Grant boost saves programs for nonprofits

LAWRENCEVILLE - An extra boost in federal funding has saved many programs Gwinnett's nonprofits and other entities were going to have to put off.

The county will receive nearly $1 million more in federal grants than was anticipated late last year.

Overall, the county's annual share of Housing and Urban Development grants dwindled compared to 2005. The $5.9 million is lower than last year's funding in every category except for emergency shelter grants, which came out $994 higher, according to a letter on the grants from Community Development Director Craig Goebel.

The boost may be enough to help the Impact Group finish a 10-year project to revitalize a Beaver Ruin area neighborhood.

Marina Peed, executive director of the nonprofit, was glad to hear her organization is getting the additional $100,000 in HOME program grants.

If the nonprofit also gets a state grant, she said the funding would complete a $8 million package that has helped turn around Beaver Springs Lane.

After buying its first "crack house" in 1997, the organization has been modernizing the circa-1970s duplexes and quadriplexes.

"We buy property and bring them up to standard, but when there is negative activity going on across the street, no one wants to live there," Peed said.

Over the years, support from the government and interested businesses has helped the nonprofit buy all but two properties.

"We're making really good progress," she said. Soon, "we'll return it back to a real nice place for folks to live."

The Impact Group is also one of several organizations receiving a boost in funds for homeless shelters in the area, but Peed said the problem of homelessness in the suburbs is growing faster than the money can be found.

"These dollars will be gone in the blink of an eye, but the good news is that there are a lot of good organizations out there working for what's best in the community," she said.

According to a new action plan recently approved by county commissioners, the biggest community development block grant will go to the Partnership Against Domestic Violence for upgrades to its Women's Shelter.

According to Cathy Willis Spraetz, chief executive officer, the organization was disappointed last November when its request for funding didn't get through.

She said she's not sure how old the Gwinnett shelter is, but the organization has been using it since the 1980s.

"The place is really in need of a lot," she said, describing termite damage, structural problems and the need for a coat of paint at the Lawrenceville house.

Willis Spraetz said the Gwinnett shelter, which houses 36 women and children, and another one in Atlanta have been full for the past year.

"We're thrilled to be working with the county on this," she said. "This is going to be an exciting opportunity for us to rehab the shelter and make it more comfortable for our residents."

Grants are also going to computer equipment for several nonprofits and housing, community center and sidewalk projects in Lawrenceville, Norcross, Buford, Dacula, Duluth and Snellville.