MERRILLVILLE | Community leaders on Friday learned about the process to apply for grant money under a new initiative through the Legacy Foundation.

Called Neighborhood Spotlight, the goal is to effect change via specific projects in Lake County.

"The interest is not throwing dollars at projects; it's about making a change," said Robert Johnson, vice chairman of The Legacy Foundation.

The foundation is aiming to connect people who want to get involved.

More than 150 people registered for the Friday information sessions to learn more about the initiative. Interested groups must submit letters of intent by Sept. 1. Applicants must attend training sessions along the way to be considered for grant selection.

Legacy will issue about $1 million over three years, to two communities per year. It is just the seed money, so to speak, Johnson said.

"Communities" can be defined in a number of ways, but there must be a defined target geographic area between 4,000 and 25,000.

Applicants must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, among other criteria.

Representatives from the Indiana Association for Community and Economic Development – which designed Neighborhood Spotlight – encouraged the group to think differently about how communities are viewed, focusing on how everything interacts. 

Andy Fraizer, executive director of Indiana Association for Community and Economic Development, polled the group during the first session Friday.

A majority came from nonprofits. Some represented government, some were residents and others were from higher education, churches and banks.

Fraizer said it's going to take all of those sectors and more working together to make a collective impact.

The initiative calls on neighborhood stakeholders from public, private and nonprofit sectors to organize, identify a vision and work together.

Johnson described five goals driving the effort: common agenda, shared measurement, mutual reinforcement, continuous communication and a backbone of support.