We Raise Foundation Awards Three Emerging Leader Grants

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Itasca, IL – We Raise Foundation recently approved three Emerging Leader grants totaling $25,000. Emerging Leader grants are an investment in the development of leaders between the ages of 20-35 at Christian organizations who are leading new programs at the intersection of poverty, violence, and inequality.

In addition to the grant, participants also receive reimbursement of $1,000 in Capacity Building funds each year of their grant to invest in the effectiveness and future sustainability of the program; an invitation to attend the annual Emerging Leader Convening, hosted and paid for by We Raise Foundation; professional program development consultation from We Raise staff; free attendance for all We Raise webinars; and promotion and networking within the We Raise community.

Proposals for the Emerging Leader Grant Program are accepted year-round with grants awarded quarterly. The next deadline is February 28, 2018 with grants awarded in April.

For more information regarding grant requests, please visit the website at www.weraise.org/emergingleadergrants.

The newest Emerging Leader grant recipients are:

Sarah Berestecky
xCulture
Bridge City Community Church, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Grant Amount – $5,000

Leader Summary:
Sarah Berestecky works with Bridge City Community Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., as a Reconciliation Facilitator, promoting cultural awareness in the community. She has work and volunteer experience with a broad range of nonprofit organizations, including The Boys and Girls Club, Alliance for Children (a Fort Worth, Texas, based child advocacy center), and Traffic 911, an anti-trafficking agency. Sarah has also recruited participants and facilitated small group discussions dedicated to racial unity education, including Be the Bridge, a group where racially diverse women gather to dialogue about their unique backgrounds in order to achieve unity and friendship.

Project Summary:
The Bridge City Community Church is an intentionally multi-ethnic and urban Lutheran ministry focused on holistic reconciliation. Through its xCulture training program, Bridge City is paving the way for addressing reconciliation in a way that creates healthier environments for organizations that seek to provide hope to the communities they serve. In order to be effective, volunteers must understand the effects of both systemic and individual racism, practice cultural competency, and develop healthy multi-ethnic interpersonal skills. To assist in developing and maintaining healthy environments for direct service and auxiliary programming, the program will employ a combination of lectures, multimedia presentations, assigned reading, and facilitated dialogue to provide space for introspection, internal processing, and reflection. Organizations that complete the training will develop (1) more effective programs, (2) informed staff and volunteers, (3) healthier relationships with the community they work in.

Sarah Bernhardt
Camp Resolve
Intersect Arts Center, Saint Louis, Mo.
Grant Amount – $10,000

Leader Summary:
Sarah Bernhardt is the executive director of the Intersect Arts Center in Saint Louis, Mo. The Center grew out of an effort to see a place where disparate people, ideas, institutions, and cultures could convene in a positive and creative way. After Sarah’s husband was placed as a pastor at a small, historic, struggling urban congregation in Saint Louis, she began an effort to interact with neighbors. She started a small arts class once a week for local children. It grew into after school programs, outdoor art projects, community meals, art exhibitions, concerts and conferences, music videos and photo essays, and handmade ceramic bowls filled with soup for the homeless. Sarah also serves as a professor of art at the University of Missouri in Saint Louis, and guest lecturer at Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. She holds a bachelor’s degree in visual studies from Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., and a master’s of fine arts from Washington University in Saint Louis. She maintains a working studio space and an active exhibition record. Sarah is an alumnus of Saint Louis Regional Arts Commission Community Arts Training Institute, serves on the board of Lutheran Development Group (a low-income housing and community organization), and is active in developing visual arts enrichment for worship and teaching at her church, Holy Cross.

Project Summary:
Intersect Arts Center plans to run a new summer program for at-risk youth focused on conflict resolution skills taught through the arts. Thirty middle and high school youth will be invited to participate in a three-week camp that will include culinary arts, visual arts, dance, and drama. The culinary arts will instruct youth in fundamental health and nutrition, basic cooking techniques, and food justice. Youth will also learn about and prepare foods from different cultures with a focus on countries that have undergone significant conflict in the last 20 years. Additionally, youth will be exposed to concrete steps for conflict resolution and violence prevention through a dance curriculum. They will learn about positive and negative body language, self-soothing techniques, and, most importantly, forgiveness! Students will create music and choreography that expresses the concepts they learn throughout the three weeks. The visual arts curriculum will focus on helping students create photo- and video-based work that communicates the values of conflict resolution in their own lives as well as document the dance and culinary programs.

Ashley Paavola
Future Club
All Nations Church, University City, Mo.
Grant Amount – $10,000

Leader Summary:
Ashley Paavola is the Youth and Family Director at All Nations Church, a church-plant in University City,
Mo. Ashley graduated from Lindenwood University, St. Charles, Mo., in 2007 with a degree in Christian Ministry Studies and an emphasis on family ministry. After serving in the Youth Ministry Department at St. John Church in Ellisville, Mo., from 2004-2015, Ashley and her husband moved to University City to begin efforts to plant “a church as diverse as the city we serve.” After spending a year living and volunteering in the community, Ashley was presented with the unique opportunity to develop a student development program on behalf of All Nations Church at a local public elementary school called “Future Club.” The mother of a multiracial family through adoption and foster care, Ashley developed a heart for racial-reconciliation and connected parenting. Ashley sees cultural fluency, humility, and love for the community and its people as key elements to successful leadership.

Project Summary:
Future Club is an after-school mentorship program hosted by All Nations Church at Jackson Park Elementary School in University City, Mo. The program helps students to imagine a future of possibilities as they explore careers and colleges while developing valuable life skills and character traits along the way. Future Club meets weekly and each month, second through fifth grade students discover character traits required in one of the new careers they learn about. At the end of the school year, Future Club will culminate with a fifth grade college trip and an end-of-year presentation party with parents.

About We Raise Foundation
We Raise Foundation identifies innovative ideas, people, and programs that raise consciousness, community leadership, and capital. Motivated by the belief that freedom is grace in action (Galatians 5:1a), We Raise provides grants and assistance with resource development to organizations that work at the intersection of poverty, violence, and inequality. We Raise supports Christian nonprofit organizations and emerging leaders and has a preference for funding solutions within the areas of education, workforce development, and criminal justice. To learn more, please visit weraise.org. You can also find We Raise on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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