The One Northside Mini-Grant program has helped to fund a dance troupe in Northview Heights and workshops for expecting mothers. The next deadline for project proposals is Thursday, Nov. 29. 

By Alyse Horn

On Wednesday nights, the community gym in Northview Heights Estates is filled with kids. Boys and girls of all ages use the space, but during the middle of the week, about 20 elementary and middle school girls gather for dance rehearsal.

The Northview Heights Estate Dance Troupe has been practicing weekly since the beginning of October for their first performance in December. Project Leader Rev. Diana Marshall said after that performance, she believes more kids will be interested and want to join the program.

“This is going to grow,” Marshall said.

She wanted to bring the dance program to Northview Heights because she is familiar with the neighborhood and knew there were kids in the community who wanted to dance. She believes it’s a great outlet for them and a constructive way to get them focused on something positive that teaches discipline.

“They are able to all come together and learn how to react to each other,” Marshall said. “They learn to respect each other, and so far so good.”

Marshall received funding for the project through New Sun Rising’s One Northside Mini-Grant program. The $1,000 grants have funded dozens of projects thus far and encourage applicants to focus on four categories: education, employment, place, and health and safety.

The dance troupe falls under the health category, as does Syreeta Gordon’s project Unshakeable Motherhood. Gordon said the program has been a year in the making and will educate expecting mothers about doulas, or birth coaches: who they are and how they can help ease the birthing process. The program is split into four workshops, two of which will also talk about the dynamics of healthy relationships.

The “What Are Doula Services & How to Choose One” workshops will be held at the Woods Run Library, 1201 Woods Run Ave., on Wednesday, November 14 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and Saturday, November 17 from 2-4 p.m.

The “Unshakeable Motherhood on Relationship Woes” workshops will be held at the Allegheny Library, 1230 Federal St., on Saturday, November 24 from 2-4:30 p.m. and Monday, November 26 from 6:30-8 p.m.

Gordon is a doula and was once a single mother, and she feels that her life experience with postpartum depression and finding the right partner can help other women not feel so alone.

“[You] can feel isolated, depressed, friends go to the wayside. It drives you crazy and if you’re not connected with the right people it can be bad,” Gordon said.

She also said that working with a doula could help pregnancies go much smoother, even if a mother is not giving birth for the first time. Being well supported and writing a birth plan can make a huge difference, Gordon said, especially for women of color who have a greater risk of dying during childbirth.

“I’m passionate about this work and I know that it’s needed,” Gordon said. “This is where I’m supposed to be.”

Gordon found out about the mini-grant program through a friend who asked her to attend one of the information sessions held over the summer. To get the word out, “Street Team Ambassadors” were also deployed throughout the Northside to help residents develop their projects and secure additional resources.

Maria Searcy is one of four Street Team Ambassadors, and said for her it was a great opportunity to be out in the community and talk with people about how to use the mini-grant program to get their ideas funded.

Searcy said the mini-grant program can open doors for further funding from organizations like ioby, a crowdfunding platform that partners project leaders with coaches to create effective fundraising campaigns.

Gordon currently has her own ioby campaign to raise funds for 10 Northside mothers to get full doula certifications in prenatal, labor and postpartum training. For more information, click here.

The next One Northside Mini-Grant deadline is on Thursday, Nov. 29. Printed applications are accepted at the Allegheny and Woods Run Carnegie Libraries during normal business hours and by postal mail addressed to New Sun Rising, attn. One Northside Mini-Grant, P.O. Box 58005, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15209.

You may also submit your application here or send as attachments to vibrancyfunds@newsunrising.org. Contact New Sun Rising staff with inquiries or other questions by phone (412) 407-9007 or email info@newsunrising.org.

New Sun Rising’s One Northside Mini-Grant Program is made possible through support by The Buhl Foundation.