The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 grant to First Fridays Ypsilanti for the expansion of their monthly, multi-venue arts walk

FirstFridayAward2

The Trustees of the micro-philanthropic group A2Awesome today announced the award of their 24th $1,000 grant toward the creation of awesomeness in the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti area.

The cash award was given to Kayj Michelle and Elize Jekabson (pictured above) of First Fridays Ypsilanti for the further marketing and development of what has already been an increasingly successful series that brings visual and performing artists into half a dozen different venues in Ypsilanti’s downtown, including Beezy’s Cafe, Bona Sera and the Ugly Mug.

“Last fall, those of us on the First Fridays Ypsilanti (FFY) coordinating committee hit a wall,” said Michelle. “We realized that, if we were going to grow First Fridays into something really special, we were going to need to hire a graphic designer, launch a website, and have posters printed which laid out all of our various venues. Word of mouth has been great, but we’d gotten to point where we needed to formally promote what we’re doing downtown. With this grant, we’ll be able to do that… We’ll be able to better get the word out in the surrounding communities that Ypsi has this free, reoccurring, family-friendly event.”

According to Omari Rush, the Chair of A2Awesome, “The Trustees of the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation were impressed with what Kayj and Elize, and the other First Fridays volunteers, had been able to do with no funding whatsoever, and we wanted to given them an opportunity to see what they could accomplish with a little seed capital. They have big plans on growing First Fridays, and we’re enthusiastic about helping them along that path.”

With this grant, A2Awesome has invested a total of $24,000 in the local community since its inception, making possible everything from an elementary education project involving bike-powered lighting systems to the launch of Ypsilanti’s Bona Sera Cafe.

“What’s really cool about this grant,” says A2Awesome Dean Mark Maynard, “is that Bona Sera played such an integral part in getting First Fridays off the ground in Ypsilanti. It demonstrates, I think, the cumulative nature of what it is that we’re doing. In some small way, the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation helped get Bona Sera off the ground, and, right from the start, they proved to be a positive force in downtown Ypsilanti. Among other things, they fought to launch First Fridays, and, now, over a year later, we’re in a position where we’re helping that initiative grow. And, in another year, I’m sure there will be even more awesomeness sprouting forth as a result of this investment. Awesomeness begets awesomeness.”

“What we’ve been able to accomplish with relatively small, targeted investments,” says A2Awesome member Tanya Luz, “is nothing short of amazing. Our community is full of motivated, talented and brilliant people who just need a little financial help to get their visions off the ground, improve our collective quality of life, and help move our community in a really exciting direction.”

Ypsilanti’s next First Friday event, which is scheduled to take place on Friday, March 7, will present art events at six separate locations. The Ugly Mug Cafe will be featuring artwork by Ezra Livingston and music by Avery Feral. Beezy’s Cafe will be hosting 826Michigan’s student creative writings and performances by EMU’s Forensics. Bona Sera Cafe will have artwork by Dan Hussong and music by Nicole P’Simer. B-24’s Espresso Bar will have art by Brad Ruff and Ashley Stamper, and music by Nick Zomparelli. FLY Children’s Art Center will be hosting a Creative Connections presentation by the Arts Alliance. And the Riverside Arts Center’s Off-Center Gallery will be holding a closing reception for their show, “Six Artists,” presented by Ypsi Art Incubator. Along with the closing reception, YAI will also be hosting a series of Pecha Kucha talks. All events, which are free and open to the public, will run between 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM. Performance times will vary by location.

[An interview with this month's winners can be found here.]

[Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation grants are made on a monthly basis. All people with great, inspiring ideas are encouraged to submit their proposals through the Awesome Foundation site.]

A2Awesome awards $1,000 to Ypsilanti’s Rutherford Pool

RutherfordPoolThe Trustees of A2Awesome are pleased to announce the award of their 12th $1,000 grant toward the creation of awesomeness in the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti area. The cash award was handed over to John Weiss, the chairman of Friends of the Rutherford Pool, the Ypsilanti-based volunteer organization responsible for operating and maintaining the City’s only public pool. “The grant,” says Weiss, comes at a critical time, as we’re just entering the final fundraising push replace our community pool, which was closed in 2011.”

The Rutherford Pool, built in 1971, with the expectation that it would last 25 years, was shut down in 2011, after nearly 40 years of service, due to significant structural and mechanical problems. “We only need $51,000 more to reach our goal of $1,020,000,” says Weiss, “and, if we can raise it by the end of April, we are hopeful we will get in part of a swim season this summer”.

At peak season, attendance at Rutherford Pool averages nearly 350 people daily, with some days over 500. Pool visits in 2010 totaled approximately 15,000. Unfortunately, last year, the pool was closed during what was Michigan’s hottest summer on record, leaving many of Ypsilanti’s most vulnerable citizens without a local option for relief.

“We haven’t traditionally contributed toward capital campaigns.” says A2Awesome Co-Chair Linh Song, “But, in this case, we really felt that we had to do it. The Rutherford Pool is vital resource for Ypsilanti. Ann Arbor cannot be awesome without Ypsilanti and this award reflects that.”

Weiss is hopeful that people will note the Awesome Foundation grant, and follow suit. “The timing of this gift came at a critical point, as we’re reaching the home stretch,” said Weiss. “The individuals who make up our area’s Awesome Foundation are some of our area’s most engaged citizens, and their support goes beyond the gift itself. They’re really helping to advocate and promote the Rutherford Pool cause broadly in our area.”

There are three ways to contribute to the Rutherford Pool campaign:

You can donate through Network for Good… By following that link, donors can contribute as little as $10, or as much as they like using their credit card, debit card or Paypal account.

Supporters can also click here to buy a small or large engraved brick, for a contribution of either $125 or $250.

People can also write a checks to the “Rutherford Pool Fund” and send them directly to the Ypsilanti Area Community Fund, which is housed within the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation:

Rutherford Pool Fund
Ypsilanti Area Community Fund
301 N. Main Street
Suite 300
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1133

[Those seeking more information about the Rutherford Pool project will find an interview with John Weiss here... And, as always, if you have a great, inspiring idea for Washtenaw County of your own that we could help make possible with a $1,000 grant, let us know about it.]

March 2012 Grant – Ozone House

The Trustees of the micro-philanthropic group A2Awesome today awarded their second $1,000 grant toward the creation of awesomeness in the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti area. The funds were handed over, in a brown paper bag, to Quinn Phillips, a representative of Ozone House, a community-based nonprofit which provides shelter and other critical services for runaway, homeless and at-risk youth. Phillips had submitted an Awesome Foundation grant application, requesting funds to build a youth fitness room in the basement of Ozone House’s central facility in Ann Arbor. The $1,000 will be used to acquire a treadmill, stationary bike, dumbbell set, yoga equipment, gym mat, heavy bag and speed bag.

“Our young clients are facing an overwhelming number of challenges,” said Phillips. “This often leads to stress, anger and depression. It is amazing to see how quickly their moods can improve when they have opportunities for physical activities that they enjoy. These are kids who could never afford to take a fitness class, or become a member of a gym. Before coming to Ozone House, they often lack access to nutritious food, and positive recreational activities. Having our own workout space is a wonderful opportunity to let youth blow off some steam in a place where they will be safe and supported. With this space, we’ll be able to bring in local trainers and experts to teach the kids exercise and self-defense techniques.”

This is the second grant to be awarded by the group. The first grant was given to Nathan Ayers, of Ann Arbor, who is presently using his award to build two bike-powered vegetable grow racks, which will be used in the K-12 science classes that he teaches in Ann Arbor and Detroit. According to Ayers, his intention is to create a closed loop system to demonstrate the principles of permaculture – a design and engineering philosophy based on ecology, which has as its objective the creation of sustainable food, energy and community infrastructure systems.

The award to Ozone House, according A2Awesome Trustee Linh Song, was chosen because, of all the ideas submitted, it offered the most payback in terms of local awesome. “I was really pleased to see the group choose Ozone House’s project,” said Song. “They’re making a direct and immediate impact on our community by helping youth in crisis feel awesome.” In addition to the cash award, three A2Awesome Trustees came forward with individual donations, and ideas as to how better to leverage the $1,000 award. Song, for instance, was able to arrange for the donation of a treadmill, allowing for the cash award to go even further.

A2 Awesome, which is composed of 13 individuals, is organized under the banner of the Boston-based Awesome Foundation. The stated purpose of the local group, according to chairwoman Lisa Dengiz is, “ to provide streamlined seed funding for creative folks and projects that bring spirit, wonder and awesomeness to our local community.” The organization intends to make one grant a month for the foreseeable future. All grants will be in the amount of $1,000.

Those with creative, inspired ideas are encouraged to apply for the grant online. Grant deadlines are on the last day of each month.

“There’s a sense that, if we’re going to solve the problems that are facing us as a community, we’re going to have to be creative, and we’re going to have to do it ourselves. A2Awesome is looking for investment opportunities where a relatively small amount of money can be leveraged to make really meaningful positive change over time,” said Mark Maynard, a trustee of the group.

Every month, chapter trustees contribute their own personal funds toward a $1,000, no-strings-attached grant to an awesome project that promises to make life better. In addition to Dengiz and Maynard, the group includes Dick Soble, Paul Saginaw, Jeff Meyers, Linh Song, Heather MacKenzie, Monique Deschaine, Hans Masing, Alice Liberson, Omari Rush, Tanya Luz and Larry Grant.

Created in 2009 in Boston, the Awesome Foundation now has chapters in over 30 cities across the globe. In addition to the new Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti chapter, there are Awesome Foundation outposts in both Detroit and Grand Rapids. Projects funded have included efforts in a wide range of areas including technology, arts, social good, and beyond.

All people with great, inspiring ideas are encouraged to submit their proposals here.

For information on Ozone House, please visit their website.

[Photo caption: A2Awesome Trustees Omari Rush, Linh Song and Hans Masing, present a bag containing $1,000 to Ozone House’s Quinn Phillips.]