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After 'Longest Table' event, Grand Forks doles out cash for 10 community projects

Kathryn Kester, executive director of the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals, places table clothes on tables for the September Longest Table event in downtown Grand Forks. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

The City of Grand Forks is awarding nearly $25,000 in grants for 10 projects aimed at transforming the city's downtown and boosting community ties, the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals (GGFYP) group announced Wednesday.

The projects include new murals, free bikes for low-income residents and a performance space for local musicians, said Becca Cruger, the group's president.

Organizations and individuals applied for the seed funding following the "Longest Table" event held in early September. More than 700 attendees participated in the gathering, where they dined at 750 feet worth of tables along North Third Street in downtown Grand Forks.

"The momentum is continuing through tangible projects in our community that all the residents of Grand Forks will get to enjoy," Cruger said.

One project seeks to establish a "Jam Lot" for local musicians in the parking lot between the Hub Pub and Riverview Center. Another project, proposed by the Empire Theatre Co., would provide low-income seniors with tickets to theatrical performances.

In addition, the African Arts Arena received funding for a series on multicultural performances.

Each of the 10 projects received up to $3,000. The grant committee chose projects based on how well they tied into the three "pillars" of North Dakota Gov. Doug Bergum's Main Street Initiative, according to Cruger. The pillars lay the groundwork for a skilled workforce, better infrastructure and healthier communities, she said.

The funds, which will begin being disbursed Jan. 1, will cover anything except administrative costs, Cruger said. The money will be provided on a reimbursement basis.

In total, the city is awarding $24,800 in grant money.

The GGFYP also announced the release of data gathered from surveys at the Longest Table event. Before and after the gathering, guests were invited to answer questions about their perceptions of the Grand Forks community.

Attendees were asked if they felt Grand Forks was a welcoming community, and whether they were "happy and proud" to call the city home, among other questions.

In every category on the survey, participants' views of their community improved after the hour-long Longest Table event, Cruger said.

"It goes to show how a simple conversation with strangers can improve your perception on a community," she added.

About a decade ago, the young professionals group brought in a consultant to find out what the city could do to attract younger workers. The Long Table event provided an opportunity to gather "new and improved data," Cruger said.

The Knight Foundation Donor-Advised fund provided financial backing for the Longest Table event, according to the young professionals group.

There are plans to hold a similar event in 2019, though a date hasn't been decided yet, Cruger said.

Dan Niepow

Niepow covers social and community issues for the Grand Forks Herald. Before joining the paper, he worked as a magazine writer and editor. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he currently resides over the river in East Grand Forks, Minn. To reach Niepow with story ideas, send him an email at dniepow@gfherald.com or call him at (701) 780-1110. Follow him on Twitter @dniep.

(701) 780-1110
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