The local Unitarian church will make $5000 grants to two groups working to make Kent County a community of connection and inclusion. The monies will go to Kent Attainable Housing and Minary’s Dream Alliance, both of which emerged within the past five years.
“Both these organizations clearly align with our vision of a more equitable, neighborly lifestyle among us residents of Kent County – a lifestyle engaging all races and ethnicity,” said David Biehler, president of the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River (UUCR).
The grants are likely the first such donations from a special fund of the UUCR, in the recollection of longtime members. The fund has accumulated through recent budget savings, bequests, other one-time sources, and investments.
The UUCR, located on Gateway Drive in the Crest View section, approved the requests after hearing from President Biehler, active with the housing non-profit, and member Philip Dutton, a board member of Minary’s Dream Alliance. At the church’s annual meeting, concluded June 13, members voted overwhelmingly to approve the grants.
Recipient Kent Attainable Housing (KAH) has already completed its first venture in assisting low-income families in becoming homeowners. Two employed parents and their three children moved into a traditional-style new home on College Avenue in January. Like all approved KAH clients, they had taken classes in budgeting and home maintenance.
“It warms my heart to know that the youngster (in the College Avenue household) will grow up in his own yard with room to play. And that the parents’ payments will be earning them equity in the property. It’s our way to help make up for the decades of housing discrimination against people of color,” Biehler said.
Studies show that homeownership is the major financial asset of the typical American family. Those studies also reveal families of color fall far below white averages on that measure, thus handicapping succeeding generations. About 75 percent of KAH applicants are people of color, Chair Lani Seikaly reports.
The UUCR gift will go toward buying a lot or property for a third family. The second family, consisting of three generations in the household, is awaiting a new home in Butlertown designed for their special needs.
The other UUCR recipient, Minary’s Dream Alliance (MDA), plans to provide programs across a broad range. These will take place at a nurturing clubhouse serving the needs and desires of youth, particularly those underserved by other resources. The UUCR funds will go toward the capital needed to acquire a “place where boys and girls can unapologetically be themselves,” says co-founder Paul Tue on the website minary’s dreamalliance.org.
With the UUCR grant and donations from many others, MDA will complete purchase of the former American Legion property off Morgnec Road (Route 291), where it has been renting space. With frontage on Morgnec Creek, the 9-acre property will afford access to kayaking, fishing, picnicking, and other outdoor recreation for youth and their families. Mentoring teens toward their futures is a major goal, with hands-on exposure to culinary and other occupations.
Already MDA operates Feed the Elderly Initiative, established by the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice, from the Legion site. The initiative delivers fresh produce, protein, and staple foods to more than 200 Kent seniors each week.
The organization recently started a club for teens age 12-17 impacted by or diagnosed with opioid use disorder. Mid-Shore Behavioral Health, Inc. has awarded MDA an “Adolescent Clubhouse” grant of $500,000 to provide those dealing with substance abuse an additional layer of support. MDA intends to tailor its recovery services to address the particular needs of teens and their families. This program will welcome youth in the five Mid-Shore counties.
Philip Dutton, the UUCR advocate for the MDA grant, said he was “grateful to the congregation I’ve belonged to for years for making this significant gift to a group I believe in strongly. MDA has leaders we all can believe in – Doncella Wilson and Paul Tue. It’s exciting to envision the impact that MDA will have on the Mid-Shore.”
The Chester River Chorale has decided to hold rehearsals there, Dutton noted, and other groups needing space are considering meeting there. The building of more than 5,000 square feet includes a stage, ballroom, conference rooms, and commercial kitchen among other features.
“MDA is going to create a welcoming space for the whole community,” Dutton said.