In 2021, The House Tuscaloosa received a $5,000 A Community Thrivs grant through the USA TODAY Network. Adding this to funds raised since 2020, Founders Lori Maxey and Amber Howard, along with their Board of Trustees, began to transform the former Stillman College President’s House into a home, built around a literacy effort. in three parts: educational, musical and spiritual.
These separate programs aren’t necessarily related, other than falling under the same roof, said Reverend Lori Maxey, one of two pastors who left the traditional church structure to create The House Tuscaloosa. Someone in the educational program might not even know about the musical and certainly won’t be required to study the scriptures, she said. But all of these facets, within the larger framework of literacy promotion and development, will be available at The House Tuscaloosa.
It was especially important to the Founders that their efforts fall into the underserved West End of Tuscaloosa. About 25% of West End residents are at or below the poverty rate. Of its 32,000 households, the average income is around $39,000. Links have long been established between poverty and literacy.
Many people in the West End who need services, either because of transportation or financial problems, find it difficult to reach other organizations that are supposed to serve them. So Maison Tuscaloosa started where it was needed most.
Although she grew up in Tuscaloosa, Maxey had never really been to the West End until around five years ago.
“I see myself as a bridge builder, to help get people there. We have to help the whole community, not just the places where we feel comfortable,” she said.
Stillman College president Cynthia Warrick provided the facility, which had been used by former leaders of the historically black college, founded in 1876 by the Presbyterian Church as the Tuscaloosa Institute, for young black men are studying for the ministry. In 1895 it was renamed for the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, the Reverend Charles Allen Stillman, and after further expansions it officially became Stillman College in the mid-20th century.
“I had already decided that this nonprofit needed to be in a house,” Maxey said. “But I never imagined that we would be in a house where educators had lived, on a campus that has served this community so well.”
It is a three story building just inside the first gate as you approach Stillman from downtown Tuscaloosa. There is approximately 4,000 square feet of space, with the basement and top floor to be used for storage, offices and workspaces. All public programming will remain on the ground floor.
But unoccupied for more than 20 years, the building needs major renovations. Restoration work began in late 2020, adding new electrical and plumbing systems and a new roof. And of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, and its related supply chain and other issues, have pushed back their timeline.
The A Community Thrives program aims to help community development initiatives across the United States, through crowdfunding and support from the Gannett Foundation. It’s a $2.3 million initiative to help organizations that support a range of social issues, including homelessness, LGBTQ mental health care, reproductive care and education. girls, among others.
Launched in 2017, A Community Thrives has distributed $17 million in grants and donations. The Tuscaloosa House received a community operating grant, chosen by the leaders of Gannett’s more than 250 news sites in 46 states, with special consideration given to those who support historically underserved and underfunded groups.
Apply for grants A community thrives
Non-profit organizations can apply online for grants A community thrives now through June 30 at 8 p.m. central. There are Operating Grants for eligible organizations with community operations in USA TODAY Network Marketplaces, Incentive Grants for groups that raise the most funds, and Bonus Challenge Grants for those who wish to compete.
Recipients will be announced on October 5.
The fundraising portion runs July 18 through August 12 at 8 p.m. CET. A Community Thrives will provide participating organizations with personalized web pages to promote their cause and collect donations. “This webpage can also be used for online fundraising throughout the year,” according to an FAQ on the program website.
Grant applicants will not be alone during the crowdfunding period. A Community Thrivs will provide toolkitstraining, outreach support, mass media, and social media coverage to help nonprofits of all sizes get involved.
“I love this program. It brings real dollars to worthwhile projects in our communities,” said Paige O. Windsor, editor of the Montgomery Advertiser. River Region help each other. I look forward to seeing how ‘Community Thrives’ will play a part in supporting the great work of our 2022 grant partners.”