Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds children’s library program

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Books for a Benefit on August 13, 2017.

Founded by two University of Michigan students, Books for a Benefit is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help low-income and minority students overcome barriers to a proper education. One of the projects the organization has undertaken has been to provide libraries for different nonprofit social programs. Books for a Benefit works to donate the supplies necessary to have a substantial library addition to these facilities with no cost burden to their budgets,  recognizing that these programs are not always able to allocate funds for promoting literacy or the arts when they are often strained to provide for the day-to-day essentials.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Malini Dasgupta of Books for a Benefit with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Malini Dasgupta of Books for a Benefit with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Books for a Benefit provides a large number of books fitting the age ranges of program participants, furniture such as bookshelves and seating for reading areas, decorations, and painting and cleaning supplies. The organization has been able to build libraries in a variety of areas including the youth shelter services program Matrix Off the Streets in Detroit, Cornerstone Community Outreach in Chicago, and PRIMO Center for Women and Children in Englewood through Alternative Spring Break Trips to Chicago. Books for a Benefit’s efforts have created environments that promote and facilitate interest in reading through providing a safe, calm space to escape into the stories.

Books for a Benefit’s Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to purchase the supplies necessary to build more libraries, starting with one to be housed in either the Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti location of the youth homelessness nonprofit Ozone House. Grant funds will be used to purchase furniture, transportation, and food.

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, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of 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 Ypsilanti farm employing citizens returning from incarceration

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to We the People Growers Association (WTPGA) on July 9, 2017 to create a tool shed and employee rest and rehydration station.

We The People Growers Association (WTPGA) recently signed a land lease agreement to create a 1.5-acre community-based farm in Ypsilanti with the goal of employing men and women returning home from incarceration. Currently, WTPGA has tilled 8,000 square feet and created 12 vegetable beds. As WTPGA develops, one of its immediate needs is infrastructure development. WTPGA will partner with Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley (HHHV) to meet the critical infrastructural need of constructing a tool shed for secure on-site storage, as well as a place for employees and volunteers to rest and rehydrate.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present We the People Growers Association founder Melvin Parson with his grant money.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present We the People Growers Association founder Melvin Parson with his grant money.

Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to buy construction supplies for the tool shed and rest and rehydration station. In partnership with HHHV, volunteers will work together to construct both projects over the course of a day-long community event this summer.

WTPGA was founded in 2015 by Melvin Parson. Parson has developed a passion for building community since returning home from 13 years of incarceration. He is a recent graduate of Eastern Michigan University’s School of Social Work and is currently a student at Michigan State University’s Student Organic Farm training program.

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, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of 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 phone in Ypsilanti

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Futel on June 5, 2017 to create a new free public phone in downtown Ypsilanti.

Futel is a telephone company and 501(c)(3) organization offering free domestic calls, messaging, human interaction, connections to services, and interactive audio art. Some features are accessed from free payphones which Futel installs in public places, and some are accessed from an incoming phone number.

After hearing a presentation from Futel founder Karl Anderson, Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees try unsuccessfully to give him his grant money through the power of FaceTime.

After hearing a presentation from Futel founder Karl Anderson, Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees try unsuccessfully to give him his grant money through the power of FaceTime.

Futel currently has three public phones in Portland, Oregon, the first of which was installed in 2014. The phones are armored, weatherproof, and low-maintenance, requiring just internet access and a solid place to attach them to. By the end of 2016, over 750 free outgoing calls were initiated per month from Futel phones, and over 50 calls were logged with Futel’s volunteer operators throughout the year. Futel’s Awesome Foundation grant will go towards installing a public free payphone outside Landline Creative Labs at 209 S. Pearl in Ypsilanti.

Futel is founded by Karl Anderson, who splits his time between Portland, Oregon, and Ann Arbor. He is working with Landline Creative Labs founder Mark Maynard to bring Futel to Ypsilanti. Anderson has been involved in several industrial art projects, usually based around making useful, or at least interesting, items out of trash. He thinks the most straightforward thing he’s made may have been a human-powered amphibious jet boat built from dumpstered bikes and house demolition detritus.

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, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of 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 immigration-themed exhibition at Ypsi Experimental Space

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to the Ypsi Experimental Space (YES) on May 7, 2017, to support an upcoming immigration-themed art show by artist Parisa Ghaderi.

Ghaderi’s current work explores the existential and emotional complexities inherent in the act of immigration. Ghaderi will be collaborating with EMU political science professor, Ebrahim Soltani – who, like Ghaderi, is from Iran – to create a multimedia installation that aims to paint a personal portrait of immigration and loss. Ghaderi and Soltani attempt to transform a painful human odyssey into a visceral experience, highlighting the gap between immigration as a set of policies and as a human condition.

“Living in Iran and the U.S. has been an ‘in-between’ state of affairs for me: I never fully arrived nor fully left,” Ghaderi says. “In my work, I am dealing with emotional and physical distance, compounded loss, and the opacity of language; I explore moments of pause that are filled with vulnerability, silence, and contradiction.”

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present YES founder Mark Tucker with his $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present YES founder Mark Tucker with his $1,000 grant.

Ghaderi and Soltani create an “image-repertoire” (a phrase borrowed from Roland Barthes) which represents a set of realities in artists’ minds: the “imagined reality” of the loved ones who are physically and emotionally absent. In this exhibition, they disrupt an episode of a lost “reality” by manipulating photographs of that “reality” as its only “physical evidences”.

Ghaderi and Soltani’s unique installation opens on June 2nd – coinciding with First Fridays and Ypsi Pride – and will be open until June 23rd at YES, 8 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti, MI (just behind MIX).

Awesome Foundation funds will help cover the installation costs of producing this timely exhibition. The funds will go towards equipment that is necessary for supporting the video/sound tech elements in Ghaderi’s installation. The sound and lighting equipment will then continue to support YES’ future public art projects, including serving as a community arts space open to hosting, creating, and celebrating experimental arts related events. YES was set in motion (in the former Mix Theater space) in 2016 by FestiFools founder/creator Mark Tucker and filmmaker Donald Harrison.

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 pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Cobblestone Farm Market receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to the Cobblestone Farm Market on April 9, 2017.

Cobblestone Farm Market will use the grant to pay a part-time seasonal food assistance manager for the weekly market, which is held at Cobblestone Farm on the south side of Ann Arbor. Market organizers hope to employ a young person from economically distressed communities in order for the market to bolster its food assistance offerings with compassion and grace. The candidate search will include help from the Community Action Network of Washtenaw County and other services that support our under-resourced community members.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present representatives of Cobblestone Farm Market with their $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present representatives of Cobblestone Farm Market with their $1,000 grant.

The Cobblestone Farm Market is an earth-friendly non-profit organization that focuses on strengthening community and increasing local food accessibility, security, and quality. The market is a project of the Cobblestone Farm Association. The market creates profitable micro-business opportunities for local small-scale organic growers, producers, and artists. It also engages in community outreach and partnerships with local food pantries and other organizations to build community, share knowledge, and create awareness of local markets. This self-sustaining market provides a safe community space that allows individuals and families from diverse backgrounds to connect over healthy food, fun activities, live music and cooking demonstrations. Held each Tuesday from May through October, the market has become a hub of the neighborhood, providing a lively location to gather and do good.

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 pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

SMILE children’s reading program receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation grant

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to the SMILE (Sycamore Meadows Introduces Literacy Engagement) program on March 5, 2017.

Mothers Marcy Schwab and Sentra Brownlee founded the SMILE program for the children in their low-income Superior Township neighborhood, Sycamore Meadows. SMILE is a reading group hosted at Schwab’s house every other Wednesday. Children ages 1-14 are invited to eat a healthy snack and listen to a story. In the program children learn sight words, ask questions about the featured book, and get to pick out a book to take home with them from a shelf of donated books. Schwab tracks attendance each time, and when a child attends five times he or she is allowed to pick a prize. If a child reads a book to the group then he or she can automatically pick a prize and receive a “Superstar Reader” certificate.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present a $1,000 grant to representatives of the SMILE children's reading program.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present a $1,000 grant to representatives of the SMILE children’s reading program.

Schwab, a single mother with four children of her own, was inspired to start the program when she noticed how interested neighborhood kids were when she read to her children. Schwab is a member of the Washtenaw Great Start Parent Coalition and also works with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Early Childhood Early Head Start Home Visiting Program.

Attendance at SMILE programs has grown to 15-20 children per session. Awesome Foundation funds will be used to cover the costs of healthy snacks, floor cushions for the kids to sit on, books, Little Free Libraries for the neighborhood, prizes, SMILE T-shirts, book tote bags, a chair for the reader, and seed money to help another parent do a similar program in the Sycamore Meadows neighborhood.

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, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ypsi March for Love, Resilience, and Action receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was formally awarded to the Ypsi March for Love, Resilience, and Action on February 6, 2017.

A group of Ypsilanti residents planned the march as a response to the inauguration of President Trump. The march was conceived to mobilize citizens to prepare creatively for the incoming Trump administration, to focus on local issues and build local resilience, to further alliances and express support across Ypsi, and as an option for local residents who were unable to travel to marches planned in Washington, D.C.

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Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present members of the Ypsi March for Love, Resilience, and Action team with their $1,000 grant.

On Saturday, January 21, the march route passed by Ypsilanti sites that honor abolitionists, women of color, and other members of marginalized communities. The march also featured a theatrical performance, booths and spaces for community and social service resources, voter education/registration, a cozy space for breastfeeding, a nonviolent security team, a women-only (trans-inclusive) space, and more. The march attracted a crowd of 1,200.

The march planning committee planned two other events as well. On Monday, January 16, marchers also gathered to support Ypsilanti Community Schools’ teens in their Martin Luther King Jr. Day march and art show commemorating Frederick Douglass. And on Friday, January 20, marchers were invited to make banners and signs, share music, and express their responses to the election at Bona Sera.

Awesome Foundation funds were used for art supplies, permitting for the January 21 march, publicity, food and beverages at the event, and renting space for the event. Given the time-sensitive nature of the event, grant funds were awarded early on January 8.

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, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ypsi High Superhero Program receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Jermaine Dickerson of the Ypsi High Superhero Program on January 8, 2017.

The Ypsi High Superhero Program is a high school youth initiative in Ypsilanti that utilizes superheroes to improve character through creative storytelling and fictional character development. Superheroes are colorful representations of our dreams, hopes, and life experiences. The journeys they endure are often inherently reflective of our own lives. Whether it’s overcoming their fears to defeat a formidable enemy, or accepting the responsibility that comes with great power, superheroes, at their core, are human. This program uses these principles and converts them into life lessons for youth. These lessons will help build character and improve confidence while providing students with a platform to creatively tell their own superhero stories, where they are the heroes.

Awesome Foundation trustees present Jermaine Dickerson with his $1,000 minigrant.

Awesome Foundation trustees present Jermaine Dickerson with his $1,000 mini-grant.

The Ypsi High Superhero Program is currently offered as an afterschool program at Ypsilanti Community High School through Eastern Michigan University’s (EMU) Bright Futures program. The program is created and led by Jermaine Dickerson, an Ypsilanti graphic designer, illustrator, and superhero enthusiast who believes there is much reformative power not just in art and design, but also in the very idea of superheroes. Apart from this program, Dickerson has done other superhero workshops and worked closely with the city of Ypsilanti and EMU on a variety of creative projects.

In addition to purchasing diverse comics books for the program, Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to buy graphics tablets for each student to use during the comic book creation process, T-shirts with their superhero emblems, and printed copies of their comic books.

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, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Girl Scouts transgender inclusion summit receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan (GSHOM) on December 4, 2016, for a November conference on supporting the inclusion of transgender girls in Girl Scouts.

GSHOM is based in Ypsilanti and serves Girl Scouts in 34 counties across the Lower Peninsula. It has worked diligently to ensure transgender girls are welcomed into all Girl Scout activities. GSHOM has begun to develop facilities (non-gender specific bath and private changing areas at camps and regional headquarters) and changing signage to accommodate transgender girls in a way they will feel safe and well cared for.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan fund development specialist Chelsie Armstrong with a $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan fund development specialist Chelsie Armstrong with a $1,000 grant.

The national Girl Scout organization has embraced this issue, and across the country, Councils are challenged with providing support materials and information for implementation that fit their local and regional needs. GSHOM has reached out to the national organization and others for support materials for staff and leaders to be able to advocate for and communicate around issues transgender girls face, and find real ways Girl Scouts can provide meaningful experiences in their lives. Resources specific to orienting and educating Girl Scout volunteers on ways to best transition girls into troops and other Girl Scout offerings need to be developed, and GSHOM seeks to springboard this development, creating much-needed educational sessions and leading from a grassroots position.

GSHOM’s initial effort was to engage Girl Scout leadership from across the country and local youth-serving organizations in education and planning sessions through a three-day “Supporting Inclusiveness in Girl Scouts” summit held in November. The summit included a keynote speaker, plenary session, and a series of workshops. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Diane Schroer, nationally recognized as a pioneer in transgender issues, delivered the keynote address.

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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, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Global Water Dances receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Global Water Dances on November 6, 2016, for the upcoming Global Water Dances community dance event in Flint.

Global Water Dances celebrates water and life through the art of dance with an awareness of environmental actions. Global Water Dances has had a vibrant history for seven years. It has staged three worldwide events in 2011, 2013, and 2015, with a fourth event planned next year. One day, every two years, over 80 cities from around the world participate in the Global Water Dances event. From Beijing, China to Zadar, Croatia, choreographers take on local water issues through workshops, dance activism and dialogue.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Global Water Dances Flint team members with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Global Water Dances Flint team members with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Flint, MI will host its first-ever Global Water Dances event on June 24, 2017 at Riverbank Park. The event will be structured in four parts. The first section, “Ritual,” is an opening ceremony specific to each site. The second section, “Local Dance,” will be a dance created by choreographers from the area, using locally-based music, related to the river and recovery efforts. The third section, “Global Dance,” features simultaneous choreography done by all the performers worldwide to the same piece of music, connecting participants and audience globally. The fourth section, “Participatory Dance,” encourages audience participation in a simple movement sequence.

Shawn Lent, social practice dance artist and program director for the Chicago Dancemakers Forum, is organizing the event. Leading up to the event, Lent and other dance artists are conducting community dialogue workshops through the arts in Flint. Partners in Flint include Karen Mills Jennings and students at the Flint School of Performing Arts, Emma Davis at the University of Michigan-Flint, and artists Peggy Mead Finizio, Adesola Akinleye and Alisyn Hurd.

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, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.