Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds project to turn school bus into sustainable living space

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded its monthly $1,000 mini-grant to University of Michigan senior Tori Essex on December 3, 2017 to fund her efforts to turn a school bus into a sustainable living space.

Essex, a student in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, plans to use the finished bus to convey themes of sustainability and living a creative lifestyle. She will drive the bus to volunteer with farms and nonprofits both in Ann Arbor and across the United States, inspired by her experience volunteering on an organic farm in Ireland last summer. The bus will have a formal audience at the 2018 Stamps Senior Show in April and an informal audience on the road. Instead of making work about sustainability and a creative lifestyle, Essex intends the bus to be a creative work that embodies those themes while serving a utility.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Tori Essex with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Tori Essex with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Essex has already purchased a bus at auction, and is currently in the process of renovating its interior. The finished bus will contain custom-built furnishings such as benches with built-in storage, fold-away tables, bookcases, a bed, a sink, a composting toilet, and a booth made out of bus seats. The exterior will have a space for an outdoor shower head and curtain, and a platform on the roof. Essex will source as much material as possible from recycle and reuse centers, scrap material, and free material. She expects to learn the most from her hands-on design and building process.

Essex’s Awesome Foundation grant funds will go toward the $5,000 overall budget for her project. Since the bus has already been purchased, grant funds will go primarily towards purchasing scrap and recycled materials to renovate and furnish the bus. More information and updates on the project can be found at Essex’s blog.

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 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 DJing workshop for women

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded one of two $1,000 mini-grants to Seraphine Collective on November 5, 2017 to fund the collective’s Beat Match Brunch program for female and female-identifying DJs.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Sophia Softky of Seraphine Collective with their grant funds.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Sophia Softky of Seraphine Collective with their grant funds.

DJ culture, in Detroit and elsewhere, is male-dominated: VICE magazine reports that women make up under 10 percent of all DJs at music festivals. There is also a high barrier to entry — the cost of equipment can be prohibitive, and as beginners, women are less likely to have access to technical mentorship, practice space, and booking opportunities. In April 2016, Seraphine Collective, a Detroit community of feminists supporting marginalized Detroit artists, rose to this challenge. The collective launched its first workshop series, Beat Match Brunch, a month-long introduction to the fundamentals of the art form for aspiring female-identified DJs. The first workshop, facilitated by Detroit DJ Mother Cyborg, was so popular that about half of the applicants had to be turned away.

Eight women with diverse musical tastes and cultural backgrounds learned how to use turntables; handle, select and “read” vinyl records; isolate sounds; and use beats per minute to beat-match, all in a supportive and collaborative environment. After completing the workshop, several of the DJs have continued to independently borrow equipment, organize practice sessions, and perform at dozens of events around town.

Seraphine Collective hosted its next round of workshops, for 12 people this time, in September 2017. Additionally, the collective hopes that the Beat Match Brunch program will become self-sustaining, with graduates teaching later generations and performing at fundraising events.

Awesome Foundation funds will be used to purchase industry-standard equipment, rent practice space, compensate facilitators, and build a record library for collective use. Seraphine Collective’s first priority is to purchase at least one more set of secondhand Technics 1200 turntables, and purchase a collection of practice records. With funding from the Awesome Foundation, the collective will be able to continue opening up the dance floor as a transformative organizing space for women often marginalized by technology and media.

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 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 Michigan Prison Doula Initiative

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded one of two $1,000 mini-grants to the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative on November 5, 2017.

 Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Jacqueline Williams and Emily Sluiter of the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative with their grant money.


Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Jacqueline Williams and Emily Sluiter of the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative with their grant money.

The Michigan Prison Doula Initiative (MPDI) is a start-up nonprofit that seeks to support incarcerated pregnant mothers during their prenatal, labor, and postpartum process through doula support, childbirth education, and postpartum visitation coordination. Women who are pregnant and incarcerated represent one of the most vulnerable factions of our community. Incarcerated mothers are often affected by poverty, racism, domestic violence, and drug addiction. Therefore, pregnancies are often high-risk to mother and child, and marred by lack of adequate prenatal care.

MPDI seeks to mitigate some of these effects by providing an experienced doula for each eligible mother, as well as full-spectrum childbirth and nutritional education classes. After the birth, MPDI seeks to work with the Michigan Department of Corrections and Catholic Social Services to allow for more visitation between mother and infant, creating opportunities for bonding and breastfeeding when available. Elsewhere, these efforts have been shown to reduce recidivism rates, strengthen the mother-child bond, and help reintegrate mothers back into their communities upon release. MPDI’s ultimate goal is to train mothers post-release to work within MPDI in some capacity, offering no- or low-cost doula and childbirth education training as a means to widen employment opportunities for interested mothers. MPDI is in discussions with Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility to launch a pilot program.

MPDI co-founder Jacqueline Williams is an activist, mother, and writer from southeast Michigan. Although she and her collaborators are experienced doulas, no one in MPDI has ever worked as a prison doula. Therefore, MPDI doulas will use their Awesome Foundation grant funds to attend a prison doula training hosted by the Prison Birth Project in Massachusetts this winter. They also hope to attend a reproductive justice conference hosted by Hampshire College next spring. In the meantime, MPDI is gathering childbirth and nutritional education materials to send into the prison, as well as assessing the cost of textbook provisions.

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 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 Southeast Michigan Doula Project

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation’s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to the Southeast Michigan Doula Project (SMDP) on September 10, 2017 to fund doula training scholarships for marginalized local women.

SMDP has a base of approximately 50 dedicated and trained volunteer doulas who serve the nine southeast Michigan counties. These women provide evidence-based, emotional, physical, and informational support to pregnant women, teens, and their families before, during, and after birth. In addition to birth doula services, SMDP is committed to community outreach and public awareness regarding reproductive issues.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Ashton Steele of the Southeast Michigan Doula Project with her $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Ashton Steele of the Southeast Michigan Doula Project with her $1,000 mini-grant.

SMDP was founded three years ago by two newly trained doulas who shared a vision of volunteering their services to low-income and homeless pregnant women and teens. It became obvious that there was a need for doulas within the local community when SMDP’s founders were asked to expand their services to low-income women working with University of Michigan midwives. Within one month they had too many clients to handle on their own and were scrambling to find other community doulas to volunteer their time.

SMDP has recognized a gap in its ability to provide the majority of its clients who come from marginalized groups with a doula of similar identity. Additionally, women from these marginalized groups encounter financial barriers to obtaining doula training. Part of SMDP’s mission is to bridge this gap by providing as many doula training scholarships as possible to women who would not otherwise be able to afford it, but would be great assets and diverse members of the local birth community. These scholarships would also provide recipients with future entrepreneurial opportunities serving as for-hire doulas to the more affluent mothers and families who can afford them.

SMDP’s Awesome Foundation grant will be used to provide three doula training scholarships to women who are representative of marginalized groups, including but not limited to women of color, LGBT women, and economically underprivileged women. These recipients will be added to SMDP’s volunteer base to better provide SMDP clients with doulas who share their identity and life experiences.

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.

 

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.