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Springfield, MO

2016 Year in Review No. 10: Northwest Project launches in city

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SPRINGFIELD, JANUARY­—The name is simple: the Northwest Project. The goal is gargantuan. It’s designed to make a tangible difference in the lives of families ready to escape poverty in one of the poorest areas of Springfield.

Citing census data, the 2015 Community Focus Report found between 2010 and 2013 the percentage of people living below the poverty line increased to nearly 26 percent of Springfield residents from around 23 percent.  

The Northwest Project is a collaborative effort of organizations that submit proposals for grant funds, with up to $1.3 million available over five years of renewals.

The first steps involved Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which positioned the Northwest Project as a key initiative in 2016. In May, CFO announced a $500,000 grant for the initiative. Leading contributions also came from the Stanley and Elaine Ball Foundation, at $500,000, and the Musgrave Foundation, at $250,000.

Buoyed by the city’s community listening tour also in May, Springfield officially launched its Zone Blitz campaign in July. The 18-month plan was a partnership with over 200 organizations and 300 individuals to address concerns identified in 2015. In Springfield’s Zone 1, roughly 48 percent of residents fall under the federal poverty line.

CFO identified 10 obstacles to fighting poverty: quality child care; affordable housing; transportation; parenting and financial literacy skills; resolution of criminal background issues; job training; accountability; use of the earned income tax credit; monthly budget management; and affordable health care.

Among projects in the works, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Missouri Job Center and Ozarks Food Harvest are partnering on a plan for a community food resource center in Zone 1. Officials seek to launch the food center within 18 months, but need roughly $250,000 to $500,000 in funding to start it.

In November, North Point Church announced the Dream Center, which will include a food pantry, computer lab, tutoring, child care and basic vehicle maintenance. With a $250,000 annual budget, it’s targeting a January soft launch.

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