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Congrats! You Helped 3 Awesome Nonprofits Win Grants For 2017

December 15, 2016Posted by Helaina Hovitz

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As nonprofits everywhere gear up for another year of changing the world, three very special ones are armed with a little extra something thanks to your votes and contributions. 

Leave It Better Foundation, Fund for Public Housing, and BUILD earned the most votes on social media in this year’s Giv.Nyc Giving Tuesday campaign, taking home thousands of dollars to invest in their impact efforts. What started as a digital voting campaign with 85 nonprofits in the running was narrowed down to 10, who each pitched a live audience on #GivingTuesday about the impact they’ve had in their respective communities. The audience, both in person and via Livestream, voted in real time for their favorites. 

The Leave It Better Foundation won $10,000 to help nurture gardening programs in NYC schools, helping students learn composting and gardening skills, through hands-on planting and harvesting food. 

“When we were first going into schools, the science teacher is really enthusiastic, and then months go by and it’s a choice between the garden and test prep, and before you know it, you’ve got weeds,” said Founder Graham Meriwether. “That’s where we come in.”

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You wouldn’t have a gymnasium with no gym teacher, Meriwether continued, so we need a gardening instructor for the gardens we have in schools.

Leave It Better sticks around for an entire school year to successfully employ their educational program, helping kids feel empowered to “heal” the environment, and also provide small HD cameras for the kids and teach video literacy so that they can make documentaries of their work and their process and communicate what they’ve learned with friends and families.

At the Leave It Better Kids Garden, they host weekly garden days at 1970 Grand Avenue in the Bronx. Activities include picking up trash, weeding, planting seeds, harvesting, composting, building leaf forts, climbing trees and much more.

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They’re joined by Fund for Public Housing, a newly created nonprofit designed to improve public housing conditions, providing better resources and higher quality of life to residents and their communities.

The NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) consists of about 180,000 units of housing and half a million residents making it the biggest landlord in the country.

“Who loves public education? Transportation? Library books? Reading them in public parks? People feel connected to the value of other systems with the word ‘public’ in them. but don’t feel connected to public housing,” asks President Rasmia Kirmani-Frye.

“Yet, the top three employers of public housing residents are the department of education, NYCHA, and the New York Police Department, and the top 9 are also public systems.”

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Because it’s the people who live in public housing who make all of the other systems run, it’s important, says Kirmani-Frye, to consider how are we investing in the people behind them.

The nonprofit collaborates with public and private entities to reimagine and improve the way public housing works, like creating a resident leadership academy with CUNY and working with the tech industry to solve operational and property issues.

“NYCHA is all over the city, and public housing residents are in your life every day. connect,” said Kirmani-Frye. “There are lots of NYCHAA to the famous, like Nas, to regular people, your kids’ teachers and bus drivers,  so connect, and if you know them, send them to me.”

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Last but not least, there’s BUILD, which motivates youth in underserved communities to access their inner entrepreneur

They serve nearly 500 students in 10 schools across the city, pairing students with mentors to help them create real sustainable businesses, which they go on to pitch for funding. As a result, school becomes more relevant and students learn life skills necessary to thrive. 

The gradation rate in Bronx high schools, says BUILD Regional Executive Director Chymeka Olfonse, is 50%, and only 12% of those students are college-ready.

“Imagine having a high school diploma mean nothing? We want to change that, ensuring our students are equipped for college and career success, prepare for the world of work,” said Olfonse. “Our students realize they can actually do something once the realize their full potential.”

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Some BUILD students are facing very real obstacles like hunger, homelessness, living as newly arrived immigrants, and worrying that they’re going to be victims of violence.

“It’s easy to feel discouraged, which is why it’s important to tell story’s like Natalie’s,” said Olfonse.

“Natalie got kicked out of school, and with BUILD’s help she got her college degree, was her high school valedictorian, and now she’s working at BUILD. We want that for all of our students. Even if students are forgotten, they’re capable. You just need to invest in them.”

When a community of like-minded people interested in social good get together, everyone is a winner, especially when they’re able to reach new audiences and raise awareness for their respective missions.

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