2017 CHANGEMAKER CHALLENGE SPARKS COMMUNITY CHANGE
As the Horizon Foundation and United Way of Central Maryland prepare for their second Changemaker Challenge in November, many of the winners and finalists from the 2017 event are continuing to develop their innovative ideas into community action for social change.
From supporting recovery from alcoholism with healthy alternatives, to helping children from lower-income families access higher education and recreational sports opportunities, these inaugural changemakers are testament to the power of invention, dedication, and powerful results.
“I think anyone who has a yearning to
make a difference, and who has a good idea, should absolutely go for it, because there is no downside to this process,” suggested Beth Sandbower Harbinson of the Changemaker Challenge. “It forces you to reach inside of yourself, put everything down on paper, and bring your vision into focus.”
Beth was awarded one of three $10,000 Changemaker Challenge grants to help found SOBAR, a nonprofit organization which coordinates alcohol-free social gatherings, and creates healthy, creative non-alcoholic drinks for community social events in Howard County.
An experienced nonprofit executive and consultant, Beth has achieved what she proposed in 2017 and more: establishing SOBAR as a 501(c)3, appointing a board of directors, creating a brand and online presence, participating as a partner or vendor in community events throughout 2018, and creating a menu of innovative beverages. She is also excited about two exclusive SOBAR events in 2019 – including a New Year’s Eve party.
Answering Need with Creativity
Columbia business owner Erin Cassell was inspired to join the Changemaker Challenge when she noticed a troubling issue on her commute along Route 1 in Elkridge: more than two dozen bus stops without shelters, exposing the adults and children waiting there to bad weather and dangerous traffic conditions.
Safe and Beautiful Bus Stops was her innovation response. Erin has worked closely with county transportation authorities and property owners in the area to refurbish an old bus shelter in a visible Route 1 location – complete with colorful mosaic tiles, a free little library, a painted rock and gnome garden, and a bench composed of recycled materials, all made by local artists or schoolchildren.
Erin hopes that this colorful bus stop, to be completed this fall, will not only provide a safe, comfortable, and fun environment for those who wait and ride buses, but will also help raise the awareness of the general public about the need for safe public transportation.
As the recipient of the third $10,000 grant, Danielle Staton is proud that her program, College Readiness Communities, assisted eight seniors from low-income backgrounds overcome various social and economic challenges become the first in their families to attend college, and hopefully have their best chance at success.
Danielle, a first-generation college graduate, provided comprehensive and ongoing guidance and support to the seniors for more than a year prior to their acceptance to college, focusing on issues such as financial aid, course selection, college selection, and SAT preparation.
Creating a National Model for Youth Sports
Another remarkable success story of the 2017 Changemaker Challenge has been Get on the Bus, the brainchild of Tim Ryerson, executive director of the Ellicott City Soccer Club. Get on the Bus removes the social and economic barriers that prevent some children from low-income Howard County families from participating in cost prohibitive youth soccer. The program provides transportation from selected Title 1 elementary schools to soccer fields, pays for all fees, provides uniforms and equipment, and provides healthy snacks for every child.
Although he did not win one of the three Changemaker Challenge grants, a video of Tim’s event presentation at the event garnered more than $12,000 in funding online from enthusiastic viewers. Moreover, several people in the more than 300-strong Changemaker Challenge audience were so intrigued by his ideas that they sought Tim out for partnerships afterward.
“The challenge launched my big idea into a nationally recognized program!” said Tim. With the help of a recent $100,000 grant from the United States Soccer Federation, Get on the Bus now has grown into a national enterprise, with the goal of reaching more than 10,000 kids across the country by World Cup 2026.
“I am here to tell you anything is possible,” said Tim. “You have to organize, you have to believe, but most of all you have to put ideas into action.”