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  • Writer's pictureNolan Branch

Willingboro CDC Wins Transform South Jersey Community Heart & Soul Grant

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Grantees will receive $100,000 in funding to help build stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant communities.

Transform South Jersey is a collaboration between the Community Foundation of South Jersey, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, New Jersey Health Initiatives (the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), the OceanFirst Foundation, the Orton Family Foundation, and the Wells Fargo Regional Community Development Corporation.

“What we saw in Willingboro was a sincere effort that involved everyone.” ~Erik Estrada

The Community Foundation of South Jersey, whose mission is to inspire generosity, manage & deploy permanent charitable assets, and exercise collaborative leadership to create a more equitable region, today announced the Transform South Jersey Heart & Soul grant recipients. Five communities were awarded grants of $100,000 to support initiatives that bring people together in order to build stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant communities.

Over 190 South Jersey communities spanning the eight counties served by the Community Foundation of South Jersey were eligible for the grant opportunity. Of those, 32 municipalities were nominated for consideration and 21 municipalities completed applications. Along with the skills and knowledge gained from the Community Heart & Soul work, the Community Foundation of South Jersey will establish a separate endowed fund for each of the selected communities. Local convening partners in each town will have access to these funds in order to support the full-scale implementation of the Community Heart & Soul model, including costs associated with staffing, marketing, and communications. In addition to funding, community partners will receive exclusive coaching, training, and technical assistance.

The new initiative is intended to empower residents to shape community development, according to Erik Estrada, community manager in a February 20th Burlington County Times article.

Of the many program applicants, Willingboro came across as a clear winner, according to Estrada. It was hands down the best site visit we had,” Estrada said Thursday. “Willingboro stuck out at the very beginning of the nomination phase and came back even stronger in their application.” Willingboro was unique, among the applicants, for its dedication and momentum, he said. “It was absolutely clear that while this started as an individual or small group, throughout the process that group grew and grew,” Estrada said. “That happened other places, but when we came in (to Willingboro) in January, all of those people were at the table. In a lot of other place people reached out but then went back to doing what they’d been doing. “What we saw in Willingboro,” Estrada added, “was a sincere effort that involved everyone.”

Willingboro CDC is currently preparing to launch Phase 1 of the Community Heart & Soul Program virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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