UPDATE 2: After Impact 100's event Thursday night, board members discovered there had been an error in the group's voting. Rather than take away money from any deserving organization, the board of directors voted to find enough money to give $104,000 grants to all the finalists. Friday morning, that's exactly what they did. A local foundation that wants to remain anonymous gave the group $208,000 so it could distribute grants to all six finalists.
"This outcome is a testament to how Impact 100 works, the incredible commitment to the power of giving and the steadfast trust you place in us to always do the right thing," the board of directors wrote in an email to members on Friday.
UPDATE: Impact 100 selected the four winners for its big grants. They are: City Gospel Mission, Wave Pool, Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati and Venice on Vine. Read more below about the winners and what they will do with their money.
CINCINNATI – One of the most rewarding nights of the year will happen Thursday for the 480 women who make up Impact 100, but it also will be one of the most difficult.
It will be rewarding because that’s when the giving collective will decide which of six nonprofits will receive grants to expand their work and broaden their impact on the region.
It will difficult because there’s only enough money for four of the six.
“Every single agency has a group of women who are cheerleading for their success,” said Clare Zlatic Blankemeyer, the president of Impact 100. “It’s extremely challenging.”
Each of the four Impact 100 grants will be for $104,000. All the money comes from the collective’s members, women who pay either $500 or $1,000 annually to be part of the group. Dozens of them have been involved in selecting finalists in five focus areas: culture; education; environment preservation and recreation; family; and health and wellness. Every woman that is part of the group gets a say on which organizations win.
WCPO met with all six finalists to understand what each organization would do with the money. Here’s what we learned from Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, La Soupe, Venice on Vine, Wave Pool, Welcome House of Northern Kentucky and City Gospel Mission.
Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati
This group gets urban teens into nature for healthy outdoor recreation and currently operates in 24 schools in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
Teens that are part of the clubs go on different adventures each month with activities that include kayaking, hiking, biking and camping. The nonprofit pays for everything, including transportation, gear, fees and even lunches.
“Without us, most of these children wouldn’t get to do this,” said Executive Director Kirsten MacDougal. “It’s remarkable to see these kids who don’t even have back yards be able to go on the Little Miami River and kayak.”
The goal is to offer foster youth additional stability through their relationship with the organization and the relationship they can develop with nature, she said, adding, “It’s very therapeutic.”
The more young people appreciate nature, the more interest they will have in caring for it, she said.
“Over time the impact is on our entire community because you’re creating more conservationists,” she said.
Founded in 2014 by Chef Suzy DeYoung, La Soupe’s mission is to “bridge the gap between food waste and hunger.” The organization rescues food that would otherwise be wasted and uses it to create nutritious meals for customers, nonprofit organizations and families that don’t always have enough to eat.
Each week La Soupe rescues a total of 5,000 pounds of perishable food and feeds roughly 2,400 children with the help of 47 schools and partner agencies.
The organization also gives food to such nonprofits as Talbert House, Shelterhouse and Lighthouse Youth and Family Services if it gets donations of ready-to-eat prepared food.
If La Soupe wins an Impact 100 grant, DeYoung said she would use the money to buy much-needed equipment, including: a blast freezer to reduce the amount of time it takes to freeze its soup; a vacuum sealer to keep food fresh longer after kids receive it; and a commercial-grade food processor to speed up chopping and food preparation.
“The quicker we can produce this food and get it broken down and cooked, the more we’ll be able to give,” DeYoung said. “We hope we can at least double the impact of the lives we’re able to touch.”
Venice on Vine
This Over-the-Rhine restaurant grew out of the efforts of religious women who wanted to serve people living in Over-the-Rhine and the West End back in the 1980s. They got their start delivering emergency services, opening up a food pantry and then visiting people in prison.
But along the way, they decided it would be better to help people earn money to buy the food they wanted, said Greg Zoller, Venice on Vine’s director of development.
The women created several small businesses built around the skills of the people they wanted to serve, and the most successful was a catering kitchen.
The current Venice on Vine location opened in 2006. The restaurant provides job training for people who have struggled because of a lack of experience, a history of incarceration or other barriers.
“One thing that unites them is a desire to move forward,” Zoller said. “A desire to move past the difficulties that have held them back and into a better life for themselves and their families.”
Venice on Vine would use the Impact 100 grant to open a food truck called Venice Paninis.
The goal is to expand the number of people Venice on Vine can serve, generate enough money from the food truck to pay for its operations and maybe even some extra to support Venice on Vine’s other job-training efforts, Zoller said.
Wave Pool is a contemporary art center that focuses on social justice issues and engaging with the community. The organization works with many different partners to help people and communities in the city.
Its partnership with the nonprofit organization Heartfelt Tidbits would benefit if Wave Pool wins an Impact 100 grant.
Called the Welcome Project, the partnership offers refugee and immigrant women a space in Camp Washington where they can learn to sew and create art that can be sold from the storefront.
“The mission is to connect refugee and immigrant women with their newest neighbors and make them feel welcome and part of the community at large,” said Cal Cullen, executive director of Wave Pool.
Refugees, in particular, can suffer from depression and feelings of isolation, Cullen said, and forging connections through the Welcome Project can provide a network of support.
An Impact 100 grant would give Wave Pool the funds to double its space at the Welcome Center and open up a fresh produce market and a teaching kitchen where immigrant and refugee women would teach cooking classes to people in Camp Washington, which is a food desert.
“We could double the number of refugee women we serve but also serve the neighborhood in a real way beyond providing the art and sewing classes we offer,” Cullen said.
The nonprofit works to end homelessness through a variety of services. Those include a shelter for women and children, 92 units of affordable housing and so-called “wraparound services” to help homeless people in the eight-county Northern Kentucky region get the support they need to stabilize their lives.
Winning an Impact 100 grant would help Welcome House build upon the outreach program it began a year and a half ago, said Justin Beale, the director of program operations there.
Welcome House started the work because there were no street outreach services in Northern Kentucky, he said, and the only health clinic dedicated to providing health care for homeless people had closed.
The nonprofit hired a nurse practitioner who has been strapping on a backpack filled with medical supplies and hitting the streets, looking for homeless people that need her help.
The grant would give Welcome House funds to buy a medical RV and medical supplies to equip it, Beale said.
“It would mean that we’d be able to serve more people and provide better quality medical care,” he said. “Right now we’re providing care next to a Dumpster, on a street corner or in a public restroom.”
City Gospel Mission
Although City Gospel Mission is probably best known for providing shelter and other faith-based services to homeless men, the organization has a whole other host of programs, too.
Its mission is to “break the cycle of poverty and despair one life at a time.” City Gospel Mission’s youth programs for years have ranged from preschool through college, serving young people from age four through 24, said Executive Vice President Barry Baker.
Winning an Impact 100 grant would help City Gospel Mission extend its reach further by funding something called “Little Villages” to serve families with children from birth through age five.
Modeled after a program that associate staff member Melanie Gomez experienced when she and her family lived in Sweden, Little Villages would be a play space with lots of activities for children, Gomez said.
But parents wouldn’t drop off their children like at a daycare. Rather, they would stay to play with their kids and get to know other families and children in their communities.
“It will allow us to build relationships and intervene with families at any point along their developmental line,” Gomez said.
City Gospel Mission is looking to launch the first play space in Westwood, but Baker said he hopes that will just be the start.
“What I’m really excited about is learning from it and replicating it,” he said. “I think this would play, and play well, in the suburbs and throughout Greater Cincinnati.”
And the winners are…
By the end of Impact 100’s Thursday evening event, the finalists will know if they won the grants or if they didn’t.
But Clare Zlatic Blankemeyer said she’s hopeful that even the two nonprofits that don’t get $104,000 from Impact 100 will benefit from the process.
The women of Impact 100 vet the organizations carefully to make sure they are financially sound and would use the money responsibly. In the past, that has helped some finalists get the money they needed from others in the community even if they didn’t win the Impact 100 grants, Zlatic Blankemeyer said.
All the finalists deserve the money, she said, and they all want to fund a project that Greater Cincinnati needs.
“Our ask to the community is to take a look at these finalists seriously,” she said. “We’ve had full grants funded of our finalists who did not receive the membership vote, but other communities step forth.”
The 480 members of Impact 100 have done their part. It will be up to the rest of the region to help a bit, too.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Childhood poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To read more stories about childhood poverty, go to www.wcpo.com/poverty.
To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.