Detroit Harmonie

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Summer in the City wins $30,000 grant to help regenerate the city.

Detroit Harmonie, a nonprofit organization dedicated to kindling sparks of renewal and excitement in the ethnic mix of the big city, has announced the recipients of its first-ever “Get Funded Challenge” — a competition to divide a $45,000 pot among social entrepreneurs working to make Detroit a better place.

Christopher Burcham of West Bloomfield, Jaimee Wine of Ann Arbor and Jesse Fenton of Birmingham enjoy themselves at the after-party.

When the five winners were announced from among the 11 semifinalists, two Jewish social entrepreneurs walked away with funding to support their missions.

Taking the $30,000 first prize was Summer in the City, a youth- oriented nonprofit committed to making community service in Detroit fun for its volunteers. The organization was founded by Jewish News contributing writer Ben Falik.

“There is a new generation of leaders in Detroit who have unprecedented ambitions and assets — without all the baggage of our predecessors,” Falik said.

“And marshaling modest re- sources for our endeavors yields a remarkable return on investment.”

Falik said his group’s winnings will be used for a variety of purposes: to renovate the third floor of its headquarters to make room for more year-round residents and to develop a pilot program that helps the organization’s former K-5 campers transition into becoming volunteers and interns when they are in middle and high school.

Kristen Polanski of Livonia Natalia Santana, Julianna Rivera, Leor Barak and Drew Mast, all from Detroit, enjoy the atmosphere.

“The money will also be invested in the young leaders who drive the program through their creativity and dedication,” he added.

About 600 people attended “Detroit Harmonie’s International Experience” — the March 3 party at the Virgil H. Carr Arts Center in Downtown Detroit where the awards were revealed. The multitude of party-goers also voted to select from the semifinalists the winner of a $5,000 “People’s Choice Award,” adding a bit of suspense to the evening. CommunityNEXT, a younger-generation initiative of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, sponsored an after-party event.

Detroit Harmonie board member and founder of ComePlay Detroit Justin Jacobs said, “This was a big first step in the right direction to achieving our goal of developing natural diversity in our community. The opportunity to bring so many people from different cultures and backgrounds together for an amazing evening was just the start, and to empower each attendee to have their voices heard through the People’s Choice Award voting really made people feel connected to the event.”

Fresh Corner Cafe, which aggregates Detroit’s finest locally produced healthy foods into a single distribution that services liquor stores, gas stations and small grocers in underserved areas, won the $1,000 fourth-place prize as well as the People’s Choice Award of $5,000.

“The prize money allows us to continue pursuing our vision of a healthy and just local food system for all,” said founder Noam Kimelman. “All of the award winners are doing great things. The funding allows us to keep doing what we’re doing.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased to have helped make a real impact for these entrepreneurs,” said Jordan Wolfe, Detroit Harmonie co-founder and partner in Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction.

Other $1,000 prizewinners included PonyRide, which, through shared resources, knowledge and ideas, provides cheap space for artists and entrepreneurs to work and create; En Garde! Detroit, a social enterprise that utilizes the transformative effects of fencing to better the lives of youth; and Detroit SOUP, a monthly dinner funding micro- grants for creative projects in Detroit.

“It is time for our generation to step up and take a leadership position to execute our collective vision of Detroit 2.0,” said Jeff Epstein, Detroit Harmonie co-founder and founder of getAmbassador.com (formerly zfer- ral). “This vision won’t become reality without hard work … We want a vibrant, urban core — rich with culture and diversity. There is obviously work to be done. Instead of talking, we’re setting an example by doing. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

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