By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

A mandate spawned by the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent uprising in April 2015, is at the threshold of being delivered this month.

Reviewers have just completed sifting through 427 applications, representing more than $75 million in funding requests from the City of Baltimore’s recently created Baltimore Children and Youth Fund. The fund has $10 million available for its first round of winners, which are set to be announced after a final review this month.

(Courtesy Image and Logo/@BYCFUND on Facebook)

“We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to move this process forward holding true to the values that came from the legislation and the Children and Youth Task Force,” said Dianne Bell McCoy, CEO of Associated Black Charities (ABC), the organization tasked with developing a community involved process for the funding request and review of proposals for the Youth Fund.

The overwhelming response of applicants for this year’s initial funding cycle of children and youth funding, revealed the breadth of individuals, groups and organizations invested in Baltimore’s young people, according to Danielle Torain, Project Director, Frontline Solutions, one of the organizations supporting ABC in coordinating the review process.

“The applicants are really diverse in every aspect you can think of,” Torain said.

“There are a diverse range of neighborhoods and geographic areas of the city involved; the applicants are diverse in the age range, types of populations of children and young people that will be served, and there is great diversity in the methods that will be used to serve youth,” she added.

Torain and Dayvon Love, director of public policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a grassroots Black think tank, were both active in advising how participants in the community driven process the Fund has embraced and emphasized the transformative potential for bringing the funding process closer to the community.

“This is an applicant pool that has involved a lot of what the fund intended.  A lot of grassroots groups and ‘Mom-and-Pops’. We welcomed different types of practitioners,” Love said.

“We imagine there will be a lot of organizations that get funded from the Youth Fund that have never gotten funded before; that’s really the goal, is for organizations that traditionally aren’t able to get resources but do great work, the community knows and respects,” he added.

The fund, conceptualized by Baltimore City Council President Bernard “Jack” C. Young, was created through an amendment to the city’s charter approved by voters in 2016.  Young said one of the first concerns expressed by Baltimoreans in the aftermath of Gray’s death was the need for more support for Baltimore’s youth.

In 2017, Young established A Children and Youth Task Force, co-chaired by Adam Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, and Dr. John Brothers, President of the Program for Charitable Giving at the T. Rowe Price Foundation, to make recommendations on how the Fund would operate.   The task force recommended six guiding principles including transparency, community-driven and youth led processes and accountability to local communities.

“The Task Force wanted to make sure opportunities were provided and there was community voice. I think this has been a great process thus far,” Bell McCoy said.

The complete applicant list and names of the review panel for the Children and Youth Fund will be available in August in tandem with the names of the first recipients of the Children and Youth Fund.