Nonprofits across Jefferson County are starting 2023 with a little more money in the bank.
Over the holiday season, Arvada-based Community First Foundation awarded 18 organizations $350,000 total in grants. The funds will go toward furthering art, science and culture-based projects that promote civic engagement.
Several recipients said the funds were a complete surprise.
Nathan Richie of Golden History Museum & Park said grants like this typically have a very involved application process. However, the museum didn’t apply for it. Instead, CFF reached out to the museum based on other grant applications.
“This never happens in the grant world,” Center for the Arts Evergreen’s Lisa Nierenberg said.
Lakewood Arts Council’s Dorothy Lessem described how she and her colleagues “looked at each other and thought, ‘Is this real?’” when they first heard about it.
Community First Foundation confirmed the grants ranged from $700 to $30,000. It partnered with the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District to identify Jeffco nonprofits actively working to increase inclusivity in the county. SCFD shared grant applications it’d received, and CFF worked quickly to award the grants before Jan. 1.
“The information we needed was already in the grant applications nonprofits submitted to SCFD,” Jaime Aguilar, program officer for Community First Foundation, said in a Dec. 23 press release. “ … Now, we can support civic engagement through diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in our community without the added burden for nonprofits to submit a new grant application.”
For instance, the Golden History Museum received $26,000 toward its work with Indigenous communities. It recently completed an American Indian Ethnography, mainly focused on Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute peoples’ histories.
The museum wants to use the ethnography as a “scaffold to build upon” and not a lone project, Richie stated. He hoped to use the grant to bring tribal leaders to Golden for a site consultation visit and perhaps start an ethnobotanical garden.
“This means a great deal to us,” Richie said of the funding. “It’s an investment to continue doing that work. … It’s a much larger commitment that we’re making in Golden to elevate Indigenous voices and communities.”
Meanwhile, the Lakewood Arts Council and Center for the Arts Evergreen both plan to use grant funds for educational programming. The two received $13,000 and $30,000, respectively.
“It was the perfect way to end the year,” Nierenberg said.
Lessem felt similarly, describing how the Lakewood Arts Council just moved into the 40 West Arts hub, which is across the parking lot from its former location next to Casa Bonita. Thus, the grant will be a major boost as the organization tries to revamp its educational programming since the move, she described.
It’s hoping to partner with Denver and Jeffco teachers to provide art activities, supplies and training for students of all ages. The studio also offers exhibit space for local students, and the grant will help continue that effort, Lessem added.
“We’re thrilled to put (the funds) to good use,” she continued. “ … We’re hoping to reach out into the community and do some good.”