United Way of Douglas County selects 10 projects for racial equity grants

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Article updated at 4:20 p.m. Feb. 8:

Projects aiming to center Native voices, build community through step dance, and heal trauma through a yoga retreat are among those selected for racial equity grants this year.

The United Way of Douglas County on Thursday announced 10 projects that will receive portions of $40,000 in total grant support for 2022. Janine Colter, owner of Hidden Jewel Hair Salon & Spa and a 2021 grant recipient, facilitated the grant process.


Volunteers on the organization’s Community Impact Committee “carefully evaluated the projects based upon the goal to advance racial equity in health, education, income, housing, food, and safety,” according to a news release. “The United Way recognizes that Black, Indigenous, People of Color in Douglas County are best suited to lead change, and it is the responsibility of funders to alter processes and create a safe space for BIPOC leaders to participate and prosper.”

“… Traditional funding models are troubled by an imbalance of power and a lack of support. As a result, the United Way will offer ongoing support to all applicants (including unawarded applicants) throughout the grant period,” the release states.

Here’s the list of grant recipients and some information about them from the United Way’s release:

• Ascending Stars Consulting (Ascending The Voices Of Douglas County’s Original Stewards) — Inspired by the need to uplift and center the voices of the Native American community throughout Douglas County, this project will help build an archive of digital stories to help educate the community on the history and contemporary experiences of its Native Americans citizens and keep the legacy of our interviewees and their experiences alive.

• BIPOC – Yoga for Healing Retreat – The BIPOC Yoga For Healing Retreat provides a safe space for healing, community, and inquiry, with a short weekend retreat. The project includes practices in healing modalities, food, discussion and community, yoga that aims to honor the indigenous roots, sound healing, Trauma/Tension Release Exercises (TRE), poetry, music, art and an opportunity to explore our liberation now. 

• Clare’s Community Closet – Clare’s Community Closet addresses the unique needs of each individual through free clothing and supplies. Each person’s needs differ based on their experience; Clare’s Community Closet provides everything from school shoes to cell phones. 

• CommUNITY Steppers – CommUNITY Steppers bring local youth together, ages 14-18, to build community, while embracing being “unique, unsilenced and unified” through step dance. The cultural significance encourages storytelling from the perspective of those often unheard, while also instilling pride, positively impacting social and emotional well-being as well as building intra-cultural relationships and promoting intercultural competence and awareness.

• ECKAN – To eliminate some of the stress and the anxiety of court fees and court ordered classes and in some cases attorney fees, ECKAN offers a voucher to cover the costs and works directly with community partners to ensure a smooth process. 

• Haus of McCoy – The Haus of McCoy Community Night aims to reduce economic and food insecurity for queer and trans youth who are also BIPOC while promoting a sense of community and access to affirming and lifesaving spaces. This is accomplished through weekly community meals and a clothing closet. (Read more from the Times here.)

• Herman’s Place – Herman’s Place will continue feeding hungry, homeless, elderly, and single-parent households. The project’s future goals include creating a center for supplies and teaching youth cooking skills. (Read more from the Times here.)

• Lawrence, KS Juneteenth Organization — A Juneteenth event will be held on June 18, 2022. The event will be a multi-cultural celebration with an emphasis on education, community, and family. It will include poetry readings, music by local artists, Underground Railroad tours, oral history recording, kids activities, and a concert by a nationally known performer. (Read about last year’s event here.)

• Kindness Is The Key – The Kindness Is The Key project will increase their capacity to serve the community with the changing seasons and individualized needs through numerous signature projects (Dress For Success, READ Lawrence, BIPOC Book Drive, 5K Fundraiser Run, San-Dee Claus services and more). 

• Sisters With A Purpose – The Sisters With A Purpose advocate for those who have been affected by institutional racism and systemic inequalities. They will provide scholarship funds or other support to facilitate the happiness and opportunity that is lost due to the injustice experienced at the hands of our local justice system during the re-entry process. (Read about one of SWAP’s leaders here.)

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