Omari Rush has aligned his interests in creating opportunities for communities and individuals to have rich learning and arts experiences through his work as Education Manager for UMS and through regularly designing engaging events for peers outside of the office, such as shur! and the Fox Trot. Additionally, he has served in an advisory role for organizations of varying cultural and geographic scopes: the State of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Kennedy Center Partners in Education National Advisory Committee, and the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation. Omari earned degrees in music from the University of Michigan and Florida State University (Go Noles!), and while his concert performances as a clarinetist are now infrequent, Omari fills his downtime with playing poker and fantasy football (badly), reading (especially American Revolution literature), and eating kimchi (lots). Omari is the Chair of A2Awesome.
Mark Maynard works in marketing and business development. In his spare time, he hangs out with his lovely family, blogs about politics, community and culture, and meanders around Ypsilanti looking for opportunities to bring people together, stir things up, and make things happen. When not behind a desk, Mark can generally be found at Ypsilanti’s Water Street Commons, where he and others are working to reintroduce native plants and create a vibrant downtown public arts space. Mark presently serves as Dean of A2Awesome, and, in that role, looks forward to helping empower his friends, neighbors and various brilliant strangers to make positive, awe-inspiring change within the community.
Paul Saginaw is the Co-Owner & Founding Partner of Zingerman’s. Zingerman’s started in 1982 as 1300 square feet of combined restaurant and specialty food retail space, run solely by Paul, Ari Weinzweig and two employees. The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses now has 17 partners, employs over 600 people and generates over $40 million in annual sales from eight separate businesses: Zingerman’s Delicatessen (including Zingerman’s Catering), Zingerman’s Mail Order, Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Zingerman’s Training Inc., Zingerman’s Coffee Company, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Zingerman’s Creamery and Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory. Paul believes that he has been successful in spite of the fact that he has limited natural talent and abilities because he has always believed that the only real limits are those of vision. Paul also believes that if in fact he has any talent at all it would be the ability to pick great partners.
Monique Deschaine, the founder of the Al Dente Pasta Company, brings people from all walks of life together around the table. For her it’s about the sharing, the fun, the energy of possibility and discovering perfect matches. Never with any shortage of enthusiasm herself, she can channel and corral it for others too. Her specialty is seeing the connections among us all and her perspective as an entrepreneur hones in on all inherent potential. In fact, she loses sleep over the idea of any missed opportunity.
Heather MacKenzie’s favorite tee-shirt, from the 70’s, has the Milky Way Galaxy photo on it with an arrow on a tiny dot that says, “You Are Here!” An enthusiast for good ideas and with an expansive frame of reference, Heather feels that even though we are surrounded by much suffering, there is much to celebrate. Heather works to embrace, enhance and support the lives of folks in her community and so… AWESOME is the word! Heather sees clients as an AEDP psychotherapist and spends as much time as possible at Jewel Heart and with her husband Vic and extended family.
Dick Soble was a civil rights lawyer for 40 years, litigating human rights violations, inhumane treatment of women in prisons, and police misconduct cases. Currently, he is a full-time mediator. He has a part time I.T. Department consisting of his two grandchildren, Sophie and Anna, ages 7 and 9. They are available for part time consults before 8:00 PM every evening. Dick believes good ideas should be given a chance to succeed and that the Awesome Foundation is that chance.
Dale Grover is co-owner of Maker Works (a makerspace in Ann Arbor), started GO-Tech (Ann Arbor’s monthly geek show-and-tell), helped found the A2 MechShop (coworking space for engineers), and is a founding organizer of the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire.
Nakia Johnson brings together great people, ideas and tools to solve problems in academic, corporate, and government settings. She feels that many people in her community and throughout her career have pitched in to help her realize her good ideas. A2Awesome is a way for her to “Pay it Forward.” Although a resident of Michigan all of her life (“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”), one of her many goals is to make it to all 50 states. Nakia’s recent work travels have put her well over halfway to her goal. When she isn’t working, she is either finding new things to eat, see and do or spending time with her husband, family and friends.
Muffy MacKenzie is excited and honored to be a member of such a great team supporting awesome people and their visions in our community! Muffy feels very fortunate to have taken a non-traditional path over the years and has been on some grand adventures that have open her mind to the awesomeness of people and cultures in our world. She is now sharing her life with her husband Dick Beedon and daughter Frances, and shares her joys, challenges and sorrows with wonderful family and friends. Muffy is a mediator, facilitator and board member for the Dispute Resolution Center of Washtenaw and Livingston Counties and is very passionate about helping individuals, students, families and communities find creative, workable and peaceful solutions for their challenges.
Johanna Epstein spent her childhood in two “intentional communities” started by artists, peace activists, and academics north of NYC. After living on the West Coast for many years, she moved to Ann Arbor. In Ann Arbor she raised her daughters, Marina and Lilia, with her husband, Steven. She has been an advocate in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi/Detroit communities through professional and volunteer work. Traveling/living/working out of the USA – and what comes with it – language/culture, meeting people, new ways of thinking, & learning have informed her world view. She aims to live creatively – navigating a life at the intersection of art/education/social justice/diversity/life celebration. She is honored to participate in the Awesome Foundation, a group that facilitates innovative and conscientious projects.
Ryan Noel is an Ann Arbor “townie”, born and raised here. He earned both his bachelor’s degree and his MBA from UofM, and he currently works in the UofM Health System. Ryan is very active within the community and currently sits on multiple Boards including the Leslie Science & Nature Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters and The U-School. Ryan also co-leads the Next Generation Philanthropists through the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. He loves all UofM sports, but especially football and basketball. He’s an avid cook and baker as well, and is currently working on creating a cookbook. Ryan also enjoys staying active – running, hiking, paddleboarding and playing other sports.
Jeff Meyers is the managing editor of online magazines Concentrate and Metromode, and an award-winning film critic for Detroit’s Metro Times. He also writes and makes movies. Before moving to Michigan in 2003, Jeff was the founding Artistic Director of Theatre Vertigo in Portland, OR, an Oregon Book Award finalist, a theater critic for Seattle’s The Stranger, the creative director for a video production start-up, taught a cultural history of theater at Clark College, WA, and, once upon a time, worked as a microbiologist. Between serving as a board member for 826Michigan and being a member of A2Awesome Jeff hopes that can help make his community a more vibrant, creative, and inspiring place to live.
TRUSTEE EMERITUS AND FOUNDER:
Lisa Dengiz, who is always in search of awe, delight and creativity, works as a group facilitator at Ele’s Place and has a private therapy practice working with youth and the young at heart. What brings Lisa the greatest joy in life are family, friends and helping to serve and support awesome community-based projects. Along with many cool activists pals, Lisa has been been a serial co-founder of many youth-serving and arts-based non-profits, including the The Neutral Zone. Lisa is the founder of A2 Awesome Foundation and is excited to be able to award seed funds to creative folks who seek to bring more joy, wonder and awesomeness into the community.