Asheville’s Awesome Foundation hosts pitch party, awards $1,000 grants

Winners at the Awesome Foundation's second event.
Winners at the Awesome Foundation's second event.

A group of seven locals wants to know what you would do with $1,000 to make the Asheville area more awesome. Those seven trustees comprise the Asheville Awesome Foundation, part of a global network of small groups of philanthropists throughout the world with one mission: Help people in each community do awesome things, $1,000 at a time.

Founded in New York in 2010, the foundation boasts 82 chapters of local independent groups in cities around the world who have, collectively, given out over $2 million in prize money to date. Each independent group pools funds for the $1,000 awards, and then gives it with no strings attached to the strongest project shared at a local shark-tank style pitch party. This past Sunday, May 22, Asheville’s AF group gathered at Ole Shakey’s (a bar owned by trustee Charlie Hodge) to hear pitches from four finalists.

“Having these events gives the community an opportunity to directly engage and interact with those who are seeking funds. It’s a powerful thing when you come face-to-face with people who are doing good work,” says Andrew Celwyn, Asheville AF trustee and co-owner of the downtown shop The Herbiary.

With only five minutes to share their story and what they would do with a cool $1,000, each project spokesperson took the outdoor stage to present their elevator speech.

First to take the stage was one of the evening’s winners, Free Range Asheville. Headed by husband-and-wife team Estelle and Jeff Arnal, the nonprofit arts organization facilitates artists and small performances with the goal of creating connections that allow artists to visit Asheville, share their work and potentially collaborate with other artists.

Next up were the creators of the local chapter of national nonprofit Harry Potter Alliance, an organization that “turns fans into heroes … making activism accessible through the power of story.” The two women shared how their organization hopes to continue supporting area nonprofits by purchasing a button maker and hosting button making parties, with all proceeds directly benefiting a rotating cast of area nonprofits. While they didn’t end up with their moniker on the day’s giant check, the Awesome Foundation decided to simply pitch in additional funds and buy the button maker for them outright.

“My highlight in doing this is a shared sense of community that we experience in the process of coming together and helping each other out,” Celwyn said.

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The folks behind Asheville’s chapter of the Awesome Foundation have been offering their personal time and funding to help foster that sense of community. They wound up presenting a second $1,000 check to fifth grade science teacher Renata Crawley of West Marion Elementary School, to help fund forensics kits for students to work after school alongside a retired law enforcement officer.

The fourth finalist to pitch her project was a woman working to create an edible orchard in the River Arts District. Although she didn’t win, Hodge offered the use of Ole Shakey’s to host a fundraiser.

Learn more about the Awesome Foundation and how you can submit an idea of your own or become a trustee to play a part in bringing more of these projects to life at the Awesome Foundation’s website.

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About Tiffany Narron
Tiffany is an avid writer of creative fiction and a journalist. Much of her work in Western North Carolina has been deeply involved in helping local and regional businesses craft content to their stories online. She's a creative spirit engaged in community and is dedicated to supporting and uplifting artists, makers and social entrepreneurs through her writing. Follow me @strawberripants

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