October 31, 2017

Three Local Residents Win Changemaker Challenge with $10,000 to Launch Social Change Projects

Last night, the Horizon Foundation and United Way of Central Maryland named three members of the Howard County community as winners of the Changemaker Challenge. The winners were selected among 10 finalists who presented their innovative ideas to address pressing issues in the county. Each will receive $10,000 in seed funding and project consultation to launch their ideas.

Three hundred people attended the “Shark Tank”-style event, held at the Kosiakoff Center in Laurel. The winning ideas were selected by a panel of judges from the Horizon Foundation and United Way of Central Maryland:

Erin Cassell, the owner of Roll Up N Dye tie dye studio in Columbia, won for her idea “Safe and Beautiful Bus Stops.” She proposed a plan to lead the Elkridge community – including artists, students, businesses, volunteers and government agencies – in working together to create safe bus stops decorated with locally made art. Specifically, Cassell would like to focus on a stretch of Route 1 which includes only three shelters for 25 bus stops. She envisions her funding going toward a prototype bus shelter that will demonstrate to Howard County and potential investors how they will make traveling safer and easier for everyone in the community.

Beth Sandbower Harbinson, an experienced nonprofit executive and consultant, won for her idea “SOBAR” – devised from the combination of the words “sober” and “bar.” She proposed to produce alcohol-free events and provide healthy, creative non-alcoholic beverages at community social events in Howard County. The goal is to promote fun and tasty alternatives for people who do not drink alcohol while decreasing pressure to drink for recovering alcoholics. The Changemaker Challenge reception featured the “ginger fizz,” a mixture of ginger beer and coconut milk created by Harbinson. She plans to jump start the project with an 18-month plan that will include focus groups, establishing a 501(c)(3) and marketing.

Danielle Staton, a first-generation college graduate who attended Atholton High School, won for her idea “College Readiness Communities.” Staton pitched a plan  for a program that would create supportive peer groups of middle and high school students from lower-income backgrounds, with a focus on those working to become the first in their family to graduate from college. By providing guidance and resources on issues such as high school course selection, financial aid and SAT preparation, the program aims to improve academic equity for Howard County students.

“The Changemaker Challenge showcases the power, creativity and energy of our community to address complex social problems,” said Horizon Foundation President and CEO Nikki Highsmith Vernick. “Not only have our finalists chosen profound social issues, but they are proposing to solve these problems in unique, innovative, multi-dimensional ways. This approach very much aligns with the Horizon Foundation’s focus on leading innovative community change so that everyone in Howard County can live a longer, healthy life.”

The Horizon Foundation developed the Changemaker Challenge, in partnership with United Way of Central Maryland, to spark innovation and fresh thinking to promote social change in Howard County. The event also celebrates Howard County’s long history of tireless work by many individuals and organizations that have brought forward creative solutions to address needs in the community. The event’s ten finalists were chosen from among 44 applicants.

“This event is a microcosm of what people are doing across the country,” said United Way of Central Maryland President and CEO Franklyn Baker. “The biggest test is what we do from here and how we can leverage this to use these ideas moving forward. We want to sustain this in meaningful ways.”