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PBC Neighborhood Partnership Grant Program

Grant program offers hope for struggling Palm Beach County communities

By Stella M. Chßvez
Staff Writer

May 21, 2001

WEST BOCA + The Rev. Chris Stultz looks around Watergate Mobile Home Park and sees contradiction.

There is community pride, people who want to make their everyday lives better by being good neighbors.

But there is another side. The absentee landlords. The drug dealers. Children with little or no supervision. Domestic violence. Homes in disrepair.

During his more than three years at Calvary Chapel in this neighborhood west of Boca Raton, Stultz has seen and heard it all.

"Many people here are so depressed that they don't care anymore," Stultz said.

The bad side of Watergate is taking its toll. But Stultz is looking at a new countywide grant program as a tool to help turn things around.

He is just one of several community leaders around the county applying for the Palm Beach County Neighborhood Partnership Grant Program. It's a new initiative created by county commissioners to provide matching money for communities that want to revitalize their neighborhoods. A neighborhood's 50 percent share to pay for improvements is 10 percent cash and 40 percent sweat equity.

The program was developed by the Countywide Community Revitalization Team, a group that assesses the needs of blighted areas in unincorporated Palm Beach County and lobbies county and state groups for improvement money.

So far, the team has pointed to 31 areas that are eligible to receive aid, said Ruth Moguillansky, coordinator of the team. These are areas that lack infrastructure such as water lines, sewer service and paved roads. They may have code enforcement problems, criminal activity or few social services.

County commissioners have allocated up to $100,000 for the program, and communities can apply for grants up to $20,000.

Who gets money and how much depends on the number of applications received and the amount requested, Moguillansky said. The deadline for applications is June 15.

"The main goal is to stimulate the residents to work together," Moguillansky said. "It's a small program that would serve as a seed where the community can see small successes and create a feeling of confidence."

While $20,000 may not solve all of a neighborhood's problems, Stultz said it can help get residents excited about revitalizing their community. He said he wants people to take pride in their community, but he also wants them to have a spiritual base. Often, he walks or drives around the community talking to residents and inviting them to his church.

For this particular program, Stultz plans to organize several community meetings so he can get residents' input about what they'd like to see happen.

The program sounds appealing, said Tracy Hall, who is raising three children inside a dilapidated mobile home.

"I'd like to see people's houses get fixed for people who don't have money," she said.

Hall doesn't have a job because of a medical condition that causes the glands in her arms to swell. As a result, she can't afford to repair her home, which has cracked walls, loose doorknobs and other problems.

Other neighborhoods in South County eligible for grants are San Castle near Boynton Beach, Tradewinds Estates near Delray Beach and the Dunes Road/Barwick Road area outside Delray Beach.

Diane Richard-Allerdyce, co-founder of the proposed Toussaint L'Ouverture Arts for Social Justice High School in Delray Beach, said she and other community leaders are considering applying for the grant "to promote civic outreach."

"We see it as an ideal collaboration [between residents and the county]," she said.

Richard-Allerdyce said she did not yet know specifically what the money would be used for because she recently learned about the program.

For Stultz, the program has brought new hope to his community. "Even in the midst of all of this trouble, there are people who believe in what we're trying to do and want to come together."

For information on the grant program, call Ruth Moguillansky at 561-233-5376.

Stella M. Chßvez can be reached at schavez@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6602.

Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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