Westside Ministries is hoping the community can make one final push in online voting for the Kubota Tractor Corporation’s Hometown Proud Grant Program, which would bring the nonprofit $100,000 to support its Food Literacy Program.
As of Friday, Westside Ministries was in second place in the competition and trailed the Wayne County Ag Center project by about 800 votes. The voting tallies have been close; at one point Westside Ministries was behind by less than 200 votes and had even pulled ahead for a brief moment last week.
Voting for the competition began on May 24 and will close at 11:59 p.m. on June 25. Westside Ministries has encouraged community members to vote once daily for them in the grant program, utilizing social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok to spread the word.
“We are so blown away by the support,” Westside Ministries founder and director JoLynn DiGrazia said, which has included aid from service organizations, churches and even city officials. “It will take a concerted effort by everyone to pull through! We appreciate those who are voting daily.”
Westside Ministries was selected from some 400 applicants to participate in the grant program and is the only nonprofit from the West Coast selected as a finalist.
If they win the $100,000, the grant money would be used to purchase a new tractor for the charity and make improvements to the organization’s kitchen — both of which would benefit the Westside Ministries Food Literacy Program, which teaches children the ins and outs of agriculture while providing food boxes to the underserved.
A new tractor would help expand the nonprofit’s onsite garden to allow for more planting of winter crops at their property on West Greenway Avenue, where students also keep their hog projects for the Stanislaus County fair. The tractor would also help Westside Ministries continue its use of restorative soil practices, which help conserve water and do away with pesticides.
Grant funding would contribute to a kitchen restoration as well, giving students a place to prep the food they grow and utilize the produce in the Food Literacy program’s food boxes. In addition to handing out more than 150 USDA food boxes each week during the pandemic, Westside Ministries utilizes its own youth-produced food along with produce from local food banks and grocery stores to distribute their own food boxes to 500 families each quarter.
In addition to learning how to care for crops, the Food Literacy program teaches participants work ethic, technical skills and emotional healing, better preparing them for life in Turlock’s ag-heavy community and beyond. For DiGrazia, seeing the support from the community so far has made her truly “hometown proud.”
“We would love to have our hometown of Turlock be proud of us and to be recognized for this wonderful honor,” DiGrazia said. “This city is really the gold of the Valley and the center of farming. To show that the underserved have the same access to farming and good food would just make Turlock look even better than it did before.”
To vote for Westside Ministries in the Kubota Tractor Corporation’s Hometown Proud Grant Program, visit https://www.kubotausa.com/hometown-proud-vote and click on the Westside Food Literacy Program badge.