Preparing to put Knight Cities Challenge grant to use a fun process

October 12th, 2016

Tired-a-Lot project coordinator has been testing pieces of the plan now for use next summer

By Kevin Kilbane | The News-Sentinel

Local Knight Cities Challenge grant project Tired-a-Lot hasn't transformed any vacant lots into parks yet, but organizer Rena Bradley has been learning a lot about how to roll out the project next summer.

"We've been taking a lot of pieces of Tired-a-Lot and testing them along the way, which has been fun," said Bradley, community development coordinator for Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries, 5100 Gaywood Drive. The ministry is affiliated with Many Nations Church, which operates in the same building.

Bradley submitted the Tired-A-Lot project for Knight Cities Challenge grant funding a year ago. She learned in mid-April her project, which was awarded $95,434, was one of 37 projects selected to share $5 million in grant funding. Recipients have 18 months to use the grant.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation started the Knight Cities Challenge to fund innovative projects to improve life in the 26 cities where the brothers once owned newspapers. In Fort Wayne, their company owned The News-Sentinel.

Bradley proposed turning several vacant lots in the Mount Vernon Park neighborhood into tiny parks. To do so, she proposed involving local youth in planning, designing and building park structures using old tires and other recycled materials.

To prepare for tackling the project, Bradley offered a youth design camp this summer and learned she will need more adults to help mentor the young people, especially when they start building items for a park, she said.

Rather than asking young people all come up with their own ideas, Bradley said she now likely will ask them to focus on one solution to the lot design. She also thinks she'll concentrate their efforts on just one lot, rather than several, because of the time and effort involved in completing the project.

In addition, Bradley has been developing relationships with city officials regarding planning and zoning, and with Mount Vernon Park residents, who she hopes to involve in Tired-a-Lot design and construction.

She also has been gaining valuable knowledge from some unrelated projects.

Bridge of Grace was selected as a finalist in the KaBOOM! Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that sought innovative ideas to make play more easy, fun and accessible to children. Bridge of Grace, which didn't win, had proposed "Lots of Fun!," which would turn the parking lots of neighborhood churches into play spaces when the lot aren't being used by the church.

Bradley recently also organized a Dream Big event at Bridge of Grace for neighborhood residents. People were asked to talk about their vision for the neighborhood."People seemed to enjoy that," she said.

Categories Quality of Life