Asheville Merchants Fund Awards $350,000 in Grants to Support Youth Success and Spur Economic Growth

(June 2021) –The Asheville Merchants Fund recently awarded grants to seven Buncombe County nonprofit organizations. A total of $350,000 was awarded for innovative projects designed to strengthen community and stimulate economic growth.

The Asheville Merchants Fund supports projects such as community asset development and entrepreneurship; quality jobs and workforce development, including living wage work and job training; social infrastructure encompassing family success and affordable housing; and youth success in school.

“The Asheville Merchants Fund Advisory Board was heartened by the perseverance of our nonprofits through the pandemic. Many had to make substantial shifts to how they offered their programming,” said Advisory Board Chair Tom Hallmark. “We congratulate the recipients and look forward to their success by creating our new normal and working toward economic recovery.”

The recipients of the two-year grants are:

$50,000 to Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project to support the recovery of homegrown businesses. The pandemic critically affected small businesses in the region's hospitality industry, restaurants in particular, and the farms that depend on those partnerships. This project will provide direct support for Buncombe County businesses through small grants for local food sourcing and promotions, grower-buyer meetings, and regional promotions to rekindle local food system connections and build consumer demand.

$50,000 to Asheville Museum of Science to build a STEM Ecosystem through the development of a dynamic collaborative of academia, local science industry leaders, and nonprofit service organizations. The network will optimize cross-sector learning for middle and high school students and provide access to STEM-rich learning environments to develop awareness and access to important skills and engagement in the field.

$50,000 to Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry to support women enrolled in Steps To Success. The program provides emotional, mental and social skills, short-term training leading to certification/licensure for living-wage careers and a supportive network leading to sustainable housing and self-sufficiency. Women completing the Steps To Success program will have appropriate job skills that are in high demand by employers in Buncombe County and will expand and diversify the labor pool.

$50,000 to KL Training Solutions/dba My Daddy Taught Me That (MDTMT) to continue growing its Job Training/Economic Development program that has been an integral part of MDTMT. Over the next two years, MDTMT plans to extend this work program into the school system. While addressing the achievement gap, the program will provide an incentive to some students for attending summer tutoring.

$50,000 to Mountain BizWorks to provide customized business education to a target population of low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs in Asheville, with an emphasis on supporting entrepreneurs of color.

$50,000 to United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County to support Homework Diners at five middle schools. Replicating a model shown to be successful in engaging and building connections among parents, teachers, students and community resources, Homework Diners take place one evening each week during the academic year and offer a family meal while students and their parents receive homework help.

$50,000 to Working Wheels to increase its capacity to repair vehicles for Buncombe County families from 64 families currently to 80 families in 2022 and 92 families by 2023.

Asheville Merchants Fund grants are awarded every two years.