The Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama announced last week that 15 different organizations had each been awarded a $10,000 grant for a new “Open Spaces Sacred Places” project. Two of the grant recipients are in Calhoun County, one in Anniston and another in Piedmont.
The Anniston site will be at the West 15th Street Historic District. The Piedmont space will be located at the Piedmont Health Care Center.
The $150,000 in grants originate from the Stringfellow Health Fund, which began in 1920 when Susie Parker Stringfellow of Anniston made an initial donation and gift to establish what later became Stringfellow Memorial Hospital.
Each location of the “sacred places” is intended to be a spot of reflection, accessible to all, which can encourage community well-being and unity. There will be 15 in all across nine counties.
Fred Smith, director of the Stringfellow Health Fund Grants, said each space will have a bench and a waterproof journal.
“The bench is the destination,” Smith said, “and a place where a person can reflect.”
Smith said the journal will allow for community members to anonymously write down their feelings while in the space.
Each site will also have a Stringfellow marker intended to educate the community on the power and lasting effect of one person’s gift.
“It will be a conversation piece,” Smith said. “It will let people find out more about the legacy.”
The different sites are spread throughout nine counties in northeast Alabama. Smith said the foundation originally intended to have two locations in each county, but as of now, each county has at least one.
“We decided to do an initial grant award of 15 sites with the possibility of 3 more in the future,” Smith said.
Smith said the Community Foundation was searching for a way to celebrate Stringfellow’s legacy when he came across an idea from TKF Foundation, a nonprofit based in Maryland.
“We were deciding what type of celebration to do,” Smith said, “and considering how to bring recognition to Susie Parker Stringfellow.”
Smith said the foundation took TKF’s initial concept of the Open Spaces Sacred Places and adapted it to fit in northeast Alabama.
Smith was tasked with the responsibility of traveling to each of the nine counties and spreading awareness of the new grant opportunity. He said he explained the concept to various groups and organizations, including nonprofits and garden societies.
Smith said the foundation received 19 grant applications over a six-month period. Each of the applicants had to develop an idea for a community space, gather a team that would help implement the idea and propose a design of the space. The applications then went through a month-long review process.
The 15 different projects will be led by a “firesoul,” a person in the community who will supervise each of the sites.
Smith described the firesouls as people with “burning passion to see the completion of the sites.”
The spaces each have a different design that uniquely reflects the community.
“Each site fits with the county,” Smith said.
There will be groundbreaking ceremonies at 14 of the 15 spaces in June and July. Smith wouldn’t say which county will not have a groundbreaking ceremony during that time.
“We expect each location to be completed by Nov. 15, 2019,” Smith said. He said each location will then have a final ribbon-cutting ceremony the next year in honor of the 100-year anniversary of Stringfellow’s donation.