Grants Help Communities Across CA Address COVID, Livability Issues

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Planter boxes are under construction at the Age Well Center in Fremont, thanks to a grant from AARP California. Photo Credit: Suzanne Shenfil

FREMONT, Calif. – Eight California communities have won grants to complete projects that improve livability — part of the 2020 AARP Community Challenge.

Nationally, 184 communities will receive a combined $2.4 million to improve open spaces, make cities more walkable and increase affordable housing.

Jennifer Berdugo, AARP California associate director of community, said they’re also looking to fund new types of projects, including some that help with coronavirus response.

“This year,” she said, “we added a new category seeking projects that would help increase civic engagement and demonstrate the tangible value of smart cities.”

The grants will support many initiatives, including a program in San Diego to educate the Iraqi refugee community about public transportation, a new public space along San Leandro Creek, a film center in Echo Park, COVID measures at the pool and farmer’s market in Hayfork, new green space to be managed by the Chinatown Health Initiative along the Los Angeles River, and affordable housing in Monterey County.

AARP California also is funding two additional projects, said Donna Deutchman, chief executive of the nonprofit Home 4 Families, which is building a housing community for veterans in Palmdale.

“AARP has provided benches and floral features,” she said, “allowing our older veterans to see their neighbors, to see the children play in the playground.”

Suzanne Shenfil, human services director for the city of Fremont, said the Community Challenge grant will go toward a garden at its new “Age Well Center”, which opens in January next to a senior living complex.

“We’ll have a chance to invite them to come and work in the garden,” she said, “and hopefully it will begin to cut down on some of the isolation that we’ve had during COVID.”

The fruits and vegetable raised will then be used to make healthy meals at the center.

Information about the Community Challenge is online at