$1,000 to the most innovative idea? Four times a year, Tampa Bay residents have the chance to apply for just that.
Awesome Tampa Bay
grants are something like mini-angel investors in innovative local ideas. The self-funded community of members who make up Awesome Tampa Bay offer quarterly microgrants in the sum of $1,000 to various projects or proposed ventures with no strings attached.
The group, a chapter of The Awesome Foundation
, “funds projects that help make our community an awesome place to live,” says Awesome Tampa Bay’s “Dean of Awesomeness” Rafaela A. Amador. “We’re in our fourth year of grant-making, and it’s been fantastic to see them come to life.”
Previous Awesome Tampa Bay grants have funded Pong in the Park
, Art Vending Machine
, The Birdhouse Buying Club, and other ideas or efforts to improve the “awesome” factor of the Tampa Bay area.
The latest recipient of a $1,000 grant from the group is the ReCycle Bin
, a free bike shop built from entirely recycled parts and filled with entirely donated ones.
ReCycle Bin “touched on three qualities that the Awesome Foundation trustees thought most important: niceness, bigness and 'wow-ness,' ” says Amador, who is the senior director of corporate communications for the Tampa Bay Rays
The ReCycle Bin operates out of two revamped shipping containers built by volunteers and is “full of donated frames, parts, and tools that are used to build and fix bicycles for our poor neighbors,” explains founder Jessica Renner.
But the ReCycle Bin doesn’t give bikes or parts away freely with no questions asked, Renner explains. Rather, self-reliance and involvement in rebuilding or repairing bicycles is a part of the process.
“Those who are in need of a bike or help with their existing bike are being taught how to build and maintain their bikes themselves,” Renner says.
The ReCycle Bin stations are located at The Well
in Ybor City, a center for social services including weekly meals, counseling, a free market, and faith. Work is split among a variety of volunteers: some of whom perform as a labor of love, some who enjoy tinkering with the bikes, and some who “originally came in to build themselves a bike, and now come back to help others,” Renner explains.
That those who have been helped come back to help others is one sign that the ReCycle Bin is a success. The group’s main objective is “to develop relationships across economic divides and build a stronger community, based on sharing skills and resources,” Renner says.
The passion to help the community through the donation of time and talent by Jessica and all the volunteers with ReCycle Bin was what stood out the most,” Amador explains. “It was a unanimous decision by the trustees to award them the Awesome grant.”
With the $1,000 Awesome Tampa Bay grant money, the ReCycle Bin will “purchase a tent or a carport for our shop, so we will have our own shaded work space,” Renner says.
Currently, “we are working to gain more volunteers, potentially hold some workshops, and put together a regular bike ride calendar for our bike club, The Well's Angels,” Brenner says.
The Well’s Angels. Now that’s
Do you have a great idea or project that would help make Tampa Bay more “awesome”? Apply for the next quarterly grant by May 31.