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Grants to reward groups in Westmoreland for their initiatives

| Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, 12:06 a.m.

The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County wants to get residents involved in improving their communities and is putting up $450,000 to encourage that.

Revitalizing Westmoreland is an initiative by the foundation to encourage creative ways to improve life in the towns of Arnold, Lower Burrell, New Kensington, Latrobe, Greensburg, Jeannette and Monessen. It is offering grants ranging from $500 to $40,000, taken out of a pool of $150,000 that will be available in each of the next three years, to accomplish that.

The program also requires a match to the grant of more than 25 percent of the amount requested, but the match can be in the form of in-kind services, and volunteer time as well as cash. For the maximum $40,000 grant, the match would be at least $13,333.

A meeting has been scheduled 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Room 132 at the Westmoreland County Community College New Kensington Campus to provide details about the program. It is open to all interested organizations including church groups and service clubs, agencies and residents.

“Basically, they were selected because they are communities that have seen a decline in industry and they have seen an outmigration of residents,” said Christopher Whitlatch, foundation spokesman.

He said foundation officials have discovered that when people become actively involved in community projects such as those being promoted by Revitalizing Westmoreland, they become actively engaged in maintaining them.

“I think anything that would benefit that particular community is on the table,” Whitlatch said. “I think it would be great if the community would come in with tons of ideas on how they are going to improve the community. Maybe take on projects that have been in the backs of their heads for a while, take them on and finish them.”

“It's almost blue sky thinking on how the community can have a say and an impact on what happens,” he said.“We‘ve contacted all the non-profits that are in our database as well as church groups, social groups such as Rotary and all the municipalities.”

He said sample projects suggested can range from neighborhood cleanup and beautification to education and safety.

The mayors of New Kensington, Lower Burrell and Arnold all said they were excited by the possibilities the program presents. All said their city governments will take a leadership role in helping projects come to fruition.

“What we are trying to do is coming up with projects,” said Lower Burrell Mayor Don Kinosz. “One is the rehabilitation of Fisher Hall (Burrell Lake Park), another is the reconstruction of the sidewalks on Leechburg Road and another is revamping our street lighting to a more efficient type.”

Arnold Mayor Larry Milito said of the program, “I think it's great. I think it is a great idea. If the funds come through to help the community, that's great.”

He said one thing that city officials would likely be interested in is acquiring new equipment to renovate the tot area of the playground in Roosevelt Park.

Tom Guzzo, New Kensington's mayor, said city officials will probably focus attention on projects to assist law enforcement as well as neighborhood cleanup efforts.

“No matter what we do, we would incorporate the community,” Guzzo said. “I believe that is one of the objectives of the grant itself, to involve the community.”

“I'm thrilled,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for the city to do something that we need to do and maybe haven't been able to do. I'm excited about it.”

Cindy Downard, one of the leaders of New Kensington-Arnold Social In The Park, a volunteer group that has been dedicated to improving parks in both cities, also was excited about the program. She said Memorial Park in New Kensington has a variety of needs.

“If they match what we raise, what we could do with that,” she said. “We could get a lot accomplished down there.”

Project applications must be submitted by Oct. 31. The projects applied for this year must be completed in 2015, Whitlatch said.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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