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Santa Monica Hands Out More 'Wellbeing Microgrants'

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By Jorge Casuso

March 3, 2020 -- Santa Monica recently awarded eight Wellbeing Microgrants that include funding for "dog walking meetups" and "axis awareness classes," City officials announced last week.

The $500 grants -- which are "aimed at positively impacting community wellbeing" -- brings the total number of recipients to 24, officials said.

“Data-driven wellbeing analysis is letting us effectively seed new efforts to make Santa Monica a better place to live,” Mayor Kevin McKeown said in a statement.

“These microgrants identify community-generated ideas for bringing together our diverse residents into an intertwined community, involving each of us and all of us in creating greater shared wellbeing,” McKeown said.

The winning proposals were chosen from among 16 applicants who will provide their offerings through May, officials said.

They include four free classes in "axis awareness," a meditative practice that helps re-align the body into its "more natural and straight posture, releasing tension for comfort, health and bliss," according to the application.

The dog walking meetups feature "a walking group" twice a week that starts at Virginia Avenue Park and ends at the beach and includes "local trainings and resources for dog owners."

Another microgrant winner envisions an homage to community life at Clover Park based on George Seurat’s famous pointillist painting "La Grande Jatte" that "focuses on creating an experience through images, sounds, and stories."

The other winning proposals were First Generation College Application Workshops, From Home to Homestead Series, Getmotivatedbuddies Meetup Series, Self-Care Workshops and Wahine Wellbeing Study.

The leaders of the selected projects will survey participants and track progress to measure of their goals are being met, officials said.

Julie Rusk, Chief of Civic Wellbeing, said the proposals not only achieve their goals but "spark ideas in other people" that "can be used to advance a policy initiative and help us all understand what makes a community stronger.”

“That’s what this is all about: smart ideas that are small, scalable, action-oriented, and come from the community,” Rusk said.

Some of the microgrants have had "lasting outcomes," City officials said.

A Pop Up Hair Salon/Beauty Parlor last fall "launched the first Black/Creole owned beauty supply business in Santa Monica," officials said.

A pop-up playground on a City-owned vacant lot on 19th Street that was among the first round of winners "was so successful that the City is working with the Mircrogrant recipient and organizers to further activate the site," officials said.

The microgrants are helping "in small ways that have a big impact"
residents who often feel powerless in the face of major challenges, officials said.

The City's Wellbeing Index found that only 1 in 5 Santa Monica residents feel they can influence city decisions.

More than a third say that they or someone close to them have often considered moving from their neighborhood due to rising costs, and two-thirds don't think their children will be able to afford to stay in the city.

The Wellbeing Microgrants are made possible through funding from Cedars-Sinai and from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize, which Santa Monica won in 2016.

For more information about current Wellbeing Microgrant projects and to find out about future opportunities, click here

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