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Good ideas: Micro-grants fueling a whole lot of awesomeness

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Cathy Dobson

There’s no shortage of amazing ideas to make living in Sarnia awesome, says Alison Mahon.

And she should know.

Mahon is an original member of the Sarnia Awesome Foundation, which has given away $25,000 to nurture cool community-oriented ideas.

That’s $1,000 won by 25 different groups and individuals since June 2013 to kick-start everything from a body painting project with Chris Hadfield to a tree stump carving initiative at Lansdowne School.

The latest recipient is Shannon Lansue, who is going to use the money to build a poly pipe structure on the waterfront next summer where people can leave messages.

“It’s funky, it’s different and it makes our community more awesome,” said Mahon, explaining why the foundation trustees chose Lansue’s project at a recent “pitch party.”

There have been plenty of good ideas since Sarnia joined the worldwide Awesome movement, which now has 78 chapters in 16 countries.

Mahon and fellow trustee John DeGroot went to an Awesome conference in Ottawa last year and were pleased to learn Sarnians have had some of the most creative concepts, she said.

Every month, seven or eight ideas are submitted and three are selected for the pitch parties. Only one gets funded.  A few months, only one or two ideas came forward and the party was postponed, said Mahon.

“But usually we get a pretty good number of crazy, brilliant ideas. We’re always trying to get the word out,” she said.

“It’s a simple application process and there are no strings attached to the money.”

Among her favourite Awesome projects was the very first pitch more than two years ago from a parent association that wanted to have a neighbourhood party in a parking lot.

She also admires the JOY-Full Socks team that got a program going to fill new socks with toiletries for distribution to the needy.

That and several other projects, like the One Tomato Souper Lunch, continue to enrich the community on an ongoing basis. Other Awesome micro-grants supported a music program for Alzheimer’s patients and helped restore the Golden Hawk airplane in Germain Park.

Of 25 Awesome grants only one winning pitch didn’t panned out. That involved sending balloons into the sky with positive messages because of environmental concerns, said Mahon.

Sarnia’s Awesome trustees are volunteers who pool their money to raise the $1,000 a month.  There’s been some turnover in trustees since Sarnia’s foundation started but new ones stepped up, said Mahon.

There are currently 17 people on the board.

To learn more about submitting an Awesome idea or becoming a trustee, visit www.awesomefoundation.org or go to Facebook at Awesome Foundation Sarnia.

Pitch parties are open to the public and take about an hour. This month’s is on Thursday, Jan. 7 at 6:30 p.m. upstairs at Ups ‘N Downs.

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