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Community Grants Aim for Speedy Improvements

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MADISON, Wis. -- Making communities more livable for people of all ages is the goal of a grant program that's looking for ideas from Wisconsin. Nonprofit groups and government agencies now can submit their applications for community-improvement grants administered by AARP. The funding is for projects that can provide immediate results.

Now in it its fourth year, the Community Challenge Grant program is offered in all U.S. states and territories. Sam Wilson, state director for AARP Wisconsin, said they're looking for innovative solutions that address livability issues and that won't take long to finish. "People have created 'bike fixation' stations, and benches and pathways," he said. "There are other communities that have tried traffic calming in neighborhoods where, perhaps, there have either been accidents or incidents with pedestrians, or they're just trying to slow the pace of traffic.

" In general, observers have said, the application process for grants has become more competitive in recent years. But Wilson said their program removes some of the burdens so that recipients can focus less on paperwork and more on giving their community a spark. To date, the program has funded 16 projects throughout Wisconsin. Wilson said one of the key benefits of the Community Challenge Grant is that it fills in the gap left by traditional sources of grant money, "whether it be public money or private money that a project hasn't been able to receive the resources it needs to get up and off the ground."

Nationwide, the program has awarded more than $3 million. The current application period runs through April 1, and groups that receive funding need to be ready to have their projects completed by early November. More details are online at AARP.org/CommunityChallenge and aarp.org/livable-communities.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.
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