Despite a valiant effort by the Turlock community, Westside Ministries lost out at their recent chance to receive a $100,000 grant for a new tractor but are hoping that those who voted will still donate to the cause.
The local nonprofit didn’t receive enough votes to win Kubota Tractor Corporation's Hometown Proud Grant Program, instead finishing with just 506 votes short of the winner of the grant, Wayne County Ag Center in Tennessee. The competition began on May 24 and ran for about a month, with the online voting period ending on June 25.
Shortly after, Westside Ministries founder and director JoLynn DiGrazia said she found out her organization had lost — despite the community rallying friends, acquaintances and social media followers over the course of four weeks to collect as many votes as possible.
“I cried, and I never cry,” DiGrazia said. “It was so heartwarming to see folks gather around and want to see the Central Valley represented in a way in agriculture that really meets the needs of the underserved.”
Had Westside Ministries won the $100,000 grant, the funding would have been 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.
Now, the organization is hoping the community can rally together once more to help them purchase the tractor on their own, which would help expand the nonprofit’s onsite garden to allow for more planting of winter crops at their property on West Greenway Avenue. The tractor would also help Westside Ministries continue its use of restorative soil practices, which help conserve water and do away with pesticides.
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.
Despite losing out on the grant, DiGrazia is thankful for the community that voted tirelessly for local youth.
“We were so humbled by the outpouring of support and the level that people took it to, they were on their friends and family to vote every day,” she said. “We just want people to know we’re not going to stop; we’re not going to give up. We’re going to continue to push through this hot summer as we continue to teach kids about ag.”
DiGrazia said Westside Ministries had already raised about $20,000 for a tractor from Garton Tractor, Inc. and a GoFundMe has been established to raise the other $20,000 needed. So far, the fundraiser has collected $5,000 of that goal.
“We’re almost there and are so excited this is happening,” DiGrazia said.