Community Voices: Jessica Trace and the Awesome Foundation

Jessica Trace is the Dean of the Buffalo chapter of the Awesome Foundation. She started the local chapter with her fellow trustee Kelly Atkinson. A native of Ohio, Trace moved to Buffalo after graduating from RIT. She is the VP of Content Development at an e-learning company.

Photo by Ashley Schaffert Laderer and Courtesy of the Awesome Foundation.

The purpose of the Awesome Foundation is to forward the interest of awesome in the universe $1000 at a time. This happens through no-strings-attached cash micro-grants awarded to applicants with awesome projects and ideas. Founded in Boston in 2009, the organization is now comprised of 86 chapters in 18 countries, one of which is right here in Buffalo.

The Buffalo chapter was founded in 2016 and launched this year, in 2017. Each chapter runs autonomously and defines “awesome” for itself. Here in Buffalo, we’re looking for projects that are outside the norm, but have a positive impact on our community. They may even be a little bit quirky; we aim to support those sometimes-unconventional projects and ideas that may not receive funding from other sources.

Awesome Buffalo is made up of 20 “trustees”—a handful of Buffalo’s good neighbors who give money from our own pockets to help awesome ideas happen in the community. In 2017, Awesome Buffalo is poised to hand over $1000 cash to four local projects. Quarterly pitch events are held, where five finalists have 90 seconds to pitch their ideas. Trustees deliberate and select a winner, who walks away from the event with ten one-hundred-dollar bills.

The first Awesome project funded in Buffalo was Rainbows on Allen, created jointly by the Allentown Association and the Pride Center of WNY. Sidewalks adorned with painted rainbows made their debut in Allentown during Pride Week. A symbol of inclusivity and acceptance, the rainbows are the first piece of this ongoing project, which serves as a lasting reminder of Buffalo’s support for unity and the LGBTQ community.

In June, we funded a second project, Open Storefront Makeover Program. Through nonprofit organization Fillmore Forward, the project aims to assist local business owners in the Broadway-Fillmore and Martin Luther King neighborhoods with improving conditions and revamping the appearance of their storefronts. In partnership with Buffalo State, the program completed their first storefront remodel this past fall. The $1000 cash award from Awesome Buffalo will be used to support another locally-owned business by improving the facade of its storefront along Fillmore Avenue on the East Side.

If you're interested in applying for an Awesome Buffalo grant, visit our website here

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