United Way of Central Indiana awards $1 million in grants to 12 organizations for innovative programs

INDIANAPOLIS – United Way of Central Indiana today announced 12 community organizations will receive grants from its Social Innovation Fund, one of three United Way impact initiatives with a focus on addressing the needs of the community in innovative ways.
United Way’s 15-member Social Innovation Fund workgroup of staff, board and community volunteers reviewed 60 letters of interest from a highly diverse and broad mix of United Way accredited and non-accredited community organizations. From those letters of interest, 25 organizations were formally invited to participate, and 12 proposals were approved for unrestricted funding totaling $1 million. Each grant ranged from $50,000-$120,000 per organization.
The Social Innovation Fund specifically targets initiatives that can accelerate positive outcomes for individuals needing safe and affordable housing; access to healthy food, transportation or education; pathways to better-paying jobs; and improved physical, mental and behavioral health. United Way expects an estimated 12,000 individuals and families will be served through this grant cycle.
“Social innovation is looking at a common problem through a different solution lens,” said Jimmie McMillian, United Way board member and senior corporate counsel, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “These community organizations are, undoubtedly, bringing positive change in our community. From teaching chefs how to become successful business owners to helping individuals with suspended licenses work through their legal issues to potentially gain employment, each of these grant recipients have designed programs to solve real problems that affect thousands of people in our community.”
Social Innovation Fund Grants 2020-2021
B4U Fall Inc. – $100,000
B4U Fall will expand their existing Creative Production Academy, which introduces neighborhood youth to the music technology industry. This program teaches participants engineering, production, recording, and videography, which provides them with an innovative application of science, engineering, math and technology. CityDump Records will provide the industry specific instruction to focus on the musical engineering and Geeks with Hammers will provide the specific instruction for the technology and equipment.
Be Nimble Foundation – $75,000
Be Nimble Foundation has created The Nile’s Melon Ghost Kitchen & Food Entrepreneurship Accelerator to support the success of Black chefs and restauranteurs. Melon is a 3-month program, where 5-7 chefs will be hand-picked to go through a virtual, mentor-driven entrepreneurship curriculum to accelerate the chefs’ progress, while simultaneously testing their menus in a ghost kitchen to promote delivery and take-out only restaurant concepts. This pulls them out of traditional food and restaurant industries, by giving them an innovative, tech-first model to create sustainable food businesses.
Eclectic Soul VOICES Corporation – $100,000
VOICES seeks to expand two of their promising innovations that cultivate youth leadership and launch a new two-generational approach to address poverty and systemic racism. VOICES youth will gain leadership in policy-making and systems-level decisions that directly affect their lives and their communities. This leadership work will also provide recruits for the two-generation family development program in which families will co-create a holistic learning and development plan that includes good and promising job development opportunities.
Flanner House of Indianapolis, Inc. – $120,000
Flanner House will expand its King Commons Agrihood initiative that includes its urban agriculture program, technical education programs, small business support and relevant community events. The work will leverage the partnership of several organizations which bring complementary expertise in agriculture, adult education, entrepreneurial business development, housing, commercial development, and social services. This is the first phase of a five year plan which includes greenhouse operation and companion vertical farm, consumer facing retail food halls, a food packaging and distribution facility, and a grocery store development with associated housing. Each of these elements will be linked together in a collaborative continuum of workforce development experiences and entrepreneurial supports that create jobs, equip low skill residents to move into middle skill jobs offering real career mobility, and incubate and renew the next generation of food entrepreneurs.
Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana Inc. – $50,000
Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana is partnering with Cook, a privately-owned medical device manufacturer, to create nearly 100 manufacturing jobs. They are intentionally locating these sustaining wage jobs in a predominantly Black, low-income neighborhood. In addition to creating jobs, with this project Goodwill will create a replicable roadmap for establishing a corporate/nonprofit/local community partnership designed to create employment opportunities within underserved neighborhoods in Indianapolis.
Growing Places Indy – $75,000
Growing Places Indy is eliminating barriers for new, beginning, and underrepresented famers by creating a new section of their Urban Farm Incubator program, “Grow Getters.” Inspired by the continuous need for support after clients graduate their existing Summer Apprenticeship program, Grow Getters is a 12 month program that will support young or new farmers by providing them all the necessary keys to become successful urban farmers such as access to land, farming infrastructure, and hands-on training and mentorship.
Indianapolis Legal Aid Society, Inc. – $65,000
Indianapolis Legal Aid Society will expand its Second Chance Workshops to be able to remove a critical barrier for family success that is often overlooked – suspended driver’s licenses. By reinstating their licenses through activities such as completing paperwork, addressing tickets, and paying fines, Legal Aid is partnering with the Prosecutor’s Office to eliminate legal issues while helping families economic progress through stabilized transportation. They pair these legal services with wrap-around social service supports so families can also get help with accessing childcare, resume supports and other critical needs.
John H. Boner Neighborhood Centers, Inc. – $120,000
John Boner Neighborhood Centers will create a Virtual Community Center (VCC) that offers clients access to all of their services and resources online. The VCC will offer all of Boner’s programming which includes workshops, financial and career supports, fitness classes, children and youth services, and family engagement events. The VCC will increase availability and accessibility of services, increase social capital among customers, improve communication between Boner and its customers, and increase the efficiency and reliability of services (particularly necessary during the pandemic but useful beyond that time as virtual meet-ups are now socialized as a normal element of community interaction).
Lutheran Child and Family Services of Indiana/Kentucky, Inc. – $100,000
Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS) is creating an affordable housing facility with wrap-around supports for youth that have experienced homelessness, especially those who were engaged in the foster care or child welfare system. The Pando Aspen Grove of Community Heights program, will serve youth ages 18-24 that have aged out of traditional assistance and services. By providing not only housing services, but also offering a rich array of supports, LCFS is able to help these youth access the services and develop the skills they need to fully integrate as productive adult members of the community. Pando will offer access to neighborhood, social services, and governmental resources, technology, and collaborative cross-sector service approaches.
Public Advocates in Community re-Entry (PACE) – $100,000
PACE will work with JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) to create a coalition of trained individuals impacted by incarceration who will take their skills and serve as experts for re-entry efforts in Indianapolis through the Emerging Leaders Advocacy Training Program. Emerging Leaders participants will be introduced to the tools and skills to effectively build coalitions and develop and lead local and state level campaigns. All participants will complete JLUSA’s accelerated two-day Emerging Leaders training program, and JLUSA will serve as an ongoing resource and network for PACE and its emerging leaders. Through this systems improvement project, these new leaders will bring their lived experience and their advocacy training to educate legislators on how to fix root causes of mass incarceration (like child services, policing, criminal justice system, etc.).
Patachou Foundation, Inc. – $45,000
The Patachou Foundation has created a paid, intensive summer training program for Food Fellows that will result in highly skilled youth workers that can enter the workforce immediately with a pathway to a living wage job. At the same time, these fellows will be integral team members who will increase the capacity of The Patachou Foundation to conduct its hunger relief work and food empowerment education, creating thousands of meals to serve across Indianapolis and teaching hundreds of younger students skills on the farm.
PATTERN Inc. – $50,000
PATTERN will launch StitchWorks – a training program and workforce development effort that connects poverty-vulnerable populations with in-demand jobs in the fashion/textile industry. Partnering with Ivy Tech, StitchWorks will provide training for participants to become alterations specialists, vinyl repair and upholsterers, embroidery operators, and other positions with wages ranging from $15 to $26/hour. StitchWorks will create a pipeline for skilled workers in this industry in Indianapolis, benefitting vulnerable citizens in need of good work, small business owners looking for labor and distributors, and companies seeking workers.




About United Way of Central Indiana: United Way is a community of donors, advocates, volunteers, and partners who fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. United Way invites all members of our community to LIVE UNITED by giving, advocating and volunteering to improve lives in Central Indiana. Visit www.uwci.org to learn more.

Jessica DiSanto | Senior Director of Communications at United Way of Central Indiana