Over the past two months, the “Grant Group,” established by podmate Katarina to consist of herself and three of her friends, all but one our Green Acres neighbors, went through the grueling process required to research and complete the extensive and complicated application requesting a Neighborhood Improvement Grant from the city of Bloomington. Their (and our) visions for what was and is needed here were equally extensive and complicated, it turned out — including five neighborhood signs on the borders, plus design and plantings for the “Tunnel Park,” plus a design for the interior of the Tunnel itself. See this post (which includes video, our first!).
Here, again, is the photo of the Grant Group, plus neighbor Georgia and podmate Rebecca, taken at the Council of Neighobrhoods annual event in January, as published in the local paper only one week ago.
Katarina in front on right, Melissa center front, John back left, and Heather, back right.
Over the next several weeks, the group met with city officials several times, during which one of them, Vickie, subtly and carefully guided them to focus more narrowly for this year’s grant, thinking it would be way too much to ask for the whole thing. They chose the signs, as phase one of the larger project, to be hopefully, completed over the next three years.
The group decided to meet in the morning, once a week, for around two hours, either here or at one of their other members’ homes. And, Katarina decreed, they must always start with breakfast. Bacon, eggs, pancakes, you name it! They enjoyed the food as much as their conversations, which became more and more focused as time swept by and the March 27th deadline crept up. Along the way there were innumerable meetings and phone calls — with home owners, neighbors, sign makers, more city officials, Indiana University. Throughout, they kept in touch with Vickie, who works at HAND (Housing and Neighborhood Development), and continued to be very helpful and instrumental in shepharding them through the process. Not easy, but then a lot of money is at stake. The final grant application asks for over $11,000.
As a member of the household where many of the meetings were held, I can attest to the wondrous tone with which their conversations were conducted, how they divided and organized tasks, their ease with computers and google docs, all of them sitting around with their computers on their laps, poring over the same document, composing and editing together. Really extraordinary. Perhaps some of this seemingly effortless engagement stems from the fact that Melissa and Katarina have known each other since 4th grade! And have circled in and out of each others’ life since that time. It did seem as if a group mind took over the project, and, until the very last morning meeting, always felt both competent and at ease with the process.
During the final week leading up to last Friday’s deadline, they met every day, mornings, and sometimes in the evenings as well. Then on Friday, except for Heather (who was busy at IU) they gathered here for their final session, the application due at 4 p.m. As usual, they began with breakfast, and started early. By the time I got up they were already done and hard at work.
By early afternoon, I was getting nervous. (Vickie told me later, that she was biting her nails, wondering if they would make the 4 p.m. deadline. “Would they give up?” she wondered. I called ahead, to let HAND know that they were on the way, but somehow that did not get communicated to Vickie.) They ignored my restlessness, and kept typing and asking each other questions and answering, in low tones.
At 1:30 p.m. I announced at they had 2.5 hours left.
At around 2 p.m. I announced they had 2 hours left.
At some point, comic relief, as a chicken started (and then stopped) to climb the stairs to the porch outside.
At 2:30, I announced 1.5 hours left, my voice alternating between stern and panicky. I suggested that they finish everything by 3:30 at the latest, to give them time for getting downtown and to City Hall in time, taking into account late afternoon IU traffic. They agreed, or at least I think they did. Actually they were probably still trying to ignore me so that they could get it done on time.
At 3:00, I called out ONE HOUR TO GO, seriously freaked out. (They hadn’t even printed out the completed application yet, and it’s long, and the printer is slow. How long will it take to print? I fussed.)
Here they are, in the very last moments of working. John had already started his car. It was idling in the driveway, waiting to go.
Finally, at 3:40, application complete and printed, they all ran out the door, leaving this in the aftermath.
I told them I would follow, to document the process of turning it in to HAND.
I did, getting there at 4:03 p.m. They were already in the office with Vickie, who was looking it over. “We got here with 3 minutes to spare,” grinned Melissa.
Vickie held up the grant for us to take a formal picture. Everybody glad and relieved.
Whew, they made it! And I would now take them out to Lennie’s for that promised beer. Two pitchers later, I went home. They kept going.
Over the weekend, Vickie emailed Katarina to tell her there were a few details not yet attended to. So she and Melissa met one more time, this morning, and got ‘er done.
Yay! Now we wait until the committee meets and says yes or no. Whatever the result, the process has been by turns instructive, exhilarating, jittery (for me) and very very informative, also for me, as the elder, witnessing these beautiful young souls, their passion, their detail and language skills while working together to master complexity, and their unwavering commitment to our shared, long-term vision of transforming this 440 home suburban Green Acres neighborhood into a lively, functioning, sustainable ecovillage, little by little, year by year.