By Desirae Martins
This spring, the unique, multi-generational Chartwood community of Severna Park was awarded a Unity Gardens grant, which allows residents to post native gardens at two community entry signs during Earth Day weekend from April 30 to May 1.
Chartwood Community Association (CCA) president Lynnley Moore first heard about Unity Gardens and its generous grant program at a Greater Severna Gardens Council meeting in early 2022.
Unity Gardens, a non-profit organization based in Anne Arundel County, supports community partnerships through its local grant program. The organization offers several grants twice per year to nonprofit community organizations, allowing them to purchase and install native plants for conservation landscapes.
After learning about the grant program and sharing information with his community, Moore, along with CCA secretary Mary Fisher, other CCA board members, and principal gardener and native plant expert Alison Milligan, prepared the CCA application. The application requires a well-researched plan for native plants, including a detailed project budget, planting and maintenance plan, design plan and an explanation of why Chartwood should be a beneficiary.
Milligan assisted CCA during the grant application process. “Alison is a superhero volunteer,” said Unity Gardens executive director Joni Miller. “He wants to see more native plants in Anne Arundel County and will help any organization that calls him.”
CCA members know they will receive a grant shortly after they apply in March 2022.
“We knew this native planting project would be good for the community, good for the earth, and provide habitat for birds, deer and other animals,” said Moore. “It also provides erosion control and makes our environmental signs look beautiful.”
After the CCA grant was approved, the community asked residents for help to install native plants. They purposely planned their planting to fall on Earth Day, which is a great time for residents to come together and learn more about gardening while carrying out this important community project.
“My greatest hope is that our new native park thrives and inspires other communities to plant native gardens that contribute to the environment and natural habitats,” said Moore.
The CCA project is one of 18 funded by Unity Gardens this spring, as its grant budget has doubled from last year due to increased funding from the region. According to Miller, the organization has seen an increase in grant requests since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the demand signal is being recognized by state wallet holders. With a new budget of $20,000, Unity Gardens is offering grants worth up to $3,000 per project this year, whereas in the past, grants were limited to $1,000.
“Unity has doubled the number of projects this year thanks to increased budgets,” Miller said. “While it may not be a permanent change, we certainly took advantage.”
Unity Gardens will open fall grant applications in June. “We strongly encourage interested organizations to apply for grants this fall because this is a great time to plant,” Miller said. “We also hope to see more grant applications from underserved communities and communities with less access to nature.”
According to Unity Gardens, the benefits of the grant program are twofold. It educates the public about the benefits of native plants, while bringing people together to support projects that benefit their communities and nature.