Closing the Grant Making Circle

Grants

By Doug Humes
Quaker Buildings and Programs Granting Group

We grantmakers (at least for “bricks and sticks” – building and renovation projects) participate in the project at the beginning and in the middle, but typically we never see “the end”.  At the beginning, we receive an application that describes the project, a new roof, a bathroom, in addition, an energy saving device, a budget and how the applicant proposes to pay for the project outside of the requested grant funds.  One of our committee members does a site visit, talks to the project coordinator, and gathers additional information.  Because of the lag time between applications and twice-annual committee meetings, we at times visit projects that are in progress, and so get more input on what is being done.  The site visitor reports back to the full committee, and we then review each application as a committee.   At the end of the process, we typically have more need than we have funds available, and so we divide the loaves and fish as equitably as we can, based on a variety of factors.

The projects that we have agreed to help fund usually move forward to their conclusion.  We don’t fund in advance, and so we wait for the applicant to report back on the project.  When it is completed, we simply see a line item in a report that tells us that a particular project was satisfactorily completed and that they were sent the grant funds that had been committed.  Unless we personally commit to seeing what God hath wrought, the completed project then disappears from our radar.

However, last month, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to come visit a project to which we had committed funding over several years – the new Anna T. Jeanes Building at the Hickman retirement community in West Chester.  The project involved keeping the Hickman competitive in a growing industry by adding 74 studio and one-bedroom suites, and a secure dementia care program and outdoor garden.  Invited guests attended an open house, just days before the first new occupants moved in.

We were taken around in small groups to visit representative rooms, tour the dementia facility, and then attend a reception with food and beverage.  The hallways were wide, with lots of light, but with sight lines broken up by curves and half walls and other visual elements.  The units were inviting and engineered to accommodate people who may be in wheelchairs – wide doorways, accessible bathrooms, and other tricks of the trade that were not standard features in the old rooming house style retirement communities.   And the public areas – gathering rooms for various uses – were bright and colorful, with lots of art on the walls, and tasteful carpeting, lighting, and window treatments.

I had heard about the Hickman project for years – three years of the funding cycle.  I had read the words on the page, but your own imagination of what it might look like is never quite what thoughtful planners and architects design and great contractors and craftsmen build.  So it was enjoyable for me to come out and see the completed project, brand spanking new and ready to welcome its first new residents.

I know in my mind that our grants make a difference in the world.  But it was a bonus this time around to see the new building, and to better understand how retirement communities like the Hickman, with roots in the 19th century, are trying to meet the needs of their residents in the 21st century.  And to reach out and touch the “bricks and sticks”, to see the good work done by our committee, and to close the circle on behalf of my committee.  Wouldn’t Anna T. Jeanes be thrilled to see her namesake building,  built with the help of trust funds left by her for this very purpose?