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What’s happening with Barra Foundation’s 2014 Catalyst Fund grantees?

August 7, 2015 Category: Funding

reStoreSometimes change is an absolute necessity. The Barra Foundation’s Catalyst Fund is designed to fund projects where risk-taking is a necessity: when challenges to old assumptions need to be made and organizations work to create new models for accomplishing important work in the social sector.

For its Catalyst Fund grants, Barra Foundation looks for ideas that are big or small, fall into its main funding categories: Arts & Culture, Education, Health and Human Services (or even cross into one or more). Most importantly — they don’t have to be safe ideas—the Barra Foundation says it is interested in risk-taking.

In December 2014, the Barra Foundation made grants to five organizations throughout the city to take risk-taking moves. caught up with a few of them to see how the projects were going:

Philadelphia Young Playwrights
$75,000/16 months for 1219 Project

Philadelphia Young PlaywrightsPhiladelphia Young Playwright’s 1219 Project is designed to activate new levels of partnership with the Asian Arts Initiative and Mural Arts Program to create a model for deep and lasting collaborative work. The project was created to harness the momentum of transformation in the Chinatown North neighborhood and was designed to culminate in one or more community-centered events and/or artistic works.

“We received a catalyst grant to catalyze our move to 1219 Vine Street, in part with some support for physical space, namely the Independence Foundation Learning Lab, and also to really support the 1219 Project itself,” said Philadelphia Young Playwrights executive producing director Glenn Knapp.

Knapp added that while funding while was used to help support the learning lab, but was primarily used to pay artists fees across four organizations: Asian Arts Initiative, Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia Young Playwrights and  UArts’ Brind School of Theater working with the 1219 Project.

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This past May, Knapp said they hosted a Write On/1219 event as part of the project which was really successful and showcased the  “1219 Project,” a multi-generational, community engaged, devised art-making process bringing together 40 Asian Arts Initiative, Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia Young Playwrights and  UArts’ Brind School of Theater TEEN!, COLLEGE AND PROFESSIONAL artists.

“Right now I would say the May event that we held here was kind of a midway point of the 1219 project,” Knapp said.

Pathways to Housing PA
$150,000/24 months for the Philadelphia Furniture Bank

Pathways to Housing PA received a grant to launch Philadelphia Furniture Bank, a large-scale, tech-savvy system to redistribute cast-off furnishings at no cost to families and individuals in need.

Since receiving funding from Barra, the organization’s Supported Employment and Volunteer Coordinator has recruited 91 people to volunteer at the Philadelphia Furniture Bank. The organization has worked with two groups, the Center for Student Missions and Mission Year, to provide volunteer experience to students and adults nationwide while providing the Philadelphia Furniture Bank with much needed services.

In addition, on July 1, Pathways to Housing PA launched its Supported Employment Program in which three Pathways to Housing PA participants interviewed and were hired for employment at the Philadelphia Furniture Bank. Each employee will work approximately twelve hours per week and earn a  stipend, and the stipends are direct result of the Barra Foundation’s financial support.

As the program continues, the organization expects to employ eight participants by this time next year.

Learn more about the Furniture Bank in’s story form January, when it opened.

The Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia
$80,000/6 months for Connect2College

PhillyGoes2College Connect2CollegeWith its grant, PhillyGoes2College, a project of The Mayor’s Office of Education, launched Connect2College (C2C), an initiative featuring a web-based app and text messaging tool that provide users with college access information.

So far Leana Cabral, director of PhillyGoes2College, said they’ve worked with Finch Brands to develop a marketing plan and re-design its website, which is set to be released mid-September.

In addition, the organization has launched a SEPTA ad campaign in the spring and will launch another this September. PhillyGoes2College will also launch a grassroots campaign targeting high school students with ads in schools and all Parks and Recreation Centers this fall.

Currently, the organization’s texting platform now has 383 participants and Cabral said they’re confident the number will increase with the next ad campaign and grassroots efforts.

The goal? To increase visibility, raise awareness about PhillyGoes2College, increase its credibility as a resource and drive increased traffic to its website and other resources/platforms, which supports the organization’s long term goal of contributing to a higher percentage of college graduates among Philadelphia students and residents, according to Cabral.

Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia
$150,000/24 months, relocating and revamping ReStore

Corrine O’Connell, asssociate executive director, reported that the Catalyst Grant from the Barra Foundation was instrumental in the fit-out, and start-up of its South Philadelphia ReStore.  The organization opened the doors of the 16,700 square foot warehouse at the end of June with a two-day Grand Opening and did nearly $49,000 in sales in the first two days. In addition, with 13 days of open-to-the-public sales days, O’Connell said they had made $123,194 in sales!

O’Connell also reported that the organization  have seen an increase in traffic to its website – to the ReStore page as well as an increase in its social media following.

In addition, O’Connell mentioned that they also continue to ramp up procurement efforts and strategies, adding that the organization has seen an uptick in larger commercial companies calling us with donations, and likewise moving companies – bringing materials to them from donors.

Read more about the ReStore in’s story about the grand-opening in June.


Images via Pathways to Housing PA, City of Philadelphia / Mitchell Leff, and ReStore/Habitat for Humanity


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