Underground of Good Celebrates Placemaking

By Jamie Schriner-Hooper, Executive Director

Recently, I was invited to an event for the Greater Lansing region called the Underground of Good. The instructions were relatively simple: show up with a $100 check; bring a beverage of your choice; be willing to attend quarterly events with additional $100 checks; be ready to pitch and listen to projects/organizations that are working on that night’s topic area; vote on which organization receives the evening’s funds.

The evening’s topic was placemaking, which focuses on transforming an area from a place that people can’t wait to get away from to a place where people can’t wait to get to. The evening had several great projects pitched, but ultimately the winner was a CEDAM member and a project for which I’m a volunteer, the Old Town Commercial Association’s Robert Busby Memorial Garden. The garden is transforming an area where blighted buildings once stood and converting it into a sculpture and memorial garden to honor the late, great Robert Busby.

A local doer and shaker, Robin Miner-Swartz, along with a handful of other doers and shakers, organized the Underground of Good, piggy-backing on similar ideas that are taking place around Michigan and the country. While this event is providing approximately $2,000 for a Lansing-based nonprofit, other events like Detroit Soup are also providing micro-grants in their own backyard. Soup events are a bit different in that they provide soup and salad (hence the name), but treat it as a potluck event and charge a $5 entry fee. Participants pitch different projects and the group votes on the winner. The most recent Detroit Soup winner, Clean Up Detroit won $1101 to support their project. Detroit Soup is also working with residents to start neighborhood Soup events.

Microgrant programs like this are a great way for individuals to get involved in their own community, as well as for nonprofit partners to tell their stories and garner additional support – both in dollars and volunteers! We all want to improve our communities; events like this are another great way to do just that!