National grant challenge to launch new social enterprise

The Kennedy Center’s plans for a new type of social enterprise and neighborhood gathering spot just got a boost, thanks to a national grant challenge.

The Community Opportunity Shop is one of a select group of Connecticut projects chosen for USA Today’s A Community Thrives Grant Challenge, offering a chance to win $100,000.

This challenge emphasizes community investment and The Kennedy Center is working to raise $10,000 by Friday, April 12, to stay in the running for major grant awards.

“The scope of this project will reach far beyond the 2,400 individuals we support each year,” said Kennedy Center President and CEO Rick Sebastian.

The proposed shop would be part retail, part arts-centered café and focused on providing job opportunities and training for individuals of all abilities, including those who experience barriers to employment.

The Community Opportunity Shop would feature upcycled clothing, furniture and one-of-a-kind artwork for sale, in addition to offering an adjacent café as a community gathering place.

This new social enterprise would create 40 local jobs, provide hands-on career skills training to others and serve as an interactive showcase for artists with disabilities, organizers say.

The Trumbull-based Kennedy Center is in the planning phase of the project, exploring viable locations and community partnerships, including the USA Today grant opportunity.

“Beyond a transformative retail experience, The Community Opportunity Shop will challenge perceived limitations and recognize the unique skills, talents and expertise of people of people of all abilities,” said Sebastian. “We want the community to get in at the ground floor of this new project. Joining us in this grant challenge now, through April 12, makes all the difference in bringing it to life.”

Donations of $10 or more to support the project must be made through The Kennedy Center’s CrowdRise.com page to qualify.

For a link to the grant challenge page and more information, visit TheKennedyCenterInc.org.