In the spring and fall each year the Community Sustaining Fund (CSF) accepts applications for grants up to $1000 for projects meeting certain criteria intended to fulfill its mission. Usually, around 6-10 individuals or groups apply for grant funding for their projects each cycle, held twice a year.
The Spring Grant Cycle this year fell in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The leadership team for CSF met and agreed by consensus that the focus for funds should be on work in our community that aimed to address this global health crisis.
Books to Prisoners (BTP), an organization that sends books to prison inmates around the country, was awarded a Spring cycle grant. Work at the Olympia chapter of BTP is handled totally by volunteers. A social change aspect of their work centers around their efforts to give marginal communities the opportunity to ask for, and have their needs met. With the current political strife taking place not only in the US but globally, their work also addresses the systemic issues of mass incarceration in our prison system, especially the disproportionate number of black people imprisoned.
Prisoners who have access to this program can request specific books or simply receive 3-4 books selected by the organization. These often serve as a lifeline to the outer world. If a specific book is requested, volunteers do their best to find that book, or something similar, sometimes paying for a book from their own pocket. The only books they don’t send are ones that promote white supremacy and racism.
Their funding comes primarily through yard sales and benefits, with some books collected at Dumpster Values in downtown Olympia. Due to the pandemic, they have not been able to bring in the money needed to pay the mailing costs.
Because the work they are doing for our community was deemed very valuable, because they humbly asked for even less than the grant limit and because there were no other eligible applicants during this grant cycle, it was decided to award Books to Prisoners the full amount possible—$1,000, with the stipulation that $250 of the amount be set aside to purchase specific books not available from their book stockpile.
The small number of applicants for the 2020 spring grant cycle may have occurred due to a technical glitch and as a result of these difficult times. In order to maintain physical distancing, all CSF meetings have been handled through Zoom, including grant interviews. Remaining funds from this cycle will be added to whatever comes to the Sustaining Fund from the “Round Up at the Register” option at the Olympia Food Co-op. Look for an announcement of the Fall grant cycle here in Works in Progress, or on the CSF webpage.
Visit the Sustaining Fund to find out more about about the Sustaining Fund and its mission, or make a donation via PayPal. Donations can also be made by check mailed to 2103 Harrison Ave NW #2715. Olympia WA 98502.
Desdra Dawning is an active member of the Olympia Food Co-op.