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Friendly House, Centro among 62 organizations to receive community empowerment grants

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

MASS. - Over 60 organizations across the state are receiving 65 grants totaling more than $20 million through the Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program.

Among the 62 recipients are four Worcester organizations: Friendly House, Centro Las Americas, Living in Freedom Together (LIFT) and the Black Excellence Academy/Charles Houston Cultural Project.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy made the announcement on Thursday.

“As the inaugural round of grant recipients demonstrates, the Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program is a powerful source of assistance to address a wide range of needs with specific solutions developed by community leaders, coalitions, and established organizations that are known to, and live among, the people and neighborhoods they serve,” Polito said at Thursday’s announcement at UTEC in Lowell. “Through this grant program, we can harness that existing human capital and accelerate progress toward addressing those needs.”

The Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program is supporting projects and programming that respond to community-defined economic opportunities within eligible communities. The one-year grants support applicants seeking to address issues in communities that have historically faced disproportionate challenges to economic growth.

Projects awarded grants received priority if they are in areas that have experienced high rates of incarceration and widespread poverty, or are in communities of traditionally disadvantaged and underrepresented populations.

“Certain communities face unique challenges but also have the local assets and expertise to develop solutions,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “By using this program to tap directly into those resources, we can position these trusted organizations for success in their efforts to strengthen their communities from within.”

Friendly House is receiving $63,301 for their “I, Too” program involving local business leaders, state and local government leaders and the Worcester Public Schools system. The program will provide 20 young people who are at a heightened risk of criminal justice system involvement with a positive role model to help guide, empower, and inspire them.

They awarded LIFT $491,740 for its Building Real Action for Viable Employment (BRAVE) program, which provides job training and skill building in Worcester for survivors of the sex trade.

The Black Excellence Academy/Charles Houston Cultural Project is awarded $50,000 to support its year-long out-of-school program for 50 Worcester Public School students in grades 1 through 6.

Centro Las Americas will receive $382,600 for its Towards Financial Empowerment program, a bi-lingual community collaboration for Worcester’s disproportionately affected communities, to leverage resources, form greater learning opportunities, including for those affected by incarceration, to overcome barriers to economic stability, from housing to entrepreneurship.

Also among the recipients is Berkshire Community College for the launch of the Second Street Second Chances initiative. SSSC is a one-stop facility which will offer wrap-around support services, case-management and workforce training opportunities to formerly incarcerated individuals in order to reduce rates of recidivism in Berkshire County. For a full list of recipients and more information on the programs, click here.

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