Building “joy,” “trust” and “community” are important goals for unprotected members of the Springfield Street Choir, Founding Director Katie Kring said Monday, as news broke that Springfield Chamber Chorus and its project Springfield Street Choir received a $ 12,500 grant from A Thriving Community.
A Community Thrives is a grants and crowdfunding program of the USA TODAY Network, which includes News-Leader, USA TODAY and hundreds of other Gannett media brands.
The $ 2.3 million initiative supports organizations that tackle a range of social issues. This year, those issues included homelessness (the problem the Springfield Street Choir is tackling) as well as girls’ education and urban farming, to name a few.
Elsewhere in Missouri, Columbia’s nonprofit Ragtag Cinema received a $ 12,500 grant from A Community Thrives. Last year, the St. Louis-based Creative Reaction Lab received a national grant of $ 50,000 to help formerly incarcerated black and Latino youth become civic leaders.
Previously: Missouri Nonprofits Launch Fundraiser for Gannett’s A Community Thrives Program
Since 2017, A Community Thrives has distributed $ 17 million in grants and donations to community organizations.
“Now in its fifth year, A Community Thrives provides grants to many important causes that help improve lives,” said Mike Reed, CEO of Gannett. “Each of our award winners has a positive impact, and we are proud to support organizations that share our goal.”
Over 300 singers have participated in Street Choir at least once
Kring, founding director of Street Choir, said the new funding will be used to raise awareness of Street Choir across the Ozarks. The Chamber Chorus and Street Choir plan to create and release high quality professional audio and video recordings of their music this season.
These projects include performances by Street Choir, as well as “Forgotten Voices”, a cycle of original songs performed by Springfield Chamber Chorus that uses lyrics created by members of Street Choir.
The group is also looking to host a second annual television special, “A Springfield Christmas,” featuring the Chamber Chorus, Street Choir, and local high school and college choirs.
Instilling joy and self-confidence in those struggling with homelessness is one side of Street Choir, but leveraging the project to build a community among the homeless in Springfield is another, Kring said.
From 2020:‘They are my family’: Springfield Street Choir resumes rehearsals in MSU parking lot
Rehearsals – suspended at least twice due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on unprotected local populations – are practical, no-frills affairs. Kring said on Monday she was meeting with the choir director in hopes of resuming rehearsals “within the next week or two.” When rehearsals take place, members of the Street Choir receive lyric books only. They perform warm-up exercises, then sing.
“We’re always trying to develop a bit of musical skill,” Kring said, but Street Choir isn’t “obsessed” with the intricacies of vocal performance. “We’re trying to more or less match the pitch, sing along and build confidence,” Kring said.
The rehearsals draw from 30 to more than 80 homeless people, Kring said, and the choir has followed more than 300 singers who have participated at one point or another. Until the last moment, it’s unclear how many people will be able to attend a given rehearsal or performance, given the challenges singers face due to homelessness.
But Street Choir has performed at venues such as the Springfield Art Museum and Big Momma’s Coffee, and shows featuring Street Choir have aired on local and national television.
“Whenever we hand out Street Choir t-shirts, our employees wear them 24/7,” Kring said Monday. “. a member of the (Street Choir) is really something: you are part of something bigger than yourself. “
For many homeless people, everyday life doesn’t include the little feelings of accomplishment that people tend to get from ordinary life in the working world, Kring said.
The street choir changes that. “We can play and they are applauded,” Kring said. “The fact that people stand up and cheer them on is just a life changing.”
Kring recalled a time when the Springfield Street Choir starred in “The Mystery Hour,” a Springfield-based television talk show that aired nationwide in recent years.
As the Street Choir singers exited the stage, “Mystery Hour” host Jeff Houghton shook hands with each singer.
“I drove the bus to the shelter that night because it was the middle of winter so the shelters were open,” Kring said. “And I’ll tell you on the bus, they were talking about the way he shook hands with them, which is just huge.”
Gannett sponsors grant initiative across the country
Community Thrives project funding connects to a variety of projects across the country. In addition to smaller grants like those to the Springfield Street Choir and Ragtag Cinema, 16 larger grants ranging from $ 25,000 to $ 100,000 were awarded this year under the Grants and Crowdfunding initiative. . The parent company of the USA TODAY network, Gannett, is sponsoring the initiative. All grant recipients have raised funds through crowdfunding prior to receiving a grant.
For Kristin Burgoyne, executive director of Refugee Connect in Cincinnati, a grant of $ 25,000 will mean more families affected by relocation will be supported as they transition to the United States.
Refugee Connect launched a community navigation program, hiring cultural leaders in refugee and immigrant communities to conduct outreach activities with families, connect them with resources and ensure they know how to navigate. in systems – education, finance, health care and others.
“I’ve been doing this job for about 13 years now, working with refugees and immigrants in different cities, and the common thing I would say to any community where you have a large refugee or immigrant population, is the best thing. what you can do to show your support for these communities is to be welcoming, ”said Burgoyne.
Refugee Connect, operating in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky, hopes to support about 50 additional families using the grant money. These families will receive assistance in their own language from someone who has experienced resettlement or migration.
The organization plans to help families evacuated from Afghanistan after the United States withdrew from the country, leaving many vulnerable when the Taliban took control. Partnering with resettlement organizations in northern Kentucky, Refugee Connect brings together reception teams to help Afghans find jobs, health care providers and other resources by working with churches and mosques.
“Now we are able to use this funding to really support this grassroots power, through this grant,” said Burgoyne. “It makes a difference between a family that survives and a family that thrives.”
According to the Gannett Foundation, other recipients of A Community Thrives grants include:
- In Brunswick, Georgia, the Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority will receive $ 100,000 to help set up a Head Start program and provide space for local organizations to serve members of the local community.
- In Indianapolis, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library will receive $ 50,000 to support its free speech programming.
- In Wilmington, Delaware, Waggies will receive $ 25,000 to open an additional kitchen that employs mentally disabled adults who bake dog treats.
Other nonprofits will receive community operating grants starting at $ 2,500, chosen by leaders of Gannett’s USA TODAY Network of more than 250 news sites in 46 states. Organizations that focus on building historically underfunded and underserved groups will be given special consideration.
“Across the country, A Community Thrives grants connect the brands of the USA TODAY Network to the communities in which we operate and beyond,” said Sue Madden, director of the Gannett Foundation. “Our journalists work every day to enable communities to thrive, and this program helps achieve that fundamental goal.”
To learn more about the full list of grantees, visit www.gannettfoundation.org/act.
Jeanine Santucci of USA TODAY contributed to this report.