Quad Cities Community Foundation Announces Transformation Grants


Two Quad Cities-area nonprofits will receive Transformation Grants from the Quad Cities Community Foundation to expand two very different local workforce development efforts. 

Vera French Mental Health Center and Mercado on Fifth will each receive $100,000 Transformation Grants thanks to donors who give through the Quad Cities Community Impact Fund at the Community Foundation.

“Nonprofits in the Quad Cities play a vital role in supporting workforce development efforts in the region, and we want to make sure they have the tools to create and sustain initiatives that provide opportunities for people from all walks of life,” said Sherry Ristau, president and CEO of the Quad Cities Community Foundation. “Workforce development is a major focus of our region, and nonprofits are moving the dial on opportunities that directly benefit Quad Citizens.”

The first grant will empower Vera French Mental Health Center to partner with Transitions Mental Health Services to expand employment support for individuals with severe mental illness. More than 60 percent of individuals with mental illness want to work, but less than 20 percent are employed. Vera French will work with Transitions to expand Transitions’ current supported employment program—now primarily offered in Illinois—to Iowa clients at Vera French. The funding will allow Vera French to locate a new staff person at their new downtown Davenport access center, and help secure ongoing funding for subsequent years. 

Transformation Grants celebrate and support efforts that benefit multiple organizations or systems, and align with the Community Foundation mission and Q2030 Regional Action Plan to make the Quad Cities a more inclusive and equitable place. The partnership between Vera French and Transitions does just that, said Kelly Thompson, vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives at the Community Foundation.

“We are thrilled that two nonprofit organizations that have consistently contributed to the vitality of our region have come together to expand a program that touches one of our most vulnerable populations,” Thompson said. “This speaks to the fact that we are in it together, no matter what corner of the Quad Cities you are in.”

The second $100,000 Transformation Grant, to Mercado on Fifth, is a vote of confidence for an ongoing initiative that has supported diversity and equity since its inception in 2016. Mercado on Fifth has helped provided a platform for over 50 minority-owned businesses. The open-air night market is located at the gateway to Floreciente, a low-to-moderate income neighborhood on the western edge of downtown Moline where approximately 75 percent of the residents are Hispanic. 

The weekly summer event has reached its capacity at its outdoor location and the organization’s leadership plans to purchase and renovate a nearby indoor location to allow for year-round Mercado events and expansion of their approach to business incubation.

“Mercado on Fifth has gone above and beyond since the beginning,” Thompson said. “Besides their fun weekly events, they offer businesses a chance to thrive by providing micro-grants and connecting them to other partners for business training and an opportunity to utilize commercial kitchens without the need to invest in their own kitchen space. This initiative is claiming space for community in that part of Moline and exemplifies what it means to provide new opportunities for diverse communities.”

Ristau added that the 2019 Transformation Grants do more than provide a one-time infusion of funding for a nonprofit, as they have serious long-term impacts on the organization and the people they serve. “These grants are a boost to help them get to that next level for the efforts they support,” Ristau said. “Our role at the Community Foundation is to really listen to the needs of this community, identify the nonprofits that are addressing those needs, and support them through donor generosity. Both of these grants are examples of the ways we can come together to create lasting change and strengthen our communities.”

This is the fifth year that the Quad Cities Community Foundation has made Transformation Grants that align with the Community Foundation’s mission to transform the region through the generosity of donors. The first Transformation Grant was made in 2015 to the Scott County Housing Council for homelessness prevention. Since then, $100,000 grants have been awarded to the United Way Women United Born Learning Initiative, Family Resources’ Comprehensive Care Coordination Services Program, Grow Quad Cities for the Q2030 Regional Action Plan, and last year, to the Robert Young Center and Child Abuse Council.

Article published by QC Community Foundation on December 10, 2019 and can be found at: https://bit.ly/2U7mZgq

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