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Omahan could win $1,000 toward community project

Omahan could win $1,000 toward community project

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Sure, $1,000 would go a long way toward a 50 inch flat screen TV or plane ticket to Hawaii. But it would go even farther toward the art supplies needed to teach a free local painting class.

The latter is exactly how Ari Nessel, a successful Dallas-based real estate redeveloper, wants to spend his money: $1,000 a day, every day, for the rest of his life.

Nessel founded the Pollination Project, a nonprofit that gives $1,000 grants to individuals in the beginning stages of creating community projects. And although based in Dallas with employees in California and grant winners in places as far as India, Nebraskans are more than welcome to apply for grants.

“I would love to get projects from Nebraska,” said Alissa Hauser, the project's executive director, “I would be thrilled to fund them.”

Hauser got started with the Pollination Project in June 2012 and noted that the heartland isn't usually the first place this type of funding goes – urban areas like New York City or Los Angeles seem to more often “fit the mold,” she said.

Projects approved thus far (there have been 18, one every day since Jan. 1) include a sunflower seed growing/selling program in Washington, D.C., that teaches at-risk youths simple business strategies; turning old newspaper boxes into small makeshift libraries for San Francisco's homeless population; and the distribution of a micro documentary that focuses on environmental issues.

One thing that makes the Pollination Project different, said Hauser, is that the organization gives money to people, not nonprofit organizations.

A team of six, which includes Hauser and founder Nessel, reviews the applications.

“We're evaluating both the person and the projects,” she said “In order to do that effectively, we have a bigger picture than just giving away money.”

The ultimate goal is to create a platform where donors (members of the public or private businesses) can “sponsor” specific projects. So even if an applicant doesn't win over the board and receive a grant, anyone else could take interest in the project and sponsor it.

Until then, Nessel will continue to award $1,000 a day to individuals with community-focussed ideas just needing a little boost.

“I've heard Ari say, 'Social change needs all of us to focus on what we're good at'” said Hauser. “That to me is activism.”

For more information or to apply for a grant, click here.

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