(Note: See slideshow at end of post.)
It takes a village to keep a village thriving and vibrant. And that village must have people willing and able to do the hard work to keep it that way and to move ever forward.
A big step was taken in that direction recently when the Glen Park Merchants Association (GPMA) was awarded a $50,000 grant for neighborhood improvement. Among the requirements for the grant was that it benefit the whole community rather than any individual business.
After getting neighborhood input from a questionnaire and deliberating within the association, they decided to apply for the grant to acquire decorative lighting and banners on light poles to enliven our downtown area.
It would take a chart with lots of boxes and arrows to illustrate the organizations and partnerships it takes to put together the funds that made this grant possible. In this case, it began with the benefactor, Chris Larsen, a successful San Francisco tech entrepreneur who wanted to find ways to give back to the city.
Larsen engaged Ground Floor Public Affairs, headed by Alex Tourk, to coordinate his donation of $1.7 million, to be distributed equally among 34 neighborhood merchant associations. Tourk explained that Larsen approached him with the thought that the small business community has been hurting so much during the pandemic and he wanted to do something meaningful to help. He wanted a streamlined process in which each group would decide for itself how best to use the grant.
Ground Floor formed a dedicated fund, Avenue Greenlight, which is working with an umbrella group of neighborhood associations, the San Francisco District Council of Neighborhood Merchants, a volunteer organization led by Maryo Mogannam. They evaluate the grant proposals and disburse the funds through an entity they created, the San Francisco Council of District Merchant Associations Community Fund.
Where do merchants celebrate but at one of the merchants’ businesses? In this case it was Cup, where Sam Raie and his family graciously offered their space and a ton of food (with egg rolls by the Changs of Viking Subs).
Marian Dalere, vice president of the GPMA, presided at the festivities last Friday, September 17.
Janet Tarlov expressed the gratitude of the community toward Chris Larsen. “Having someone believe in us to award this amount of money and do something good with it means so much to us. It’s an opportunity to rise to the occasion as a community which, in the past few years the occasions have been disasters, but to be able to rise to something so positive is really such a wonderful thing.”
The GPMA is now researching options and obtaining bids for the lighting. They’d like to have it installed before the holidays, but the window is closing quickly on that timeline. The designer for the banners will be a Glen Park local, Eric Wood of Modpax.
In addition to a who’s who of Glen Park neighborhood merchants, several representatives from the organizations who put together the funding package were present. One of them was Ixchel Acosta, who’d had her first experience walking the neighborhood. “Hidden gem, that’s a phrase I hear a lot, a place we don’t have to leave. You have grocery stores, pet stores, hardware stores, hair salons, music and books…You can wake up and take a stroll for your morning coffee to find out what you’re going to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have to remember how much our neighborhoods mean to us.”
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman also came to celebrate our neighborhood and its cadre of volunteers. “Glen Park is small and there aren’t that many people to carry the load. Thanks to Janet and Marian and all the folks who are stepping forward, you make amazing things happen.”