Holyoke recognized for development efforts

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Holyoke, in partnership with Providence Ministries Service Network, was the 2016 Region 1 winner of the Community Development Achievement Award from the National Community Development Association for its use of Community Development Block Grants.
The award honors communities that demonstrate outstanding achievement in service to low- and moderate-income individuals and families.
Holyoke’s award recognized the use of block grant funds to expand FoodWorks, a program created and run by Providence Ministries, a social services organization located in the city. The program, run out of Kate’s Kitchen, provides culinary training to unemployed and underemployed individuals.
“It’s an opportunity to create a situation where folks could gain some job skills that are readily transferable to the real world,” said Community Development administrator Alicia Zoeller.
Kate’s Kitchen was already running training programs, but identified a need for funding to build out their kitchen to accommodate the students coming into the program, Zoeller said.
The city allocated $150,ooo for the build out of the kitchen space and another $150,000 for scholarships for FoodWorks students this year. The funds are distributed through the Office of Community Development.
Zoeller said the city develops priorities every five years for community development and looks back to that plan as well as prior investments and community needs.
“We listen to our local agencies and our community partners and try to match funds with their needs,” Zoeller said.
In a prepared statement, Mayor Alex Morse said, “This program not only supports the community meals at Kate’s Kitchen, but provides much needed job training and a proven track record of successful job placement to allow families to climb the economic ladder.”
The award provides “a great national platform for a project like this out there for other communities to see,” said Zoeller. “Many places have the basic foundation of community kitchens, so it’s not a huge leap.”
The city also pays attention to the potential for tying projects into other private or public projects. Zoeller cited a nearby community college expansion and the future Springfield casino as places where FoodWorks trainees could take their skills in the future.
“We’re transitioning the use of federal funds from sustaining people in their economic plight to building opportunities to grow beyond that,” Zoeller said.
The city will begin accepting applications this month for next year’s funding.