The Rev. Kenneth V. Daniel (top row, left) with this year’s Wishing Well grant recipients.

An unusual program within CHHSM-member United Church Homes (UCH) is giving housing managers needed grant-writing experience while at the same time providing additional funding to their communities.

At its Housing Donor Appreciation Dinner in July, United Church Homes awarded 10 “Wishing Well” grants to this year’s recipients.

The United Church Homes Wishing Well grant program — an innovative way to distribute annual philanthropic gifts given to support housing services — is open to all UCH housing communities. Participating in the program gives housing managers the tools they need to write grant proposals and provides an opportunity for leveraging additional funding from their local area.

This year, UCH received a total of nearly $31,000 in donations designated for affordable housing that contributed to the funds available for the Wishing Well grant program. United Church Homes matched this amount, bringing the grand total for Wishing Well applicants to $62,000. The amount was enough to fund all of the 2019 applicants. The monies are helping to fund such amenities as a pergola, new exercise equipment, patio restoration and roofing, a new craft room fully stocked with materials, updated furniture and the continuation of private transportation.

Salem Manor in Fort Wayne, Ind., used its grant to provide one-of-a-kind outings like this one, where residents are enroute to Sechler’s Pickles in St. Joe’s, Ind.

“We used Wishing Well grant funds at Salem Manor in Fort Wayne, Ind., to provide unique opportunities for residential outings,” says Gina Erhardt, housing manager. “Many residents do not have vehicles. This program gives them the opportunity to stay independent, and makes a big difference in residents’ lives.”

In addition to funding from unrestricted gifts to UCH’s Housing Services, many employees also donate their annual employee giving campaign pledges to the program, as they see firsthand the impact of their donations, says Alissa Clouse, UCH’s director of major gifts and grants.

But perhaps the most important part of the grants are the skills the housing managers learn to help them successfully fund raise in their own communities. The process “helps them learn to write grant applications,” Clouse says. “They learn to work with me as the corporate grant writer, collaborating to secure donations and create impact for their residents. They get the opportunity to review their applications with me, which helps them understand how to strengthen a proposal.”

The housing managers also get experience on the other side of the table, serving as voting members of the grant committee in years they don’t apply. “This helps them understand the funders’ perspective and further learn about what to include in a grant proposal,” Clouse adds.

The 2019 awardees included: Harmony Apartments, $2,999, Long Prairie, Minn.; Concord Estates, $4,098, Fredonia, N.Y.; Shawnee Springs, $7,500, Bellefontaine, Ohio; Laurel’s Edge, $6,700, Kennesaw, Ga.; Sterling Place, $3,381, Lakeland, Fla.; Cottonwood Glen, $7,052, Greenwood, Miss.; Cherry Arbors, $6,299, North Lewisburg, Ohio; Maple Leaf Commons, $5,810, Goshen, Ind.; Salem Manor, $7,500, Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Glendale Commons, $7,500, Covington, Tenn.

“The Wishing Well program allows our housing managers to think creatively about amenities that most buildings couldn’t afford as part of HUD rules,” says the Rev. Kenneth V. Daniel, president and CEO of United Church Homes. “Over the years, we have enhanced residents’ lives by improving or adding special equipment, social rooms, or outdoor patios and walking trails. These gifts add to the quality of life for our residents.”