An Elgin group has started a small grant program open to any homeowners who want to fix up their historic homes.
Homes must be at least 50 years old, and projects must respect the homes' historic integrity, said Jennifer Phillips, co-president of the group Admirers of Beautiful Old Dwellings of Elgin, or ABODE.
The group, which is already fundraising, will be able to give out at least $1,000 worth of small grants -- likely $250 to $500 each -- this year, and hopefully more in years to come, Phillips said.
"The goal is to provide a small spark, or a spark plug, to (prompt) someone to do something they would like to do, but maybe wouldn't do (without the spark)," said.
Elgin has a variety of grants available to homeowners, but all have specific requirements.
The city's historic rehabilitation program, funded by the city's share of Grand Victoria Casino revenues, is available to homes within the city's historic districts and homes designed as local landmarks, said Amy Munro, Elgin's historic preservation and grants planner.
West side residents inquired years ago about creating a historic district there, but were told by city officials that there wasn't enough historic housing stock, Phillips said. The city has never received a formal nomination for a west side historic district, Munro said.
Property improvement grants, available citywide, include exterior painting for low-income homeowners, and substitute siding and chain link fence removal, Munro said.
There are also grants for homeowners who turn a multiunit building into a single-family residence.
That leaves homeowners like her without any extra help for most projects, said Phillips, whose family owns a home built around 1916.
"You do what you need to do to stay code compliant on the outside, but you don't necessarily spend a lot of money until you have the money or the time -- or both," she said.
Her own frustration, Phillips said, prompted the new grant program, which will be available for exterior and interior projects.
"If you're willing to fix it right and respect the historic element, we'll give you a small grant for your efforts, for taking that extra step is instead of making it just compliant (with code)," she said.
While the grants will be available to all Elgin residents, ABODE group members will get an extra point in the evaluation, with a limit to how many members can get grants, she said.
The group will be accepting applications throughout October; applications will be available at elginabode.com by late September.
Homeowners will be expected to pay for and complete their projects, including before and after pictures, before being awarded any grant money.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or call (224) 588-7034.
Donations for the program can be mailed to ABODE, 500 Lawrence Ave., Elgin, 60123.