by Eric A Thomas
Breathing life into empty buildings can be quite the undertaking. Sometimes it takes a group of like-minded individuals to put their heads together and make things happen.
In December 2020, a group of residents approached the Greenfield City Council with the idea to form an organization to help revitalize their community. The council gave them the blessing that the initiative was worth pursuing. In January 2021, the women launched Greenfield Revitalization Project (GRP) with four active board members and two special project chairs that would assist in public relations and community special projects.
One of the groups organizers, Lauren Sprung, sees a lot of potential. “After moving back to my hometown, I began looking around at our downtown square and saw possibilities,” remarks Sprung.
“There’s a need and a desire for local basic amenities, such as an office for a doctor, office space for work from home residents, and restaurants.” Overall, the reinvestment would provide rural economic development opportunities to the area that would ultimately improve the lifestyle of residents, provide local jobs and tax revenue, Sprung continues.
“There’s been an influx of young families moving back to rural areas and we are eager to create positive change in our small town that has seen severe disinvestment over the past several decades,” she adds.
GRP is a 501(c)(3) organization that has raised nearly $40,000 from multiple fundraising events and local donations. This has enabled the group to purchase one of the historical buildings on the Greenfield square that dates back to the 1800s. “Our strategy is to restore the structure to ‘white box’ for businesses to lease. We will then reinvest the lease revenue into other projects such as the remaining five unoccupied buildings,” Sprung explains.
The group has applied for several grants but have been unsuccessful thus far due to the lack of available matching funding. The process has gained them valuable feedback toward future applications.
To see Greenfield fully populated and its downtown square fully restored and operating with basic businesses is the goal for GRP. Achieving this would improve the lifestyle for Greenfield residents. Being a 501(c)(3) has opened the door to several state, federal and private funding opportunities while giving the ability to be a tax write-off for anyone that wishes to donate.
The members of GRP are actively looking for more volunteers to help with their efforts. To keep everyone in the group informed, they have developed a private Facebook group where they post their monthly meeting minutes, plus share any fundraising events and current project progress. “This is keeping the organization well connected to current and past residents, as well as having the resources needed to pursue and apply for grant funding,” concludes Sprung.
“We are hosting a fundraising event February 25 at the Walnut Hall Estate and will be submitting a USDA Rural Business Development grant application by the end of February.” Currently, the group has enough funds to start roof replacement this spring. The group is actively looking for additional funding to help with matching funding requirement with grants for which they will be applying.
Those wanting to be a part of GRP can contact them through Facebook by joining their Greenfield Revitalization Project group, email them at Greenfieldrevproject@Gmail.com or write to them at Greenfield Revitalization Project, PO Box 241, Greenfield, IL 62044.