We Raise Foundation Awards Six Emerging Leader Grants - We Raise Foundation

We Raise Foundation Awards Six Emerging Leader Grants

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We Raise Foundation recently approved six Emerging Leader Grants totaling $60,000. 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 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; 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 May 31, 2018 with grants awarded in July.

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

The newest Emerging Leader Grant recipients are:

Rasheedah Ajibade
Sowing Seeds – Youth Savings Initiative
Memorial Community Development Corporation, Evansville, Ind.
Grant Amount – $10,000

Leader Summary:
Rasheedah Ajibade joined Memorial Community Development Corporation in 2010 as a childcare director and in 2013 she took on the added responsibility of serving as the program director. While challenging, the additional responsibilities allow her to work on special projects, think strategically, and develop new ideas. Under her leadership, the childcare center has grown from serving 5 children to over 140 children today. Ajibade earned a bachelor of arts degree in business administration with a concentration in finance, and a master’s degree in public service administration.

Project Summary:
Sowing Seeds – Youth Savings Initiative is a program to employ youth and teach them basic money management skills. Each year, Memorial Community Development Corporation hires 70-85 youth during the summer as part of the Youth Employment and Garden Market programs. As the youth learn job skills, they also learn important financial literacy that they can take with them into adulthood. By creating a community Federal Credit Union, the objectives of this program will be to:
1. Provide youth with financial literacy education that teaches the basics of money, banking, and saving;
2. Increase savings for accountholders using a variety of incentives;
3. Develop a banking relationship with youth and their families;
4. Introduce youth to banking careers.

Riley Brown
Developing Afterschool and Community Programs
Mount Nebo Austin, Austin, Texas
Grant Amount – $10,000

Leader Summary:
While attending the University of Texas, Austin, Riley Brown interned with Mission Possible, a Christian Community Development ministry, where she learned the intricacies of program management, curriculum development, and program creation. In 2015, under the umbrella of Mission Possible, she began leading a weekly program in a North Austin housing community. Through her leadership, the program blossomed from 7 to 50 volunteers and the number of people served through the program tripled. The ministry continued to grow and Brown incorporated the organization as a nonprofit, Mount Nebo, with a Gospel-centered focus on building life-giving mentor-mentee relationships with underserved children. Brown graduated from the University of Texas, Austin, with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government.

Project Summary:
Mount Nebo will use this grant to run two of their programs: Base Camp and Mount Nebo Academy. Base Camp occurs separately in each of the five communities they work in every Thursday and is open to any resident, primarily ages 2-18. Activities include outside play, family dinner, Bible stories, dance parties, and more. Mount Nebo Academy is a three-day-a-week afterschool program that promotes homework help, STEM learning, fine arts, cooking, and other life skills. Mount Nebo gives youth a safe place to go after school and a venue through which to dream big about their futures.

Rachel Jaseph
The Shepherd’s Hand Community Outreach Center
Shepherd of the City Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Grant Amount – $10,000

Leader Summary:
Rachel Jaseph studied theology in the deaconess program at Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill., and served as a missionary in Lima, Peru. During her service in Lima, she was part of the team that laid the groundwork for the Mighty Fortress Mercy House, that serves countless children, women, and families in lower middle class and impoverished urban communities in the South American urban center. After completing her time in Peru, Jaseph served three church plants in the Dominican Republic from 2015-17, teaching, mentoring, and spiritually caring for church and community members with a specific focus on training future national church workers. Upon her return to the United States, Jaseph received a call to serve as deaconess at Shepherd of the City Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., in order to spearhead the development of The Shepherd’s Hand Community Outreach Center.

Project Summary:
The Shepherd’s Hand Community Outreach Center will serve the urban East Central and Memorial Park neighborhoods of Fort Wayne, Ind. The programming and events offered will target the educational, health, and life needs of the community with two programs: (1) An afterschool homework help program for elementary and middle school children. The program will help meet the educational support needs of these students through mentors who will encourage them to succeed early and help combat the high secondary school drop-out rate. (2) Expand the community meals program to offer nutritious meals, cooking and healthy eating workshops, and health education for the many low-income and single-parent families who reside in the immediate neighborhood.

Chris Koenig
Resurrection Free Physical Therapy Clinic
Niagara Lutheran Health System, Lancaster, N.Y.
Grant Amount – $10,000

Leader Summary:
Chris Koenig has served as the president and CEO of the Niagara Lutheran Health System, Lancaster, N.Y., since 2016. Previously, he was vice president of post-acute care for Erie County Medical Center Corporation (ECMC), Buffalo, N.Y. He also served as an adjunct professor for State University of New York at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Related Professions. Prior to ECMC, Koenig served The McGuire Group from 2007 through 2015, culminating in his role as administrator of rehabilitation, where he provided oversight of all rehabilitation operations of six facilities in New York and one facility in Michigan. He also became a managing consultant and partner of Rehab Ultra Consulting, a consulting firm developed through The McGuire Group. Koenig holds a master’s of business administration with concentrations of finance and health care administration, as well as a doctoral degree in physical therapy, both from the University at Buffalo.

Project Summary:
The Niagara Lutheran Health System is partnering with the University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions to provide free physical and occupational therapy care to people on Buffalo’s underserved east side. The Resurrection Free Physical Therapy Clinic already offers routine individual and family care, and will now add free physical and occupational therapy. This will contribute greatly to the health and well-being of the low-income, refugee, and immigrant population that live below the poverty line and currently have no access to this type of treatment.

Dan Weidenbenner
Youth Job and Life Skills Training Program
Mill Community Ministries, Greenville, S.C.
Grant Amount – $10,000

Leader Summary:
Dan Weidenbenner launched Mill Village Farms in 2012 and serves as the executive director of Mill Village Farms and the parent organization, Mill Community Ministries. Weidenbenner graduated from Furman University, Greenville, S.C., with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He is an active member of the Long Branch Baptist Church and serves on boards for New Horizons Family Health Services, JustFaith Ministries, Community Works, and Habitat for Humanity Greenville County.

Project Summary:
Mill Community Ministries (MCM) invests in the youth of their neighborhood through Mill Village Farms’ Youth Job and Life Skills Training Program. Teaching hard- and soft-skills to prepare them for success in higher-education and the workforce, MCM will impact 60 teens through weekly training where they learn from local employers. Additionally, youth participate in self-reflection that assists them in understanding their interests and gifts. In conjunction, they receive feedback from a designated mentor to reinforce training. The program provides both a clear pathway for employment opportunities and a self-assessment for youth to consider what a thriving future could be.

Drew Willey
Restoring Justice
Restoring Justice, Houston, Texas
Grant Amount – $10,000

Leader Summary:
Drew Willey is a criminal defense attorney trained by Gideon’s Promise, a nonprofit organization that provides ongoing continuing education programs for law school students, new public defenders, senior public defenders, law school clinicians, and chief public defenders with a dedication to transforming the culture of the criminal justice system. Willey graduated from University of Texas, Austin, in 2010 with a master’s degree in professional accounting and in 2014 completed his law degree from the University of Houston. Shortly after graduating, Willey started a solo practice expecting his business to have a ministry-focused bent. However, he later realized a nonprofit would be required to truly effect the change he sought. As the CEO of Restoring Justice, a nonprofit organization offering loving and holistic criminal defense legal services for the oppressed, the forgotten, and the poor, Willey uses his time and networks to represent underserved clients.

Project Summary:
Restoring Justice seeks to be the hands and feet of Christ for the over 50,000 Houstonians who are imprisoned and cannot afford effective legal counsel. It provides holistic criminal defense representation to people who otherwise cannot afford a lawyer. Their goal is to speak freedom into the lives of the marginalized and partner with them to be self-sufficient thriving members of the community. Restoring Justice gives clients more than legal representation by connecting each client to social services as well as a caring mentor to walk alongside as they move into self-sustainability.


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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