A cluster of parents and tot getting into 7 kayaks that are spread across a rocky beach

Cortes Island’s 2023 MicroGrants 4 Neighbours Program

The thirteen projects that applied to Cortes Island’s MicroGrants for Neighbours Program this year received a total of $6,000 in funding. 

“This was the first year we ran it in partnership with Neighborhood Small Grants, which is actually  part of the Vancouver Foundation,” explained Isabella McKnight, Executive Administrator of the Cortes Island Community Foundation, which runs the local microgrants program.”’  

“I believe that having this seed money and the ability to then rent a space, or buy supplies, or hire facilitators really helped to kickstart these events. Without even just a couple hundred dollars to pay for somebody’s time to run these events, I don’t think all of them would have happened. I’m really hoping that after seeing the success of the programs and the events that ran this year, we’ll have even more applications next year.” 

Cortes Island Skate Park – Photo by Lucy Robinson

“We’re hoping to do more fundraising for the ‘Microgrants for Neighbors’ as well because as little as $50 could run an entire project. It’s about getting money into the hands of people who are doing important things in our community. People can apply for anywhere from $50 to $500.  It’s non taxable and it’s for running a cool project. So if somebody needed $50 to buy some pencils and some paper, and then wanted to do an outside poetry class, they could do that.”

Cortes Currents: Tell us about this year’s grants. 

Isabella McKnight: “I would say approximately 8 of the programs have run. They were really well advertised and have been really well attended.”  

“One  focus this year was  youth,  youth led projects, or youth focus projects. Another goal of the Microgrants for Neighbors project is to use that money as seed money for projects so that these organizations can leverage more funds and then continue running without our help.” 

“The Cortes Island Skate Jam was a fundraiser to get maintenance and maybe some lights up for the skate park. They were able to use the $500 to run an event, have tents, food and music and had a whole afternoon of skating. Then there was a donation portion.That money goes back into the skate park.” 

Cortes Currents: When was this event and how many people came?

Isabella McKnight: ”I believe the event was in June. I actually don’t know the total amount attended. I just know from the pictures it looked like it was a full skate park. I’m going to guess that there was anywhere from like 40 to 60 people there.” 

“We also were able to fund a Parent and Tots enhancement program,  which runs out of the Gorge Community Hall. We were able to give them some funding to buy more toys for the kids and also provide snacks. During that time, we were able to fund the Adventures in Leadership end of the year kayak trip. I believe they rented from Cortes Kayaks. They were able to run an overnight trip, which they do every year, but that’s a great idea, get the kids out and on the water.” 

“One of the events, Rebecca’s Savory Asian Workshop was at  Manson’s Hall on Sunday, December 3.”

“Another event, the Songwriters of Cortes, was at the Village Commons.  A few  songwriters who were invited to come sing and play music. There was a nice little crowd there as well.”

“There was also the Gender Diversity Inclusion Workshop run by Connie Quail. I’m not sure how many people attended that one, but I’m just excited that they’re running programs and workshops like that. One of the sponsors for this year’s  microgrants for neighbors was Decoda Literacy Solutions and so literacy was a big trend in some of the events that went on. Literacy in any way: learning about gender diversity and inclusion – I think it’s really important and really timely.”

“Margaret Verschuur (from the Cortes Deathcaring Collective) wanted to do a bereavement package, some literature on bereavement that she puts together like a book, to send to people when they’re experiencing a loss. It’s something that she’s already experimented with, and has been really well received by those who have received the bereavement packages.  I just think that death literacy is really, really important, and so I’m glad to see that one got funding as well.”

“Roy and De (from Cortes Currents) put on a Basics of Journalism writing workshop, and they had six people attend with a seventh person interested. 

Cortes Currents: You’ve also looked at the microgrant programs and other communities. 

Isabella McKnight: “Earlier this year, I was able to attend a Microgrants for Neighbors conference in Victoria, where we got to experience some of the projects that went on in different communities. Somebody bought a button maker to bring to different community events and make buttons for kids and whoever. She came from Courtenay and we got to do a little button making workshop. There was a woman from Campbell River who runs a medicinal tea company and does tea tastings at different events.  All of the blends that she makes are medicinal herbs that are found on Vancouver Island.  There was Turkey tail (mushroon tea), Maple blossom, nettles, all sorts of things like that.”

“It was really cool to see what people are doing in other communities, but I think we have a pretty wildly successful program for how small of a community we are.” 

“Stay tuned for the Spring of 2024, when we’ll be running our next cycle. We’re really hoping to get more projects, more applicants and just see more creativity in the community. It’s really a program to foster creativity in any way and just bring neighbours together.” 

Cortes Currents: Can this years recipients apply again next Spring? 

Isabella McKnight: “We’re happy to fund people again. If you have an idea, please apply again. We want everyone to apply.  A few years ago,  we had over 40 applications and  might not have been able to fund the full amount, but funded some amounts towards these projects to get them going.” 

“The more successful they are, the more donations will come in from the rest of the community.  I just think it’s a really positive experience for everyone to have.” 

Top image credit: Parents and Tots Kayak expedition – Photo by Kelly Benson

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