The Ellis Youth Garden Club will connect young students with the food chain right in the school yard. (Photo courtesy of the Awesome Foundation/Boulder.)

Is it possible to change the world, $1,000 at a time? If you believe the founders of The Awesome Foundation, the answer is, “Yes, you can.” Or maybe, “Si, se puede,” to localize the dream.

The concept was born in Boston in the summer of 2009, and has quickly spread to some 50 cities worldwide, now including San Antonio. A board of 10 “micro-trustees” pool together funds at the modest rate of $100 per month per trustee and then select individuals with “a crazy, brilliant idea that needs funding,” who are granted $1,000 to carry out their projects. “Deans” also join in, investing not money, but their time and talent.

For people of a certain age, the word “awesome” may be the most overused, tired exclamation in the English language, wrongfully confused with its distant cousin, “amazing,” a word long overdue to retreat back into the standard lexicon. But for people of a lesser age, the word seems to enjoy an almost eternal value for describing just about everything from “astonishing” to “zany.” Now it’s been capitalized and found its way into partnership with a foundation, so brace for more.

Yes, it’s all awesome: Awesome SA, that is. Get an idea, then get in line.

The Awesome Foundation’s main website lists 255 projects that have won $255,000 in grants since its inception. You can read about the ideas and projects that won funding by clicking on individual cities, or “chapters,” which highlight individual recipients.

What kinds of ideas get funded?

In Seattle this month, artist Tom Rudick proposed transforming a graffiti-covered wall into a paint-by-the-number neighborhood mural, a project that will bring together neighbors who have never met one another, giving the less artistic among them an easy guide to mural painting.

In Grand Rapids, MI, Jake’s Music Festival will bring together an eclectic mix of local bands whose performances will raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

In Boulder, the Ellis Youth Garden Club located on the property of an elementary school will connect young students in a hands-on way with science, nature and the food chain.

The Ellis Youth Garden Club will connect young students with the food chain right in the school yard. (Photo courtesy of the Awesome Foundation/Boulder.)

Awesome SA (@awsome-sa) began with a tweet in May, and will begin awarding funds toward the end of October. Like other chapters around the country and world, Awesome SA will operate independently, raising and granting its own funds for ideas it believes can lead to something bigger. The local chapter’s Facebook page  was just launched and a web page is taking shape. Word-of-mouth has already led to grant applications rolling in. Got a great idea for changing San Antonio for the better? Click here to apply.

“We want to make sure our community understands we are doing this to make San Antonio a truly Awesome City, not one that will be playing second fiddle to any other, but a city that others will look at to measure the quality of life in their own city,” said Zach Harris, a development consultant focused on the built environment.  We may be giving away only $1000 at a time, but we expect every project to be measured against how it will help us achieve the end goal of our bold vision.”

Awesome SA is being launched as a pilot program under SA 4 Good, a newly formed supporting organization of the San Antonio Area Foundation that will assist qualifying community projects without 501c-3 nonprofit status fulfill their charitable missions. The Rivard Report will serve as one of the foundation’s 10 micro-trustees in an effort to generate more creative efforts winning financial support in San Antonio. We also will report on grant recipients each month.

The Foundation will use social media to connect with its audience and to invite people to monthly happenings that will be part awards ceremony, part San Antonio party, always at a different venue.

“As digital media dean, my contribution to Awesome SA is my time and knowledge,” said Claudia Loya, a communications associate with the San Antonio Area Foundation. “I had read about the Awesome Foundation and tweeted the article, and noticed how quickly people responded. It only seemed natural to keep the conversation going… I’m confident we’ll have plenty of projects to keep us busy.”

Loya said the Awesome Foundation hopes to partner with local restaurants and other businesses to create exciting monthly events that attract large crowds and bring greater attention to the new kid on the block. The Foundation’s plan to make its first grant around the end of October has Harris, Loya and other thinking it could turn into a Halloween costume party.

Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.