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Four Michigan organizations receive Community Challenge Grants

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[LANSING, MI]— AARP Michigan announced today four Michigan organizations will receive 2021 Community Challenge grants – part of the largest group of grantees to date with $3.2 million awarded among 244 organizations nationwide.

Grantees in Michigan are: City of Hamtramck, Eastern Michigan University for a project in Hamtramck, League of Michigan Bicyclists of Lansing for a statewide project, and the Association of Chinese Americans, Inc. in Metro Detroit. The organizations will receive nearly $80,000 to fund community projects.

Grantees will implement quick-action projects to promote livable communities by improving housing, transportation, public spaces, civic engagement, and connection with family, friends, and neighbors with an emphasis on the needs of the 50-plus. Many of this year’s awards support revitalizing communities adversely impacted by the pandemic and include a focus on diversity, inclusion, and disparities.

“We are incredibly proud to collaborate with these organizations as they work to make immediate improvements in their communities, encourage promising ideas and jumpstart long-term change, especially for those age 50 and over,” said Paula D. Cunningham, AARP Michigan State Director. “Our goal at AARP Michigan is to support the efforts of our communities to be great places for people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities.”

All projects are expected to be completed by November 10, 2021. Here in Michigan, projects funded include:

League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB) of Lansing -- $45,482. Project to provide communities across the state access to a lending library of separators for protected bike lanes, bike counters, and curb extenders to use as needed to pilot and test improvements to their active transportation infrastructure.

Fourteen communities around Michigan have expressed interest in working with the LMB to implement the temporary bike lanes this fall prior to making the decision to install the bike lanes permanently. These communities are: Lansing, Ferndale, Oak Park, Detroit, Westland, Grand Rapids, Portage, Chelsea, Ypsilanti, Warren, Brighton, Dearborn, Traverse City as well as Monroe County.

 "We've had a very strong response from cities interested in this equipment," said Matt Penniman of the LMB. "Many people are concerned with having safer, lower-stress places to ride their bikes."

City of Hamtramck -- $15,500. Project involves outreach to multi-lingual community and installation of eleven benches throughout the city: outside of both public housing authorities (Senior Plaza and Colonel Hamtramck Housing), at key commercial destinations (grocery store and pharmacy) and public spaces (Veterans Park). The bench installation will enhance the existing SMART bus service by offering seniors and the other residents of the community who face transportation disadvantages to sit while they wait for the bus.

 "The focus of this grant is on transportation and making information accessible," said Mayor Karen Wajewski of Hamtramck on the multi-lingual bench project. "It's always a challenge to make sure we reach out to folks who don't speak English."

The Association of Chinese Americans, Inc. -- $10,000. This project is designed to enhance the quality of life of Asian Americans of all ages by providing an accessible outdoor area at the community center with benches, a greenhouse, and gazebo.

“There has been an emphasis on creating safe outdoor spaces since the pandemic," said Peggy Du of the Chinese Community Center. "These funds will allow us to install several features outside the center."

Eastern Michigan University -- $7,000. This project will temporarily activate two blocks of Hamtramck's downtown alley as a new pedestrian-friendly route and community gathering space, which will create a guide for the design of more permanent changes being planned by city staff.

 "Our general aim is to address health disparities, particularly in the Asian-American community.  There is a very diverse population in Hamtramck – it is compact and urban with a lot of different groups residing there.  Overcoming transportation barriers is important to promote a more walkable community," said Xining Yang, professor at Eastern Michigan University. "Using alley activation and policy changes we can create a safe pathway and a social setting for people to safely gather in."

The Community Challenge grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which supports the efforts of cities, towns, neighborhoods and rural areas to become great places to live for people of all ages. Since 2017, AARP Michigan has awarded 13 grants and $230,000 through the program to nonprofit organizations and government entities across the state.

View the full list of grantees and their project descriptions at www.aarp.org/communitychallenge and learn more about AARP’s livable communities work at www.aarp.org/livable.

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