This spring, Severna Park’s quaint and multi-generational community of Chartwood was awarded a Unity Gardens grant, allowing residents to install native gardens at the community’s two entrance signs 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 Greater Severna Park Council meeting in early 2022.
Unity Gardens, a nonprofit organization based in Anne Arundel County, supports community partnerships through its local grant program. The organization offers multiple grants twice per year to nonprofit 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 CCA’s application. The application required a well-researched plan for the native plants, including a detailed project budget, a planting and maintenance plan, a design plan and an explanation for why Chartwood should be a recipient.
Milligan assisted CCA throughout the grant application process. “Alison is a superhero volunteer,” noted Unity Gardens executive director Joni Miller. “She wants to see more native plants in Anne Arundel County and will help any organization who calls her.”
CCA members discovered they would receive the grant shortly after they applied in March 2022.
“We knew this native planting project would be good for the community, good for the earth, and provide a habitat for birds, deer and other animals,” Moore noted. “It also provides erosion control and makes our neighborhood signs look beautiful.”
Once CCA’s grant was approved, the community enlisted the help of residents to install the native plants. They deliberately planned for their planting to fall on Earth Day, which was an opportune time for residents to come together and learn more about gardening while executing this important community project.
“My greatest hope is that our new native gardens flourish and inspire other communities to plant native gardens that contribute to the environment and natural habitat,” Moore said.
CCA’s project was one of 18 funded by Unity Gardens this spring, as its grant budget doubled from last year due to increased funding from the county. According to Miller, the organization has seen an increase in grant requests since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the demand signal was acknowledged by county purse-string holders. With the new $20,000 budget, Unity Gardens offered grants worth up to $3,000 per project this year, whereas in the past, grants were capped at $1,000.
“Unity has funded twice the number of projects this year thanks to the budget increase,” Miller said. “While it may not be a permanent change, we are certainly taking advantage.”
Unity Gardens will open its fall grant application in June. “We highly encourage interested organizations to apply for a grant this fall because it is a great 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 twofold. It educates communities about the benefits of native plants, while bringing people together in support of a project that benefits their communities and nature.