SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — An organization in Sioux Falls with a focus built around bringing people together and hearing feedback from residents received a $100,000 grant to study the Whittier Neighborhood and learn more about the community and bring forward ideas and leaders.

From community gatherings and door knocking to hearing feedback and discussing challenges, the BAM Institute of Civic Biodesign listens to what residents have to say in the Whittier Neighborhood east of Downtown Sioux Falls. BAM, or Beverly Ann Miller Foundation, is doing this research as part of a ‘Community Revitalization Collective,’ or CRC.

“Our community deals with lots of complex issues, emerging, and maybe issues that are already here. There’s not often a great place to go resource yourself for the type of understanding you would need to tackle those problems,” BAM Foundation executive director Clinton Brown said.

They partner with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Union Gospel Mission, which is where their office is located.

A big focus for the BAM Institute of Civic Biodesign is based around the idea of community and bringing people together.

“We’re feeding people. We’re talking to each other. We’re listening. It’s a potluck. It’s a barbecue. It’s a market night. It’s very, very simple. It’s the basis of community,” said Jordan Deffenbaugh, partnership developer for the BAM Institute of Civic Biodesign.

Jordan Deffenbaugh is the partnership developer for the BAM Institute of Civic Biodesign and the lead for this project. He says they received a $100,000 grant from the South Dakota Community Foundation to help with project materials, food and other things to make it all run smoothly.

“We hear them this first year, and then next year, it’s about reflecting all that information back to them and say, ‘Well, this is what you said. Now, where do we go from here with that information?'” Deffenbaugh said.

They say the South Dakota Community Foundation is interested in learning more about Whittier and how the findings can be used in other areas, especially rural South Dakota towns.

“Many towns in rural South Dakota are trying to figure out their own future. Where are they going to be in 20 years? How do they keep kids there? How do they get an industry there? How do they reinvest in themselves?” Brown said.

And finding the answers to those questions is exactly what they are looking for in Whittier.

“We’re in the job of very active listening to what’s going on in the neighborhood and what they want. I mean, literally writing down the answers to what people say about what is the future of the neighborhood need, and our job is to sort of synthesize that and hand it back to those same people,” Brown said.

For example, one of the first things the project helped with in the neighborhood was advocating for a crosswalk in a dangerous area where pedestrians had been hit by cars.

“That’s a really simple, practical, tactical thing for families who are moving about. They want their kids to safely cross the street, so a lot of it’s really simple things, but it’s evidence of them investing in themselves for a future that they’ve desired,” Brown said.

One of the end goals is the development of a strong neighborhood association that advocates for what’s needed and would make the area healthier.

“I would love to see more of those things happening and those things happening from the neighborhood, the neighborhood deciding those things and taking it on themselves,” Deffenbaugh said.

Every Wednesday at noon, Deffendaugh says they host a ‘taco meetup’ at the Union Gospel Mission for community members to talk with them and get a meal. They also have a number of other events planned for this summer.