Print 2 Verde Valley nonprofits vie for state prize
Written by {ga=gruland}   
Saturday, 30 July 2011 17:00

Two area nonprofits made it to the semifinals of a statewide competition for grant money that could mean full funding of their projects, both of which aim to improve quality of life for residents of the Verde Valley.

Verde Food Council, which operates on the principle that “everybody eats,” and Verde Valley Wine Consortium, a trade organization that advocates for area wineries and wine culture, were selected from nearly 100 applicants as semifinalists in the Five Communities Project.

Nanci Gottschalk uses growing cornstalks as a trellis for the garden’s bean crop in one of the Verde Food Council’s plots in the Cottonwood Community Garden on Sunday, July 24. Verde Food Council and the Verde Valley Wine Consortium are among 33 finalists statewide for full funding grants for projects which improve the communities from the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Five Communities Project.Sponsored by the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Five Communities Project is the center’s “first statewide effort to help [residents] and leaders work together to achieve The Arizona We Want,” according to the nonprofit’s official website.

“The purpose of the project is to help communities develop and fund action plans that address the issues people feel strongly about, such as job creation, education, health care, the environment or civic engagement,” the website states.

In early April, communities were invited to develop grant proposals that describe how they could achieve results on one or more of the goals identified in a Gallup Arizona Poll completed earlier this year.

A total of 96 communities responded from all regions of the state. The proposals were reviewed individually by a selection committee, which announced 33 semifinalists July 15.

Semifinalists must complete a feasibility assessment designed to prepare a national funding proposal. The assessments must be submitted before midnight Monday, Aug. 8. Ten finalists will be selected from the 33 and awarded $5,000 each to help them develop their final proposal.

From the 10 finalists, five communities will be selected to partner with the center in developing a collaborative proposal to be submitted to some of the nation’s biggest philanthropic foundations.

“The objective is to provide our partner communities with the resources to implement their plans over a three-year funding period,” according to the website.

“They told us not to worry about how much money we should ask for,” Verde Food Council Executive Director Debra Emanuelle said. “Basically, they said the sky’s the limit.”

That kind of money would go far to advance the council’s goal of making sure food bank shelves are fully stocked, markets for locally-grown food are expanded and residents become educated about nutrition and growing their own food to save money, Emmanuelle said.

Formed in 2009, the council was created in response to long lines of Verde Valley residents that began showing up at area food banks as a result of the economic recession.

The council envisions Verde Valley communities “where there is no more hunger,” Emmanuelle said.

“We want to see a day where we treat our hungry neighbors with respect; healthy, fresh food is grown and shared; and self-sufficiency is realized by all,” she said, quoting the council’s mission statement.

With an eye toward economic growth, Tom Pitts, director of the nonprofit Verde Valley Wine Consortium, said his organization is focused on advancing the local wine industry, including wine tourism, economic development and education.

The consortium collects and distributes data to its members and works to protect Verde Valley grape growers and wineries from overly restrictive regulation.

A recent study sponsored by the consortium showed the wine industry has tremendous impact on the local and state economy, employing 142 residents, paying $2.9 million in annual wages and adding $740,000 to annual sales tax revenue.

“VVWC is committed to fostering a culture of sustainability, educational programs, and marketing the region on many different levels,” Pitts said, quoting the consortium’s mission statement.