This is part of "Fundraising" month of the Generocity Editorial Calendar. Find the series here.
Philly social entrepreneur Alex Epstein was a national finalist for the next cohort of Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation (BHSI) fellows. He didn’t make the cut.
The fellowship money — $10,000 — would have allowed Epstein to go full-time with Urban Creators, the North Philly-based urban farming and youth development nonprofit he cofounded seven years ago. The program also would have provided him with opportunities to scale the nonprofit outside of its neighborhood.
Epstein has a Plan B. If it works, it could prove to be the more sustainable route. First, he needs to raise $30K.
The money will go toward Urban Creators’ 2017 youth apprenticeship program, which will provide jobs for North Philly teenagers who have actively participated in the nonprofit’s programs — the same kids Epstein and company have watched grow up.
"The youth apprenticeship program is our way of cultivating the next generation of Urban Creators leadership from the neighborhood."
“These kids are really a part of the Urban Creator family,” said Epstein. “They’ve assumed leadership roles, but for brief parts of the year — really, over the summer. The youth apprenticeship program is our way of cultivating the next generation of Urban Creators leadership from the neighborhood.”
Aside from apprenticing under professionals in the fields they hope to find meaningful careers — in carpentry, food and farming, civic engagement, music, art, the works — the apprentices will give the nonprofit “a ton” of capacity, said Epstein.
“This frees up our current staff so they can begin looking into the future and begin planning how to expand the organization to other parts of the city,” he said. “We’re just about ready to take the model and replicate it in other neighborhoods.”
One of those neighborhoods could be Kensington. Developers at Shift Capital told Generocity in September they’ve been trying to get Urban Creators to open programming on a number of their vacant lots (Shift Capital principals Brian Murray and Matthew Grande are on Urban Creators’ board of directors). Epstein said the nonprofit needs to up capacity before they can expand anywhere.
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“This is a part of that process,” he said. “In order for us to be able to grow and partner, we need this junior staff to be able to run what we have in North Philly.”
The fundraising will be begin in earnest tonight (Monday) at a dinner with Center City restaurant Farmer’s Keep, but a six-week crowdfunding campaign will go live on GoFundMe Nov. 22 — a week before #GivingTuesday.-30-
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