The Ethiopian Community Center in Seattle is selected for a $100,000 grant from Seattle City Council as part of the Neighborhood Matching Fund program, it was learnt.

The City Council announced in August this year that the Community Center’s project to renovate its 900 sq. ft. commercial kitchen is among the three Rainier Valley neighborhood projects chosen for the new matching fund.

Fikru Kifle, member of the Ethiopian Community Center in Seattle

“It’s very competitive to get the city’s fund,” said Fikru Kifle, an active member and advisor to the Community Center.

The application and review process, which took seven months, had to approve the Community Center’s need for a safe and fully up-to-code kitchen, according to Kifle. “We have kids served at the Center in after-school programs, as well the elderly who regularly make use of our kitchen.”

“Besides, we have successfully undertaken a similar project with the City Council in the recent past,” he said, “I think that played out quite well for us this time.”

Last year, the Center renovated its roof and carried out a major overhaul to its toilet facilities, making it accessible to disable persons and bringing it up-to-code through a similar match fund from the City Council. The roof and toilet renovation took about 14 months from start to finish with a total overlay of $200,000, according to Kifle.

The total cost of the upcoming kitchen renovation also amounts to $200,000 and half of the fund is going to be matched by the Center itself.

“Our main resource is our volunteers’ labor. We have many experts in engineering, carpentry, plumbing and electrical works, whose expertise is converted into cash,” Kifle told GIZEYAT.

The volunteers’ labor constitute 75% of the total amount the Center is expected to raise, while the rest $25,000 is to be paid in cash. For that, the Center raises fund by renting its hall, collecting membership and service fees, and now it has also started to hold fundraising gala dinner every year.

On this month last year, the Center was able to raise over $3,000 in a one-day fund raising. This year’s fundraising gala is slated for October 11th, at Emerald Downs Ballroom in Auburn, Washington. Kifle hopes his Center would raise a good amount of money like the previous year.

On top of that, a non-profit company called KaBoom! has donated an $85,000 worth children’s playground to the Center last month.

Children playing at the community center’s recently installed playground donated by KaBoom!

“At the moment, apart from the kitchen, the center is more or less in good shape—just as we’d like it to be,” Kifle said.

The Matching Fund program was created in 1988 to provide neighborhood groups with city resources for community-driven projects that enhance and strengthen their own neighborhoods.

Since 1988, the city fund has awarded more than $49 million to more than 4,000 projects throughout Seattle, generated an additional $72 million of community match, and engaged more than 86,000 volunteers who have donated over 574,000 hours, according to the City Council’s website.

With over 35,000 Ethiopians living in Seattle, this project―expected to be completed in the next six-month―aims to enhance the Community Center into a vibrant hub of healthy eating, learning, and celebration.