Last Wednesday’s awards presentation for the winner and finalists of the 10/100/1000 Challenge was, if we do say so ourselves, a pretty damn inspiring event.A joint project of CL and Creative Tampa Bay, 10/100/1000 is an annual competition that seeks out bright ideas for making our region a better place to live. Last week’s issue announced the nine finalists and the $1,000 top prize winner — reachIT.org, a fledgling nonprofit that refurbishes used computers and gives them to local families and schools. But on Wednesday, none of the attendees knew the outcome as yet, so when the finalists were announced it was a chance for everyone to hear for the first time just how diverse, dedicated and resourceful the honorees were.
There were so many powerful moments.
Jason Sowell of Laundry Love, which won a spot in the Top 10 through reader votes but would likely have wound up there anyway because of the quality of the proposal, spoke movingly about the families the project has helped through the simple act of washing clothes and linens for them at local laundromats. I won’t forget Sowell's vivid description of one woman who brought in a blanket to be cleaned that had been used and reused so often it had become black with dirt.
Pop-Up Blocks, a joint effort of the Tampa Independent Business Alliance and Keep St. Petersburg Local, was represented by community activists from two cities and two generations: Old Tampa Book Company’s elegant, eloquent Ellen Brown and St. Pete’s #1 new booster, Olga Bov. I like the Pop-Up Blocks concept a lot — populating entire city blocks with temporary businesses to show off the potential of an improved, livelier urban streetscape — and with these two women involved I like it even more.
Another project that is dear to my own heart, having seen how well such efforts have worked in Philadelphia and other cities, is in|SITE Arts. Like Pop-Up Blocks, it would bring new life to vacant storefronts, but would do so through installations by area artists like photographer Suzanne Williamson, who spoke passionately for the team behind the proposal,
Tampa’s the Arts Council of Hillsborough County's Artists Advisory Committee.
The youngest honorees, the teenage gardeners from the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, were particularly impressive; Taleya Brown, president of the Community Garden Youth Entrepreneurial Project, spoke with a level of poise that belied her 15 years. And Gene May, a finalist for his Bat-nitiative, made the chiroptophobes among us reconsider our fears with his enthusiastic description of bat houses and the potential they’d create for mosquito control.
But the best part of the evening might have been what happened offstage, when all these creative people started trading business cards and discussing ways they could collaborate.
Terri Willingham of Learning Is For Everyone, whose “Makerspace” idea is all about providing public spaces for DIY collaboration, suggested that her concept could prove useful for all of her fellow finalists. Mitzi Gordon, who was recognized for her Open Book Exchange project, found a kindred spirit and possible collaborator in one of CL’s volunteer bartenders for the night, former CL Street Teamer Sarah Davis. Gordon hopes to build “Little Free Libraries” throughout the Bay; Davis’ Burg Books is about creating “book spots” at St. Pete businesses.
And another collaboration took place virtually on the spot. During a chat at the bar with Laundry Love’s Sowell, reachIT.org president Gina Kravitz had an epiphany: “I’ve got some detergent in my car!”
Just like that: an in-kind donation was born.
The judges (myself and fellow CTB board members Julia Gorzka Freeman, Ken Cowart, and Reuben Pressman of Swings Tampa Bay, winner of last year’s Challenge) had a tough time choosing a winner. Hearing the finalists speak reminded us all over again why we were so impressed by them in the first place.
Speaking of winners, two CL staffers won promotions this week. Associate Editor Joe Bardi’s new title is Managing/Online Editor, through which role he’ll oversee content on cltampa.com while continuing to make CL’s copy-to-print-to-Web machinery run smoothly. Julie Garisto, now in charge of CL’s A&E site and events listings, will now take a greater role in the editing and planning of A&E content in CL’s print edition as well. Both of these staffers have already contributed immeasurably to CL’s success; I can’t wait to see where they’ll take us next.
Adrian Wyllie was not mentioned. He is running for Governor.
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