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.
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.