Grants: Tyson Clark, a youth grant recipient in round two, was ecstatic to be able to pick up more than 1,000 pounds of trash at a park alongside others who wanted to make a difference in the community. Courtesy photo

City leaders and the Civic Wellbeing Partners gathered this month to commend local residents who have engaged hundreds of their Westside neighbors in recent months to spread goodwill and positivity through different projects.

Since 2018, dozens of local residents have received $500 grants that have allowed them to make Santa Monica a better place for all residents. Thanks to the efforts of residents like Catalina Langen, Julie Rusk and Claire Lemoine and funding from the Human Relations Council, the program has continued to thrive in the pandemic as dozens of Santa Monica residents have still received hundreds of dollars to fund their action-oriented ideas.

Previous microgrant cohorts brought together a diverse group of creative residents who were young and old, and this cohort of 23 leaders was no different.

Willa Wells designed and hand-crocheted prayer shawls in partnership with local agencies to be sent to those who have been deeply impacted or suffered a familial loss as a result of COVID-19, while Tyson Clark, a youth grant recipient in round two, was ecstatic to be able to pick up more than 1,000 pounds of trash at a park alongside others who wanted to make a difference in the community.

“And like most of Santa Monica, many of you are people who do all kinds of things and are very active. You engaged over 600 neighbors in your 21 projects, and many of your projects were virtually and done at socially distance gathering,” Rusk said during the ceremony.

“One of the things about the microgrants is they’re tied to this concept of wellbeing, which… is about community connection and how we care for one another and really making sure we’re doing okay,” Rusk said. “And why I think this is so important now more than ever is we know that it’s really the action of the people who roll up their sleeves and work together that will make Santa Monica stronger and will turn things around in the world that we’re in.”

Rusk acknowledged the feedback the Civic Wellbeing Partners have received from participants relating to the power of coming together and receiving support and validation.

“People have been feeling, of course, very isolated and alone, and I think for many of us, this is a great way to connect,” she said. ‘And I think mostly we heard a lot about through small scale, tangible, immediate actions, we can have a lot of impact.”

Mayor Sue Himmelrich agreed when she spoke during a brief ceremony that was held via Zoom earlier this month.

“I’m really impressed. I have been a lifelong volunteer myself because no matter what your day job is, there are always meaningful things to engage in as a volunteer to help your community I’m a big believer in that and thank you all for having me and being here,” Himmelrich said before she

After a video montage of 2020 Wellbeing Microgrant Projects and a word from grant recipients, Rusk thanked everybody for sharing their stories and working so hard to spread wellbeing in the Santa Monica community before she highlighted a need to continue the energy and support.

“I think this is a group of people here who really roll up their sleeves and help to do the work,” Rusk said as she detailed how microgrant recipients have handled deaths in their family, economic woes and other problems in the pandemic like many others throughout the Westside. “I think it speaks so highly that most of the microgrant recipients are people who are renting, raising their families, and, yes, still hanging in there and doing things to contribute to make the community stronger. So, we really are a force to be reckoned with, and I think part of the work ahead is to think about how we stay connected and do more of this kind of thing.”

For a complete list of projects or more information on the Wellbeing Microgrants and Civic Wellbeing Partners, visit santamonicawellbeing.org.

Brennon@smdp.com