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Grants boost diversity, transportation, nonprofits

Alexandria's Inclusion Network, the Douglas County Car Care Program and The United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties were among 18 regional organizations to receive the first-ever Community Change Makers Grant awards from West Central Initiative.

The Inclusion Network received $3,750 to follow up on a 2007 study that looked at diversity in Alexandria. Its new study will include all of Douglas County.

"I'm looking forward to finding out how things have changed in the past 10 years," said Shari Maloney, a facilitator for the Inclusion Network. "Are we a welcoming community? If we're not, what do we need to do?"

The Inclusion Network seeks to make the Alexandria area a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds to live and work. Welcoming diversity is key, Maloney said, to recruiting people to fill important jobs.

"If Douglas County Hospital needs to recruit someone and their family is not welcome in the community, they're not going to stay," she said.

The 2007 study found that Alexandrians felt there was an adequate amount of diversity locally, that they were well informed about issues relating the diversity and that there wasn't a need for additional diversity programs, she said.

The United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties will use its $5,000 grant to develop a crowdfunding platform and coordination costs of its Community Impact Coalition, which brings people together who are interested in creating change in Douglas and Pope counties.

Jen Jabas, executive director of United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties, said the grant will allow her agency to raise funds in creative ways for important community needs.

"Through collective work we can address challenges together to create a healthier community," she said, according to a WCI news release.

The Douglas County Car Care Program will also work with the Community Impact Coalition. The organization will spend its $5,000 grant to address transportation needs and encourage other agencies within the coalition to refer clients who need car repair, or even a car, to the care care program, said its executive director, Cliff Korkowski.

West Central Initiative awarded $78,371 during this round of grants. The grants support projects that promote welcoming communities, address a critical community issue, focus on affordable housing or high-quality child car, broaden engagement in civic life and help local nonprofits obtain local funding for high-priority community needs.

"Our goal with the Community Change Makers grant program is to help communities arrive at their own solutions," said WCI President Anna Wasescha.

Another round of funding is planned in 2018, with an application deadline of Friday, Nov. 9. For more information and an application, visit