Baltimore, MD, May 9, 2022 –– M&T Bank and Weave: The Social Fabric Project, a program of The Aspen Institute, will honor the work of 20 Baltimore individuals and groups who are building community through the Weaver Awards, offering easy-to-access micro-grants of $5,000.
The Weaver Awards, launched in Baltimore in 2021, focus on identifying and supporting Baltimoreans who prioritize their community’s emotional needs for connection and belonging. The program is open to Baltimore City residents 18 and older, including those who work in groups with budgets under $250,000 a year. While there are many in the city serving their neighbors, the Weaver Awards are meant for people whose main aim is to help create lasting relationships and build trust so Baltimoreans feel they belong and will work together to make Baltimore stronger.
Individuals and groups can apply via video and an online application from now through June 6. The application process includes answering a few questions about themselves, their communities, and their Baltimore projects, and inviting recommendations from neighbors. A local panel of community advocates will review the candidates and announce 20 awardees in late July. Each will receive $5,000 to be used within 12 months.
“Growing up in Baltimore, weavers were the difference makers in my community who inspired a sense of belonging and trust,” said Dan Porterfield, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “They prioritized relationships, showed up authentically, saw the humanity in everyone, and built social trust which made us collectively stronger. That’s what we honor through the Weaver Awards.”
The Weaver Awards were designed specifically for individuals and small groups who don’t have the time, experience, or networks to receive typical grants from foundations, corporations, or governments. Awardees will have regular check-ins with the Weave Project, but no formal reports or budgets to submit. All applicants will also be invited to join the awards celebration and the #WeaveBaltimore online community for peer support, learning and access to resources.
“Some of the most trusted people getting things done in their communities may not be running nonprofits,” said Frederick Riley, executive director of the Weave Project. “What they share is that they see needs and inspire neighbors to work together to strengthen the place they call home. Those are the weavers we aim to find, support, and celebrate.”
M&T Bank, one of Greater Baltimore’s most generous corporate givers, helped design and launch the Weaver Awards in Baltimore last year. “M&T is focused on strengthening the communities we serve and empowering the residents of those communities to do the same,” said Augie Chiasera, M&T Bank’s regional president for Greater Baltimore. “Through the Weaver Awards program we’re eager to support the relationship building and grassroots activities in Baltimore that we know have a big impact on the people who live and work in the city.”
In 2021, the award’s inaugural year, 10 groups were selected from among 100 applications. These “weavers” spanned a wide array of areas and neighborhoods and included:
- Danielle Battle of Cherry Hill, founder of Restoring Inner City Hope (RICH) used the award for youth enrichment classes including woodworking, STEM, conflict resolution
anti-bullying through improvisational comedy, mentoring, and photography.
- Rocky Brown, who leads the Ellwood Park Project which aims to attract more homeowners to the neighborhood, used the funds to rehabilitate the park pavilion, resurface the playground and expand sports camps and youth programs.
- Audrey Carter, of the Oliver neighborhood who started the Team-up to Clean-up Project, used the funds to beautify the community, offer youth stipends, and start a farmers’ market to address the fresh food shortage.
- Duane “Shorty” Davis, who works throughout Baltimore on his project Good in the Hood, used his mobile BBQ grill and food to bring people together at family-friendly events so they can connect, eat and share ideas.
- Ashley Esposito, who works for the State of Maryland and co-founded the Village of Violetville, Inc., used the funding to further her efforts to connect people and meet neighborhood needs from vaccinations to school supplies to beautification projects and community activities.
- Aida Medina, of Highlandtown, leads Gallery Church Baltimore, where she uses her funds and bilingual skills to connect teen moms, newcomers, and families in need to free children’s clothes, diapers, and formula.
- Elijah Miles, who works with Tendea Family in McElderry Park, started a year-round youth internship program for teens with a paid summer learning institute.
- Naimah Sharif, who works in Belair-Edison and West Baltimore through her nonprofit NLife, created programs and events to connect people to each other, their neighborhoods, and communal celebration to promote social and physical wellness.
- Geraldine Taylor and Arica Gonzalez of the Panway neighborhood, worked through the Urban Oasis, a community-created organization, to support start-up grassroots projects in minority communities.
- Reverend Michele Ward who leads an association of block captains in the Greenmount West neighborhood, launched the Lights On Greenmount West campaign to allow 70 homeowners to get solar-powered outdoor lighting for their stoops, back alleys, and pocket parks and inspire informal outdoor community gathering.
“I love that the Weaver Awards recognize individuals who are quietly making major changes in their neighborhoods,” said Naimah Sharif, founder and executive director of NLife. “Weave has been a tremendous blessing for us opening doors to new opportunities to connect with other community leaders and funders. Thanks to the Weaver Awards, we were able to fund our Baltimore Clean Streets Youth Program, purchase a van for our youth workers, and host three community concerts and three outdoor movie nights last year.”
Visit WeaverAwards.org for more information or to apply. The applications close on June 6, 2022.