MOUNT RAINIER — MJ Park has always been passionate about world peace.
As a teacher and mother of six with her husband working as a social worker and hospice nurse, they found that they had a shared dream for peace and nonviolence. Because of their shared vision, they founded Little Friends For Peace 38 years ago.
“We did protests about what we were against, but one day my dad said ‘What are you for?’ and I said ‘You’re right,’ so we wanted to start an organization that teaches peace,” Park said.
With Little Friends For Peace, Park and her husband have held peace camps, where she taught about peace in schools, and advocate for a peaceful community.
After wanting to do more and gaining the attention of the city of Mount Rainier where they have lived for the last 30 years, they were approached by City Councilmember Shavali Shah to apply for a grant so they could build a peace park in the city.
Little Friends For Peace ended up being one of nine county-based organizations that received a total of $696,000 for the Prince George’s County Redevelopment Authority’s annual Community Impact Grants.
The Community Impact Grants are one way that the Redevelopment Authority fulfills its mission of decreasing the number of blighted commercial and residential structures that are within a half-mile radius of existing transit centers to improve the quality of life for county residents.
The grants were given out to county-based 501 (c) (3) civic and neighborhood associations or community-based organizations. The donations will help to implement community projects to revitalize areas within the inner beltway.
“In many instances, a small infusion of capital dollars can take a community project from the planning phase to implementation,” said Rosalyn Clemens, manager of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program for the Redevelopment Authority. “Community Impact Grants help organizations build their capacity and strengthen their communities.”
In order to be eligible for the grant, the organizations had to be located within the county and be in good standing. The grants have to be used for capital purposes, which include purchasing their equipment and materials, and capital expenses that are related to the implementation of the community project. Grant money cannot be used for operations, salaries or personnel.
Additionally, the projects must have to do with either neighborhood beautification or the environment, natural resources and sustainability.
Organizations who were given the grant have up to a year from the date of the grant agreement to complete their project and expend their grant funds.
Nine grants were awarded this year for 11 projects throughout the county with a maximum award of $100,000.
Little Friends for Peace received $50,000 for their Peace Park in Mount Rainier.
“It’s timely that they accepted our request and sees it as valuable,” Park said. “It’s like the right moment of ‘wow.’ It’s the first big step.”
The Peace Park will be a place where people can come to learn practices for bringing about peace in their lives and the lives of others, have conversations about peace and hold peace events.
Little Friends For Peace has already set up another park in the city near Arundel Road and worked with the city to establish May as Peace Month. The new Peace Park is a way to spread more of their work around the city.
Another winner was the Gateway Community Development Corporation. The organization serves to drive economic development around the U.S. Route 1 Corridor through things like business and neighborhood development initiatives and the promotion of the arts as a way to build a sense of community.
They received $50,000 to enhance their Media Arts Lab, an art studio that houses 20 resident and non-resident enterprises. The creatives there work in design, digital media services, film and video production and photography. The Media Arts Lab also provides professional creative services to businesses and nonprofits.
CASA de Maryland, an organization that advocates for and works to expand opportunities for Latino and immigrant families, won $53,524 for beautification projects in Langley Park.
The largest sum of money was given to Northern Gateway Community Development Corporation, which received $100,000 for strategic placemaking. The organization strives to revitalize unincorporated neighborhoods in areas such as Adelphi, Avondale, Chillum, Hampshire Knolls and Langley Park. They received another $50,000 for gateway migration.
Other winners were Friends of the Greenbelt Museum who won $50,000 for the expansion of the Greenbelt Museum and the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council who received grants for two public art projects at 4550 Rhode Island Avenue and the Green Meadows Shopping Center totaling $32,500 each.