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Grant will fund ambassadors for downtown Davenport
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Grant will fund ambassadors for downtown Davenport

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A program in which ambassadors would be hired to roam downtown Davenport looking for people to help — visitors wanting Chinese food, for example — is one of 65 projects being funded in the latest round of grants from the Regional Development Authority, or RDA.

The nonprofit authority that holds the gaming license for Rhythm City Casino awarded a total of $1,272,982 to help area nonprofit, civic and governmental organizations to do everything from mentor young boys to rehab housing to create a sustainable watershed to replace the HVAC system at the Col. Davenport House on Arsenal Island, according to a news release.

A new group called Clock Inc. received $4,000 to provide support and counseling for the LBGTQ community.

River Action Inc. received $50,000 for another phase of it First Bridge project, in which a pedestrian bridge would be built over East River Drive/U.S. 67 to safely link the downtown with the riverfront.

The Riverbend Food Bank received $50,000 to increase its cold storage capacity to serve more people during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to further its goal of actually eliminating hunger once the pandemic is over.

The ambassador program envisioned for Davenport is a one-year pilot project of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, an arm of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, aimed at making the downtown a more friendly, welcoming place, Kyle Carter, executive director of the partnership, said.

Working in coordination with Davenport Police, Visit Quad-Cities and Humility Homes & Services, the ambassador program would put "another set of eyes" on city streets to help keep them clean and tidy, discourage petty crime and engage with the public, answering questions or just talking about what Davenport has to offer, Carter said. 

Matt Mendenhall, president and CEO of the RDA, said he expected the program to "create good experiences" for people visiting the downtown. The RDA awarded $50,000 for the program.

Similar programs already operate in cities such as Kansas City, Atlanta and Baltimore, and Carter said he thinks Davenport is sufficiently large to benefit as well, especially as it seeks to recover from downturns caused by river flooding and COVID-19 and continue its revitalization.

The partnership is seeking another $45,000 from the Bechtel Trusts that it should hear about in December, but even if that grant doesn't come through, the partnership has enough money with the RDA grant and its own funds to begin a program in April, Carter said.

One or two people would walk the streets Monday through Saturday wearing brightly colored clothing to distinguish themselves as ambassadors, available through 6-7 p.m. on weekdays and to 8-9 p.m. on weekends.

The goal is "to up our hospitality game," Carter said.

Meanwhile, 10 of the RDA grants were to help specifically with COVID-19-related concerns.

Junior Theatre Inc. is getting $2,642 for a virtual play festival, Junior Achievement of the Heartland is getting $10,100 to expand program delivery options and Argrow's House of Healing and Hope is getting $10,000 for pandemic recovery.

Also, USO of Illinois is getting $10,000 to help with COVID-19 efforts in Rock Island, Our Lady of the River Catholic Church is getting $5,000 for the Tim Tebow Night to Shine virtual prom and the Iowa College Access Network is getting $5,000 for educator and student support during and after the pandemic.

And, the Illowa Council of the Boy Scouts of America is receiving $5,000 as a COVID impact grant, the Humane Society of Scott County is getting $5,000 for zero-cost boarding fees related to the virus, the Quad-Cities Community Broadcasting Group, radio station WGVV, 92.5, is getting $25,000 for a COVID-19 media mitigation project and VTG Associates, is getting $5,000 for general operating support for virtual technology.

All told, the RDA awarded almost half of its total funding — $628,837, or 49%, to support human service efforts.

Of the remainder, $267,600, or 21%, went to economic development efforts and $376,545, or 30%, went to proposals for arts, culture and education.

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