Clearing the Air at St. Paul’s, Fort Erie

 on January 12, 2024

With the arrival of the COVID- 19 pandemic in 2020, St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Fort Erie faced the challenge of protecting people who came to our buildings. Yes, we could wear masks and use hand sanitizer, but cleaning the air we were breathing was a potentially more-effective and long-term solution. We had already increased the ventilation and air purification in the church proper but still had the much larger space in our parish centre to protect, including the areas occupied by the Fort Erie Co-operative Preschool and Fort Erie Meals on Wheels.

Three years later, with the help of a $148,700 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, we now have healthier air in the parish centre, provided by four separate systems serving different zones of the centre. Each system includes a heat recovery ventilator (an HRV), air filtration, and UV lighting. Each of the HRV’s completely exchanges the air in its zone up to six times an hour. The air filters help to clean the air, and UV lighting in the ductwork sterilizes the air. The HRV’s are so powerful that in one room of the centre we can actually see the circulating air moving one of the chandeliers!

Our three-year project began in the summer of 2020, when the parish administrator of St. Paul’s, John Newton, pointed us to the Ontario Trillium Foundation as a possible source of funding. John, along with our rector, Reverend Daniel Bennett and wardens Barbara Steele and I, formed a fourperson grants committee to seek funding. We found the “Resilient Communities” fund, a special fund focused on helping organizations to recover from the problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Applying for a Resilient Communities grant involved providing two kinds information: the first about our organization, and the second about the project itself. We provided a number of facts about our church, including its mission and the demographics of the population our parish centre served. In giving this information, we always had to take care to separate the parish centre and its functions from the church proper and its functions, because the Ontario Trillium Foundation would not fund projects to support worship itself.

For the second kind of information—about the project —we were required to provide a clear description of the technology we wanted to install, submit a quote from a contractor for the project, include a financial workbook detailing the costs of the project, and describe the positive results we expected from it.

Our first two applications for an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant were not approved, but with each application we improved our case with the help of phone consultations with Trillium Foundation coaches, and our third application was successful. Finally, with approval of the project by the diocese and the accomplishment of a $25,000 parish capital campaign to pay for costs not covered by the grant, we could move ahead with the actual work, which was completed in September of 2023.

From our experience with this project, we learned a good deal about the process of applying for grants. Following are some suggestions for other churches seeking grants.

They are drawn from our experience with the Ontario Trillium Foundation but would apply to many granting agencies and foundations:

1. If the grantor offers several funding streams, be sure to select the one most appropriate for your project. At the start of our project, it took us a little time to figure out the best stream.
2. Read the grant application very carefully to be sure you understand what information is required.
3. As you prepare the application, if help is available from a coach or consultant at the granting agency or foundation, take advantage of it. Conversations with such a person can be critical for the success of your application.
4. As you describe your project in your grant application, for clarity, use the terminology the grantor uses in its application form.
5. Be patient. After you complete your application, several months may pass before you receive a decision on it from the grantor.
6. Be persistent. Do not be discouraged if your first application is not successful.

Without the grant from the OTF, St. Paul’s would simply not have had the financial resources to undertake our clean air project. But with the help of the grant, we now have significantly healthier air throughout our parish centre. Everyone who attends the many events in the centre is better protected from airborne disease.

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