At the most recent Town Council meeting, Ward 3 Council Member José Medrano proposed that the Mayor and Council provide $90,000 in direct American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the Upper Shore Community Development Corporation (USCDP). This funding would support USCDP’s continued development and programming in 2023, including the hiring of part-time professional staff and to work with the Town on a number of important priorities, including creating a solution for our community’s growing homelessness challenge, the creation of a database of funding opportunities available to both the government and area nonprofit organizations, and providing much needed staff capacity to the Town to assist ARPA grantees with compliance and reporting as needed, as well as the Town’s Equity initiatives, including the important work of the Equity Advisory Committee.
To further serve the interests of our community, USCDP would undertake a much-needed nonprofit needs assessment that would identify and categorize area nonprofit organizations according to capacity, category, size, and budget, identify services currently provided, and conduct a community-wide survey to identify needs and service gaps. In addition to creating a fundraising database, USCDP will provide technical assistance and support for applications, including facilitating collaborations between organizations.
After 18 months of planning, organizational development, and community engagement, including meetings with Mayor Foster and every member of the Council, USCDP is prepared to begin programming in support of its mission, to use a community-based, equity-focused process to help Chestertown residents improve their quality of life, through programming in entrepreneurship, job readiness, and affordable housing. USCDP has a diverse Board of Directors representing a cross-section of area stakeholders, is finalizing its application for 501 (c)3 status, opened a fund at the Mid Shore Community Foundation, and secured office space.
USCDP has reached the point where local investment is essential for the organization to move to the next level, and to begin programming. USCDP has had significant support from a local private benefactor, which is winding down, and the current consulting team is concluding its work. USCDP’s first program, META, a minority entrepreneurship training program, is ready to begin, having recently received funding from Queen Anne’s County for an initial cohort of minority entrepreneurs, and a pending ARPA Task Force application for a Chestertown cohort. However, without operating support and the hiring of permanent staff, neither of these programs will be able to begin.
The time has come for the Town and Council to demonstrate its support for USCDP by allocating funding; the amount requested, $90,000, would not only provide funding to support the hiring of permanent staff, it would also send an important signal to outside funders that the community is invested in this work. Beginning the new year with a spirit of hope and a sense of urgency, USCDP stands ready to partner with the Town on matters of critical importance to our community. An approach in this manner will create a beneficial outcome for both the Town leadership and its community partners, with Chestertown’s citizens as the beneficiaries.
Lead Consultant, Upper Shore Community Development Partners