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U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs Helps Support $766,000 in Grants


$766,000 in grants fight poverty with home repairs and revolving loans

More than $766,000 in grants from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership awarded over the next three years will attack poverty in the Fox Valley by building stronger neighborhoods and offering no-interest loans to people living on the financial edge.

The Basic Needs Giving Partnership is a grant program of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. It is supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs within the Community Foundation and the J. J. Keller Foundation, as well as other community partners.

The Basic Needs Giving Partnership recently awarded these three grants:

LEAVEN: $174,726 over three years to work with the financial counseling agency FISC to design a new loan program to help people meet emergency financial needs without resorting to very high-interest loans from payday lenders. Borrowers will be required to take part in financial counseling with FISC.

Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity: $300,000 over three years for neighborhood revitalization, including ongoing support for neighborhoods where its very successful “Rock the Block” building rehab blitzes take place. The program will offer home repairs, preservation and ways to improve relations among neighbors. Habitat will work with Rebuilding Together Fox Valley, local municipalities and Neighborhood Partners, a program of Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin.

Rebuilding Together Fox Valley: $291,362 over three years to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity on a joint application process for home-renovation requests and to better coordinate their home repair programs to reduce duplication and serve more people.

LEAVEN expects to serve about 1,000 clients with its “Pay It Forward” loans. People facing disconnection of their gas or electricity for nonpayment, who don’t qualify for outright assistance from LEAVEN, might be able to get a loan and be provided financial counseling by FISC.

“This loan program provides LEAVEN the opportunity to help those in crisis, but recognizes that their emergency is not the result of an unexpected situation,” Mary Parsons, executive director of LEAVEN, said. “This is an innovative alternative to LEAVEN’s traditional charity model. We believe that by offering these financial services – both loans and counseling – we can create a pathway to long-term self-sufficiency.”

Habitat’s Rock the Block program also offers no-interest loans for home repairs to homeowners in the target neighborhoods. Habitat and its partners hope to increase home ownership rates and the average property value in some of the area’s more tired neighborhoods.

“We want to engage residents and community partners to increase neighborhood pride and a sense of ownership in vulnerable neighborhoods,” Habitat Executive Director John Weyenberg said, rather than allowing a culture of poverty to persist.

Rebuilding Together Fox Valley is working with Habitat to develop a shared application process with a single point of entry for people seeking building repair help from either agency. They also will align their programs better to serve low-income homeowners from all backgrounds. Rebuilding Together will broaden its focus beyond primarily serving the elderly, disabled or veterans to all people unable to pay for home repairs. Habitat serves low-income people who have the ability to pay for their repairs over time.

“The intent is to extend critical home repair services to the increasing population in our community who are at risk of losing their home or who face substandard living conditions and poverty,” said Shannon Wiegman, executive director at Rebuilding Together.

The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, a Fox Cities-based nonprofit founded in 1986, helps people provide long-term support for favorite charities through endowments and other charitable funds. The second-largest certified community foundation in Wisconsin, its donors have allowed it to award more than $221 million to nonprofit organizations from more than 1,300 charitable funds. Affiliated community families of funds operate in Brillion, Chilton, Clintonville, Shawano and Waupaca. To learn more, go to, our blog at or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.