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Awesome Tampa Bay awards third microgrant as Awesome St. Petersburg sprouts

ST. PETERSBURG — A fish farm to provide food for low-income families. A network of local chefs who collaborate to provide food for a cause.

These are some of the ideas that have been floated to Awesome Tampa Bay, a regional organization created last year with the goal of providing $1,000 microgrants to people with creative ideas to better the community.

Some are goofy. Some are enlightening. All are "awesome." That is according to the group's founders, who hosted a gathering Thursday at the Studio@620 in St. Petersburg to announce the latest grant recipient.

"It's a way to fund things that have no other way to get funded," T. Hampton Dohrman, the group's "dean of awesomeness," explained in addressing the crowd. "Awesomeness is a contagious disease that hopefully you all have."

The latest winning idea: Bomb the Medians, an effort to beautify the sides of local roads by planting wildflowers along bare median strips. The proposal came from Ken Cowart, a Tampa architect who grew tired of seeing median strips cluttered with trash along his drive to work each day.

"I thought it would be a great idea, instead of throwing out my Coke can, to throw out wildflower seeds," Cowart said. "It seems like it's a no-brainer that there should be wildflowers — we're in Florida."

Since Awesome Tampa Bay began, its "trustees of awesomeness," a group of 10 local business leaders and entrepreneurs, have awarded two $1,000 grants.

The first went to "The Birdhouse Buying Club," a project to provide fresh produce to low-income residents of Tampa's Sulphur Springs neighborhood. The next went to A Reflection to Peace of Mind, the brainchild of a retired teacher, Sylvia Albritton, who received the grant to publish an anthology of creative writing and poetry composed by incarcerated youths.

Each trustee contributes $100 toward the grant, given four times a year. The trustees select the winning entries. More than 200 submissions have been judged since the group began.

"We've had projects that didn't get the $1,000, but because of networking at these events they are still on track to happen," Dohrman said.

A second announcement at Thursday's event proclaimed the formation of Awesome St. Petersburg, a localized offshoot of the regional organization.

The local group, which already has its own board of trustees, will operate with the same concept as Awesome Tampa Bay.

"Obviously, there's tons of people in Tampa Bay that have cool ideas," said Reuben Pressman, a social entrepreneur who assembled Awesome St. Petersburg. "Ours will be featuring projects just for St. Pete."

For more information, visit awesometampabay.org.

Reach Dan Sullivan at (727) 893-8321 or dsullivan@tampabay.com.

Awesome Tampa Bay awards third microgrant as Awesome St. Petersburg sprouts 05/03/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 4, 2012 9:08pm]
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