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AARP seeks Community Challenge applicants

Eric Tegethoff, Oregon News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Applications are open for AARP's Community Challenge grant program.

The program provides funds for projects that can be produced quickly and make cities and communities more livable for people of all ages.

That includes making public spaces more welcoming, increasing transportation options or supporting local recovery from the pandemic; something especially important this year.

Edward Brewington, volunteer state president for AARP Oregon, explained the program's goals.

"The whole purpose is to try to have an immediate impact in these communities," Brewington emphasized. "And how do you do that? You do it by sort of saying, 'OK, here's an opportunity. What would you like us to do to help you out, in terms of staff and volunteers and technical assistance and things like that?'"

The program has been around since 2017 and awarded 560 grants, including 11 in Oregon.

The deadline to apply is April 14. Selected projects must be completed by Nov. 10.

The grants have gone out to a range of communities. According to AARP, 40% of recipients have been in rural communities, 40% in urban and 20% in suburban areas.

Brewington added the organization aims to cater to all different types of places.

"AARP is really here to help communities across the board," Brewington noted. "And I think that the organization continues to become more and more aware of what are the needs of individual communities? Because they vary, they're not all the same."

Last year, three winners in Oregon were chosen. The Milton-Freewater Downtown Alliance used the grants to create a gathering place in the community. The Asian Health and Service Center in Portland expanded its response team for older adults feeling isolated and lonely. And Portland's Metro HomeShare Program, run by the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, supplemented its outreach to low-income homeowners or renters during the pandemic.

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