Grassroots Projects Get Funding Through ioby.org 

Bat houses, basketball court makeovers, and bus stop seats are among local projects funded on crowd-sourcing site.

Bats may have a scary reputation as blind bloodsuckers, but a few residents in the East Buntyn community actually want the winged mammals in their neighborhood. And after crowd-sourcing on ioby.org, they've raised the funds to build 10 bat houses (and one tower for Chimney Swift birds) in the East Memphis neighborhood.

click to enlarge Residents of the East Buntyn neighborhood are building bat houses. - TOLITSAYALA | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Tolitsayala | Dreamstime.com
  • Residents of the East Buntyn neighborhood are building bat houses.

They're hoping the $2,000 project will bring mosquito-eating, plant-pollinating bats and birds back to their neighborhood after years of roost disturbances and habitat loss have pushed them out of the area. The "Bring Back Bats and Birds to Buntyn" is just one of 67 projects in 17 zip codes being funded after a spring match funding campaign on ioby.org.

Ioby stands for "in our backyards," and the site is used to crowd-source civic projects across the country. The website has had a Memphis presence for a couple years, but between March 30th and April 15th, ioby.org offered up $50,000 in match funds for Memphis projects that fund-raised during that period. Livable Memphis got involved, too.

"Livable Memphis was so excited by all the projects that we decided to put in additional dollars, and we still have some match funds that didn't get spent out [during the matching period], so we'll get to spend those on projects throughout the year," said Ellen Roberds, creative placemaker at Livable Memphis.

Another of the funded projects will place 24 seats at Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) bus stops around the city. They're focusing specifically on stops that don't have bus shelters. To qualify for a bus shelter, a stop must have more than 50 riders per day. But some smaller stops still serve a large number of people but lack seating.

"The plan is to look at stops where fewer than 50 people board every day but still have enough people who board that it would be useful for people to have seats," said Emily Trenholm, executive director of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis. Trenholm is the project coordinator for the bus stop seat project.

click to enlarge Project Backboard makeover at Charjean Park - PROJECT BACKBOARD
  • Project Backboard
  • Project Backboard makeover at Charjean Park

Some other projects funded during the matching period include Project Backboard, which will use $6,125 to restripe and paint goal posts at 15 inner-city basketball courts, $3,125 for enhancements at the DIY Altown Skate Park at Lamar and Rozelle, and $6,000 to install new trail markers through Overton Park's Old Forest.

Another group raised $1,195 to create a rock garden and "labyrinth green space" under the new "I Love Soulsville" mural at Mississippi and McLemore. And $5,761 was raised to throw a community party called Roundhouse Revival at the Mid-South Coliseum on May 23rd. A $410 project will provide helmets for young bicyclists.

"There's a group that wants to put in herb gardens in vacant lots and eventually use the herbs to make tea," Roberds said. "Vegetable gardens are pretty labor-intensive, but herbs are perennial and don't require as much work."

Although the matching process is over, some projects, such as the basketball striping project, are still working to raise some additional funds. And ioby.org accepts new Memphis projects all the time.

"We encourage people to start small," Roberds said. "The best projects are the ones that are visible to the public and can be built upon."

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