's pickleball courts.

Community Development Support Association again is requesting $85,000 to continue emergency repairs on homes, which CDSA's housing coordinator said are often located in Enid'sSouthern Heights neighborhood.

CDBG commission members will meet again April 6 to review requests and determine funding amounts.

Ewald is copy editor and city/education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.

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