Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eating the Seed Instead of Planting It

I barely know my way around the produce department of my local grocery so you'll have to ignore (or try to) the presumption of agricultural expertise I'm attempting. Every spring my daughter and I have a go at a backyard vegetable garden--in some of our early attempts we often had bumper crops of weeds. Imagine how disappointed we were to discover no amount of salad dressing helped.

In more recent years, we've shopped for seed packages early and worked hard to prepare our plot prior to planting (say that three times fast; I almost broke my fingers typing it) and with enough water and work, we've had some delicious tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables.

The key, we long ago realized, is in the seeds--having them, having enough of them, having the right kinds and taking care of them and tending them once they're planted and keeping an eye on them through harvesting.

Even though Norwich may not look like a garden or a farm, the value of seed, knowing when to save it and when to plant it, is still important and perhaps no one knows that better than the volunteers on the Sachem Fund Board who, in the last (almost) three years, have sown three quarters of a million dollars worth of seed (a 50/50 split between the City of Norwich and the Mohegan Tribal Council) across the city for forty-five different projects ranging from the Semiseptsentennial through the Norwich Winter Festival to the Otis Library.

You may have thought hard economic times had ended the work of the Sachem Fund Board but meeting last week, the Board decided to use the funds it still has (or some of them depending,on the size and scale of the projects) to again serve as an impetus for the economic, cultural and recreational growth Norwich needs to maintain and enhance in its efforts to become again someplace its residents wish to come home to.

Applications for the Sachem Fund must reach the office of the Comptroller by 4:30 PM, Monday, 2 May. Application information and details can be found on the City's website. Those whose initial applications are accepted will make presentations to the Fund Board Wednesday evening, May 11th and final decisions will be announced on June 1st. If you don't ask, the answer is automatically 'no' and for too long too many have felt there's a "No" in Norwich, so if you have a program and need help, you should apply for consideration.

The challenges facing the Sachem Fund Board as they begin their selection process are many, aside from the obvious, 'to whom should grants be given?' Gauging the impact of supporting one project over another, analyzing the return on the investment to the city and measuring the overall positive effect in enhancing our quality of life are all integral to the very reason why the fund was created and are important components in assuring the Sachem Fund serves its vision and purpose.

When you look at the budget of the City of Norwich in the last three years, it's more than three hundred million dollars, which dwarfs the three quarters of a million dollars in disbursements from the Sachem Fund. But don't tell that to the Chelsea Gardens Foundation, or to Artworks, or to United Community and Family Services, all of whom asked for and received money for people and programs we all use and from which we benefit. Sometimes, size isn't as important as knowing what to leverage for maximum gain and when.

It would have been easier, especially for the volunteers on the Fund Board, had they distributed all the available funds last May-but instead of eating their remaining seed, they've gathered it up and are looking for the most worthwhile projects in which to invest it. If you've always had more will than wallet, this is your time to stand up and stand out.
-bill kenny

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