By Desirae Martins
This spring, the quaint, multi-generational community of Severna Park, Chartwood, received a Unity Gardens grant, allowing residents to install native gardens at both entrance signs to the community over 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 meeting of the Greater Severna Park Council in early 2022.
Unity Gardens, a non-profit organization based in Anne Arundel County, supports community partnerships through its local grants program. The organization offers several grants twice a year to non-profit community organizations, allowing them to purchase and install native plants for conservation landscaping.
After learning about the grant program and sharing the information with her community, Moore, along with CCA Secretary Mary Fisher, other CCA Board members and master gardener and native plant expert Alison Milligan, prepared the CCA application. The application required a well-documented plan for native plants, including a detailed project budget, planting and maintenance plan, design plan, and an explanation of why Chartwood should be a recipient.
Milligan assisted CCA throughout the grant application process. “Alison is a volunteer superhero,” said Joni Miller, executive director of Unity Gardens. “She wants to see more native plants in Anne Arundel County and will help any organization that calls her.”
CCA members found out they would receive the grant shortly after applying in March 2022.
“We knew this native planting project would be good for the community, good for the land, and provide habitat for birds, deer and other animals,” Moore noted. “It also helps control erosion and makes our neighborhood signs look great.”
After the ACC grant was approved, the community enlisted the help of residents to install the native plants. They deliberately scheduled their planting to fall on Earth Day, an opportune time for residents to come together and learn about gardening while running this important community project.
“My greatest hope is that our new native gardens will thrive and inspire other communities to plant native gardens that contribute to the environment and natural habitat,” Moore said.
The CCA project was one of 18 funded by Unity Gardens this spring, with its grant budget doubling from last year due to increased funding from the county. According to Miller, the organization has seen an increase in grant applications since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the signal for demand has been recognized by county grant holders. With the new $20,000 budget, Unity Gardens has offered grants this year worth up to $3,000 per project, whereas previously grants were capped at $1,000.
“Unity funded twice as many projects this year thanks to the increased budget,” Miller said. “While it’s not a permanent change, we’re certainly benefiting from it.”
Unity Gardens will open its fall grant application in June. “We strongly encourage interested organizations to apply for a grant this fall because now is the perfect 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 two-fold. It educates communities about the benefits of native plants, while bringing people together to support a project that benefits their communities and nature.