If you’ve got big ideas, now’s the time to share them

All it took was an idea. 

When Réna Bradley came from Detroit to Fort Wayne to work for Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries Center, she saw some vacant lots in the area and heard those in the community pining for more beautification as well as recreational places for children.

So she dreamt up a program:

Children in the middle school and high school age-range would spend a summer designing a way to fix up one of those vacant lots, solving the problems that come with such a project along the way until they realized their goal.

That idea netted her organization more than $95,000 last year from the Knight Foundation, a group that supports transformational change in communities and yearly doles out money to make such change happen as part of its Knight Cities Challenge.

Bradley’s entry into the challenge was one of thousands and just a few that won. 

“I don’t know how confident I was when you have 4,500 more entries,” she said of winning the money. “We were hopeful, though.”

The Knight Cities Challenge is happening once again, and there is $5 million pegged for innovated projects across 25 communities that focus on “attracting and retaining talent, expanding economic opportunity and creating a culture of robust civic engagement.”

To help, the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne is holding two question and answer sessions open to the public to discuss the challenge and to spark discussion into the one big question:

How would you make our city even better?

Anyone with a big idea about how to make our city better is encouraged to attend one of the sessions, both of which are on Oct. 17. The first session will be held at the Community Foundation at 555 E. Wayne St. at 3 p.m. An evening session will be held at Wunderkammer Company, 3402 Fairfield Ave., at 6 p.m.

Applications for the Knight Cities Challenge will be accepted until noon on Nov. 3. The challenge is open to anyone who might have the imagination to spur civic innovation at the city, neighborhood and block level.

The initial application, which can be found at www.knightcities.org, consists of just three questions that should be answered in 100 words or less.

“The entry round is very brief,” Bradley said.

Bradley’s idea partly stemmed from her time in Detroit, where she worked as community development project manager at the Detroit Land Bank Authority and was part of the Detroit Revitalization Fellows Program.

She saw plenty of vacant lots in that city but also a lot of people trying to do “cool things with them.”

Bradley came here to be the community development coordinator for Bridge of Grace, and will be a speaker at the Community Foundation’s public sessions.

The program she dreamt up will take place this summer, with the hopes that 12 to 24 kids will partake and help design a new life for one of seven vacant lots Bridge of Grace now owns in the area of Mt. Vernon Park. More details on how to apply for the program are to follow on the organization’s website and Facebook page, Bradley said.

“This will be a lot of fun,” she said. “I think our neighborhood will really dig it.”

All it took was an idea, maybe a little initiative and then a good pitch to the right people. The opportunity for pitching ideas is now up again.

Question is, who will have the next big one?


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