The Amazon Web Services (AWS) InCommunities Fund launched last year in Ireland and has since rolled out in Mexico, Spain, and the U.S. It offers individuals, community groups, schools, nonprofits, and other organizations driving positive change in their neighborhoods the opportunity to apply for microgrants of up to $10,000.
The fund has already supported more than 100 projects to date in communities where AWS has data centers, including a creative space for small business development, free English language evening classes for people who speak Spanish at home, a garden for high schoolers to grow their own produce, and a mobile thrift store and food bank for individuals and families on low incomes.
The company is now offering a new round of grants, this time to community organizations in Virginia. Applications are open until February 13, 2023. For more information, visit the AWS InCommunities Sustainability Fund site.
Most recently, AWS awarded grants to 54 community organizations in eastern Oregon. Here’s a closer look on how the fund is supporting four of them. You can also view a full list of awardees.
1. Helping adults with developmental disabilities lead independent lives
The Horizon STEP Center for Independent Living in Hermiston, Oregon, helps people experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities acquire the skills they need to live fully, pursue personal growth, and gain independence. The center currently assists more than 50 individuals through one-on-one coaching and group training, and it plans to double this number by 2025 using a grant from AWS.
“In addition to recreational and social programs, we provide tactile learning, creative arts, life skills mentoring, career development planning, skill building, and ongoing job coaching,” said Terri Silvis, CEO of Horizon Project, Inc. “We’re committed to supporting these residents as they live independently, helping them fully participate in the communities where they reside.”
2. Providing English language classes for parents
Irrigon, Oregon, is a small community on the Columbia River with a significant Hispanic population, important to the region’s workforce. With the help of a grant from AWS, A.C. Houghton Elementary School is offering free evening classes to English language learners—parents of A.C. Houghton students who speak Spanish at home. To make the program more accessible to working parents, the school offers late afternoon and early evening sessions, as well as providing child care while classes are taking place.
“Many jobs in our local area require bilingual abilities,” said Jill Ledbetter, principal at A.C. Houghton. “We hope these classes will help open up employment opportunities for more people.”
3. Offering food and household supplies to people in need
L -aPs, Inc. (also known as Learning, Living, and Loving after/along with programs) supports people in Oregon counties Morrow and Umatilla who are dealing with behavioral health, addiction, and other life challenges. The organization also obtains donations of food, clothing, small furniture, and household essentials, and distributes them to those in need.
“The current economic situation is not easy for people on low incomes, who are working multiple jobs to pay their bills, put gas in their cars, and put food on the table,” said Amy Jo Young-BS, founder and president of L -aPs, Inc. “Our aim is to alleviate some of that stress by doing what we can to ease the financial strain.”
The grant from AWS will help fund the creation of a mobile thrift store and “community fridge” to collect and distribute food and household items to those unable to access them.
4. Opening a new child care center
Without adequate child care, parents are unable to work or continue their education—leading to financial hardships for families and labor shortages and employee retention challenges for local businesses. It’s a situation that people in Pendleton, Oregon, know only too well. In 2020, only 9% of children under the age of two had access to a child care place. The new Pendleton Children’s Center opened two preschool classrooms in November, opening capacity for up to 36 children. It is now entering its second phase of construction with help from an AWS grant, and it hopes to grow to have capacity for at least 150 children.
“We’ve all been personally affected by the child care shortage, as parents and as community members,” said Secretary-Treasurer of the Board of Directors for Pendleton Children's Center Kathryn Brown. “Some of us are business owners who have lost good employees due to the lack of availability of child care. This project will have a significant impact across our local area, including the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and surrounding small rural communities.”
For more information and to find out how to apply for the latest round of AWS grants in Virginia, visit the AWS InCommunities Sustainability Fund site, hosted on the ChangeX platform.