Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles will begin accepting applications Sept. 1 to receive a grant through the Expansive Church 2023 outreach initiative.
The program is intended to be an incubator and accelerator for entrepreneurs and nonprofits with innovative ideas or business models that address social issues and community needs.
The deadline for submissions is Nov. 1. Recipients will be announced Dec. 20. Applicants do not have to be religious organizations and can be from anywhere in the Fox Valley.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church member and volunteer Lorri Linkimer has been part of the Expansive Church steering committee since its inception almost a year ago. The grant is funded by donations from church members and is designed to be a recurring annual opportunity.
Deacon Heather Feltman had the idea to start the Expansive Church grant opportunity in fall 2020. She said they started collecting 10% of all donations raised by the church in January and put them into the fund to be given back to the community.
Feltman said about $25,000 has been allocated for the community grant and will be distributed in varying amounts based on the recipients’ needs. She said each application can request up to $5,000 and they are expecting most grants awarded will be between $2,500 and $5,000.
Linkimer said during the pandemic the Bethlehem Lutheran Church and its congregation were forced to turn their focus inward and the Expansive Church program was created to be an opposite reaction to that.
“I think that during COVID-19, we as a world turned inward and had to be taking care of ourselves,” Linkimer said. “Now, rather than looking inward to just support our congregation, we’re looking outward into our community to see who we can support, not just in St. Charles but in the Fox Valley area.”
Linkimer said the grant is intended to support a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and the only prerequisite is they are working toward making a positive social change. She said Kane County residents who know someone working for the betterment of their community or social justice should encourage them to apply.
“We’re going to do this for several years,” Feltman said. “I think it keeps us focused on what we’re supposed to be about and what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re going to hopefully continue to offer these grants to the community every year.”
Grant applications will be reviewed by a board consisting of church members and clergy who will determine who is awarded funding and the amount they will receive. Research projects and for-profit organizations will not be considered for the grant.
Linkimer said because this is the first year, the hardest part will be making organizations aware of the grant opportunity.
“There are so many organizations in our area where people are just trying to do good for others that sometimes need this boost, financially, to be able to reach their goals and become an organization that can continue to make positive change,” Linkimer said. “We’re looking to help people do that.”
Expansive Church committee members and grant liaisons will be available for applicants who need assistance submitting the grant applications.
Those interested in more information about the grant opportunity can contact Linkimer at email@example.com, Feltman at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the church website or call the church office at 630-584-2199.