Money slated to fund study, co-op

Two South Side nonprofit organizations — one aimed at improving local residents’ diets, the other at helping young men and women get a college education — have received nearly $15,000 from a coalition of local institutions that want their efforts to succeed.

The Southside Community Coalition, which includes local residents and business owners, received $5,000 to educate the community about healthy eating and raise awareness about the potential benefits of a planned food cooperative in the neighborhood. The other organization, On Point for College, received $9,862 to design a program evaluation that will identify the successful outcomes of the program.

“I think it will give us the capital we need to get out in the community and to educate the community,” said Shante Harris El, the coalition’s secretary.

The two grants were among 18 awarded to charitable organizations in Onondaga and Madison counties by the Central New York Community Foundation from October to December 2009, according to the foundation’s Web site. The organization awarded $337,711 in community grants.

The Southside Community Coalition sponsors Store-For-A-Day events, where volunteers purchase fresh produce from local farmers for resale at affordable prices on the South Side. The organization plans to open a community-owned food cooperative where residents can purchase affordable, healthy food every day, Harris El said.

Residents will invest in the food co-op and participate in decision-making processes, Harris El said.
“Basically, residents will have a chance to own something, to govern something, to run a business,” she said.

The Southside Community Coalition will use the grant money to go door to door to market the idea of a co-op to potential investors, said Antonisha Trapps, chairwoman of the food co-op. The coalition collaborates with GC2, an organization started by the Gifford Foundation that also works with Syracuse University’s South Side Initiative Office.

“We want to educate people about the benefits of a food co-op versus the benefits of a grocery store,” Trapps said. “The food co-op money will recycle and stay inside the community.”

On Point will use the money to create a plan for an external study of the program that will later be a model for other programs working to help low-income young adults through college, said Ginny Donohue, executive director of On Point.

The plan should take about six months to complete and then On Point will secure funding from a national organization to do the actual study, Donohue said. The first step is to design a method to research the program, and the second step is to complete the study.

“We were encouraged to do a study to show that if you actually give students all the support that On Point gives them, they can actually make it in college,” Donohue said.

On Point helps young men and women, ages 17 to 25, with college applications, rides to and from school, financial aid, summer housing and prescription costs, among other services, Donohue said.
The study is necessary for On Point to access federal challenge grants that help fund the program. Donohue said she raises three-fourths of the money needed to run On Point on her own. Federal funding would relieve some of this burden.

“We really need this study so first we can encourage other people in the country to give students more support, and secondly so that we are sure we can continue to take these massive amounts of students who want to go to college,” Donohue said.

Founded in 1999, On Point currently has just under 3,000 young adults active in the program, 670 of whom were added last year, Donohue said.