Nonprofit set to fund environmental projects
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The Sprout Fund is offering grants of $5,000 and $20,000 to help environmental projects get off the ground from a new initiative it calls the Spring Program.
The Sprout Fund grew out of the New Idea Factory, a six-month project Jim Roddey formed after he was elected Allegheny County executive in 2000. Since 2002, the nonprofit has granted seed money for public art and murals, early childhood technology education, community development and green initiatives.
Sprout's support for biodiversity projects to date has totaled more than $500,000 in small grants, including seed money to Burgh Bees and GTECH Strategies.
The Spring Program, funded largely by the Pittsburgh Foundation, will award 20 community-based programs grants to help environmental entrepreneurship.
"The natural variety of life in our ecosystems [is] being negatively impacted," said Dustin Stiver, civic engagement programs manager for Sprout. "The Spring Program will focus on preserving what exists and raise awareness of this issue.
"Burgh Bees addresses beekeeping and the honeybee decline," he said. "It was a good, grass-roots project that received our support, small catalytic funding of $8,000 in 2009."
"That grant gave us credibility," said Joe Zgurzynski, master beekeeper and director of education for Burgh Bees. "There weren't any teaching programs in the area. We have been able to train 135 beekeepers."
This spring, Burgh Bees established a community apiary with 60 hives on Susquehanna Street near Dallas Avenue in Homewood. The group has a five-year lease with the city and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Besides maintaining hives on the site, Burgh Bees holds workshops and is growing a demonstration garden to show how bees are necessary to food production.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, the public may attend a beekeeping demonstration. Registration is required with an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $20.
GTECH Strategies formed in 2007 with $20,000 from the Sprout Fund. A group of Carnegie Mellon University graduates started GTECH Strategies -- which stands for Growth Through Energy & Community Health -- as a social enterprise to contribute to building a green economy.
The nonprofit company started by partnering with East Liberty Development Inc. to reclaim contaminated vacant land by growing the biofuels sunflower and canola, said GTECH CEO Andrew Butcher.
"Our trajectory from that $20,000 has been regional. We are now in over 20 communities, on 70 vacant lots, and over a dozen of those are now productive community assets," including urban farms and the growing of oil seed for biofuels. "We are a platform for green jobs and helping communities take back ownership of their land."
Spring Program Applications can be downloaded at www.sproutfund.org/spring. The competition is open to projects in southwestern Pennsylvania. The deadline is Sept. 24.
First Published June 25, 2010 12:00 am