Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Lenses Collective

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Lenses Collective on December 2, 2018.

Lenses Collective is a collaborative photography and writing program for seniors (aged 55 and up) and youth (middle and high school students) in the East Lansing community. The seven-week program is designed to bring youth and seniors together to explore generational perspectives and experiences through dialogue, creative writing, and photography.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Lenses Collective organizers with their grant funds.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Lenses Collective organizers with their grant funds.

Since October 2018, Lenses Collective participants have met for two hours a week in the East Lansing Public Library. Sessions have included an activity that sparks discussion around a theme (i.e. identity or life stories), time for small group dialogue, and photography-based activities through which participants have shared their experiences. As the program has progressed, it has focused on participants’ collective artistic projects. This has been achieved largely through the creative processes of photography and writing, where participants have been encouraged to express their life experiences, desires, and imagined futures. The project will culminate in a collaborative art exhibition opening at the library on Dec. 19 and eventually traveling to various venues throughout the community.

Awesome Foundation grant funds will help to cover the cost of two digital cameras, memory cards, and a tripod that will be donated to the East Lansing Public Library at the completion of the program, thereby providing Lenses Collective and community members continued access to equipment for future collaborative photography projects.  

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds free Women Activist Incubator Retreat

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to organizers Patricia Fero and Lauren Tatarsky for their upcoming free Women Activists Incubator Retreat on October 7, 2018.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Pat Fero and Lauren Tatarsky with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Pat Fero and Lauren Tatarsky with their $1,000 mini-grant.

 

The Women Activists Incubator Retreat will take place October 19-21, 2018 (Friday at 5pm until Sunday at 1pm) at the Weber Center in Adrian, Michigan. This retreat is offered free of charge to women activists and is inclusive of trans and gender non-conforming people.Fero and Tatarsky’s intention is to provide inspiration, rest, and retreat for women activists who are out on the frontlines on a daily basis, and to cultivate a space for connecting and collaborating. Awesome Foundation funds will be used to cover facilitation and organization costs.

The retreat will support social justice work and encourage and inspire participants to strengthen their action together. Each woman will have an opportunity for her work to be the focus of the group, providing time for brainstorming and strategizing as well as addressing the personal challenges that arise from this work. Participants will focus on strategizing ways to inspire and motivate others to join forces with their action.

Patricia Fero has led workshops and retreats for over 20 years based on her four books, as well as other topics empowering women. She has grown an active psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor over the past 30 years. Lauren Tatarsky is currently the owner of Inspired Life Counseling in Ann Arbor, where she conducts one-on-one and couples’ counseling sessions, women’s circles, yoga and free form dance classes, and rights of passage ceremonies. She is currently an active volunteer and LGBTQ advocate with the Human Rights Campaign and serves on the Ann Arbor Police Task Force, working to address racial injustice in the policing system.  

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds free public nature education supply kits

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Wandering Washtenaw on September 9, 2018 to fund the creation of publicly available backpacks filled with nature education supplies.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Elizabeth Keller of Wander Packs with a $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Elizabeth Keller of Wander Packs with a $1,000 mini-grant.

Wandering Washtenaw is a new organization founded by Washtenaw County residents Elizabeth Keller, Joshua Arnold, and Mark Keller. Its mission is building interest in natural area stewardship by encouraging families, groups, and individuals to explore local nature areas. Wandering Washtenaw currently maintains a user-friendly website that highlights Washtenaw County nature areas and allows users to easily find parks and nature preserves that best match their needs. Wandering Washtenaw’s latest project is to create “Wander Packs” – adventure backpacks filled with supplies to enhance children’s and adults’ experiences in nature and provide opportunities for education.

Wandering Washtenaw’s goal is to stock public libraries and schools in Washtenaw County with two to four Wander Packs each to loan out just as they do books and educational kits. Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to purchase 15 to 20 Wander Packs and stock them with supplies including (but not limited to) binoculars, bug kits, butterfly nets, Michigan bird and wildflower guidebooks, trail maps, compasses, and solar-powered flashlights. Visit WanderingWashtenaw.com for more details.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds resource website for returning citizens

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Project Reentry on August 6, 2018 to create a new website connecting formerly incarcerated citizens to resources in their communities.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Holly Wickham of Project Reentry with her grant funds.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Holly Wickham of Project Reentry with her grant funds.

Based out of the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office, Project Reentry is a relatively new program that offers a variety of supportive services for re-sentenced juvenile lifers in Michigan. Project Reentry’s clients were arrested as children and sentenced to life without parole, but became eligible for resentencing after a 2016 Supreme Court decision. Now they are being released back into society, never having lived as adults. Project Reentry collaborates with a team of public defenders, master’s-level social work interns, and community organizations, united by a shared mission to help incarcerated people successfully reenter Michigan communities.

Many Project Reentry clients have trouble using the internet to find and access services in their communities. Technology advanced rapidly while they were incarcerated, so many websites and devices are difficult for them to navigate and understand. Project Reentry is planning to build an easy-to-use website that connects incarcerated people to felony-friendly resources near them. Users will input their location and needs, and the website will generate a list of nearby organizations that can help. The descriptions of the organizations will include eligibility requirements, hours, a map view, what to bring, and other important information. Project Reentry is planning to pilot the new website in Washtenaw County and then expand it to all of Michigan.

To create the new website, Project Reentry is partnering with a member of the Detroit Community Technology Project, a Detroit organization that specializes in making technology more accessible and expanding digital literacy. Project Reentry’s $1,000 Awesome Foundation grant will be used to incentivize focus groups with re-entered citizens to learn how to best design the website to fit their unique needs. Since Project Reentry has social work interns continuously working at the project for college credit, the website will be updated, audited, and maintained at no cost.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds cleanup, healthy activities at recovery home

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Home of New Vision on July 1, 2018 to improve its New Recovery Residence for those recovering from addiction.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Jennifer Oprisiu of Home of New Vision with her grant money.

Home of New Vision is an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit that offers a wide array of recovery treatment services and supports tailored to clients’ individual needs. The organization’s evidence-based practices assist individuals to achieve a full life of recovery. Home of New Vision staff are passionate about their mission to help people struggling with substance use disorders find a better way of life.

On June 21st, Home of New Vision celebrated an annual “Day of Action” with a multifaceted project intended to improve the lives of clients living in Home of New Vision’s New Recovery Residence in Ann Arbor. The event was hosted by Home of New Vision’s Sport, Lawn, and Garden Project committee, which aims to provide fun, rewarding, and healthy activities for those in recovery.

United Way members, volunteers, and other community members joined Home of New Vision staff and clients to implement the project. Together they fixed up the New Recovery Residence’s yard, installed a walking path, started a garden, and set up sports, lawn, and gardening activities for the clients. Activities now available to the clients range from playing football to gardening to weightlifting. Awesome Foundation funds were used to purchase mulch for the walking path, garden equipment, a dumpster to haul rubbish from the yard, and a shed to store sport, lawn, and garden equipment.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds kitchen classroom program

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to the SoulSeed Kitchen Connection program on June 3, 2018.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Vanessa Marr with her $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Vanessa Marr with her $1,000 grant.

SoulSeed is an Ann Arbor-based mobile kitchen classroom dedicated to promoting community health through interactive plant-based nutrition education and mindful communication practice. To promote healthy eating in urban areas where residents have limited access to nutritious food, workshops are offered at little or no cost for groups of all ages. Though not exclusive, SoulSeed is intentional about working directly with communities of color, LGBTQ groups, older adults, and youth whose health is at risk due to food insecurity. Based on the needs and interests of the audience, facilitated discussion topics may include “Making Peace with Food: A Holistic Approach to Eating Disorders,” “Cultivating a Positive Body Image,” or “Table Talk: Creating Meaningful Connections Over Meals.”

SoulSeed is organized by Vanessa Marr, a self-described “plant-powered queer woman of color who loves breaking bread with new and old friends through teaching.” After earning her Ph.D. in communication studies, serving as a K-12 and college educator, and volunteering at various urban farms, she is developing SoulSeed as a holistic learning community.

Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to print handouts, obtain cooking equipment, and provide ingredients for groups of 8-20 people per session. Since the workshops are hands-on, reusable bags with additional resources such as recipes, food pantry tips, and measuring spoon sets would help continue the lessons. The goal is for participants to not only practice healthy eating at home, but also to share their learning experiences with others.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Shakespeare in Prison program

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Shakespeare in Prison (SIP) on May 6, 2018.

SIP, Detroit Public Theatre’s signature community program, uses Shakespeare to empower incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people to reconnect with their humanity and that of others; to reflect on their past, present, and future; and to gain the confidence, self-esteem, and crucial skills they need to heal and positively impact their communities. The program has been at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (WHV) for six years, and recently completed its first year at Parnall Correctional Facility, a men’s prison in Jackson.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Frannie Shepherd-Bates of Shakespeare in Prison with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Frannie Shepherd-Bates of Shakespeare in Prison with her $1,000 mini-grant.

The WHV ensemble works for nine months, rehearsing a Shakespeare play and performing it at season’s end. A second 12-week workshop is now underway at Parnall, and this fall the Parnall program will expand to utilize a similar 40-week model.

Incarceration often makes prisoners feel disempowered, worthless, or stupid, shells of who they once were or could have been. The SIP experience profoundly alters this, giving prisoners comrades and a safe space where their ideas are valued and they can improve communication. The values and skills learned in SIP help ensemble members constructively reintegrate into society, making them less likely to re-offend. Those still in prison use what they’ve learned not only for their own benefit, but to positively affect their community.

Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to cover expenses for the SIP men’s program. Facilitators have been volunteering their services for the program out of pure passion. They will now be able to fund a summer workshop, maintaining momentum that will help the men’s program get more buy-in as it continues to develop.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds youth-driven creative agency

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to the Ypsilanti-based youth-driven creative agency Ward 1 Productions on April 9, 2018.

Ward 1 Productions’ mission is to teach youth marketable skills in the new creative economy. The agency produces videos and other media content while also teaching youth leadership and job skills through a project-based training program called the Ward 1 Productions System. The system teaches project management, budgeting, documentary writing, storyboarding, interviewing for film, videography, lighting, sound and staging, editing, social media management, and event planning.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Ward 1 Productions representatives with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Ward 1 Productions representatives with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Ward 1 Productions is a team of adult and youth coaches who believe stories from seldom-heard communities have particular and extraordinary power and that the best stories come from within the story’s own community. The agency is based in Ypsilanti’s Ward 1, the traditionally African-American voting district in the heart of town. Ward 1 Productions is supported in part by MichiganWorks! job training programs and the agency’s partners and customers.

Ward 1 Productions currently borrows most of its video production equipment and has been particularly challenged to get quality audio sound. Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to purchase an audio kit including lavalier mics, a recorder, a boom stand, headphones, a softie windscreen, a handheld mic, a shotgun mic, and a slate.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Flint community garden founded by U-M football players

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Team Gardens on March 4, 2018 to fund its community garden in Flint.

The Flint #Eating Garden is one of multiple community gardens operated by Team Gardens. Team Gardens was founded by former University of Michigan (U-M) football stars Vincent Smith and Martavious Odoms and U-M grad Sonya Sutherland. Odoms and Smith started their first community garden in their hometown of Pahokee, Florida as a way to give back to their community.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundations trustees present Vincent Smith and Sonya Sutherland with their $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Vincent Smith and Sonya Sutherland with their $1,000 grant.

From there, Sutherland and Smith quickly shifted their focus to found a community garden to serve an under-resourced population in Michigan. With the help of other former U-M football players, Team Gardens made the decision to start its newest garden in Flint. The #Eating Garden now occupies five city lots. Team Gardens is currently remediating the soil to grow plants, removing invasive species, and maintaining the area. The team has already created raised bed areas to grow vegetables, focusing on crops that have low water needs.

Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to purchase a variety of supplies for the #Eating demonstration garden and health and nutrition education outreach. The garden’s goal is to get residents active outdoors.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Black Men Read program

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Black Men Read on March 4, 2018.

Black Men Read was founded by two Black mothers and Ypsi residents, Yodit Mesfin Johnson and Tamara Ibarisha. Drawing on their professional and lived experiences, these women saw a need for a literacy program that centered their cultural experiences and history in the stories their children heard. They set out to normalize the historical and cultural contributions of Black people through stories while uplifting and countering the narrative that Black men don’t engage in their families or communities.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Yodit Mesfin Johnson with her $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Yodit Mesfin Johnson with her $1,000 grant.

Black Men Read took shape during Black History Month in 2016 when Johnson and Ibarisha activated their networks and set out to host reading events for children on Saturday mornings, with Black men reading to the children in attendance. The women believe that the stories told are important and essential so that students can “see” themselves in the stories that are read to them. They believe this is key to all children’s cultural awareness and development.

Building on the program’s success, Black Men Read’s founders are now joining with fellow Mitchell Elementary School parent Cathleen Haglund to offer the program to Mitchell students beginning in January 2018. Awesome Foundation funds will be used to provide small stipends to readers, and healthy snacks and books to hand out to children who attend Black Men Read events.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.