Awesome SA is about to give away $1,000 to a single person or organization with a creative idea to make San Antonio a better place — for only the second time in the non-profit organization’s brief existence. No strings attached. Last month, Solar San Antonio won with its project to convert the Say.She.Ate food truck to solar power. Yeah, turn off the loud diesel.

Don’t worry if you are coming late to the Awesome SA story: Are you a creative individual or a committed community group with a small-scale idea that could make the city a better place? Well then, there is always December. And January. And February. And every succeeding month. Awesome SA’s board of trustees will award a $1,000 grant to an individual with a bright idea or cool project that merits funding every single month. The money is in the bank. We need deserving recipients.

Last week, trustees met to consider several finalists for the November $1,000 award. Who won? Come out to the Alamo Street Eat Bar, 609 S. Alamo St this Tuesday at 6 p.m. to meet and greet the finalists, hear about their proposals in their own words, and at 7 p.m., hear the winning project announced. It just might inspire you to submit an application of your own in the next month or two. 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.

You can read more about the local chapter’s founding by clicking on Amazing! The Awesome Foundation Spreads to San Antonio, which we published on Aug. 16. Full disclosure:  The Rivard Report is one of the Awesome SA trustees. We are committed to publish articles each month profiling the finalists and recognizing the winner. Our intention is to promote this and any other initiative that supports creative class activity in the city. Other Awesome SA trustees include Francesca Caballero, Zac and Brooke Harris, Melissa Burnett, Michael Girdley, Jeff Mulholland, Omar Gonzalez, Peter French, Kelly Beevers and Christina Bigley. Awesome SA Board Members: Jeff Mulholland, Claudia Loya, Zac Harris, and Scott Gustafson.

 From 11 credible submissions in November, five were selected as finalists. Information on each of them, in their own words, follows.

Finalist: Morgan Barnhart with Basic Survival (Zombie) Training for San Antonio

A little about me/us:


We’re a non-profit organization that teaches basic, practical survival techniques to the local community and beyond. We have a website where we try to educate people on a regular basis through our blog, podcast, training articles, videos and forum.

Here’s my idea:

We’re trying to expand as much as we can to reach a larger number of people throughout the community that’s interested in affordable survival training. We’ve been holding local meet-ups through for a while now where we’ve been doing round table open discussions of basic survival techniques, tips, tricks, etc.

The project right now is to reach the community on a much larger scale to educate people on how to survive and prepare for natural and emergency disasters. Anything can happen tomorrow and with our basic survival course, anyone can prepare for any disaster or emergency situation without spending a whole lot of money and without spending a whole lot of time.

Most people think of survivalists, or “preppers,” as the paranoid doomsday preppers that they see on TV, but with these classes we want to show that being prepared is about being ready to handle any situation that may come our way, not hiding away in a bunker somewhere.

If hurricane Katrina & the most recent Sandy have taught us anything, it’s that disaster can strike at any moment. Even here in San Antonio, freak floods, fires and thunder storms can happen at any moment and change our current way of life.

We hope to hold meetings at library’s, collaborate with other organizations such as The Red Cross, and hold meetings in local parks & community centers so that everyone will be able to access the information at little to no cost to them.

How I will use the money:

We’ll use the money to rent out the appropriate locations in order to hold the events. Right now we have the curriculum and desire, but don’t have the funds t0 rent out rooms or locations in order to reach those large audiences.

*More information on this organization can be found at

Finalist: Gem Abrahamsen with ‘Who Wants to Ride?’

A little about me:

I like bikes. I work at San Antonio B- Cycle part-time maintaining and assembling B-cycles. I’ve been hit twice by cars while riding my bike. I felt like I had to do something. I created Who Wants To Ride – San Antonio’s only cycling advocacy organization. We work to raise awareness, provide education, and teach safety.

Basically, I want to make my hometown a better, more beautiful place. I have lofty goals.

Here’s my idea:

We are a new organization dedicated to bringing awareness to our growing urban cycling community. We encourage everyone who uses our roads to do so safely. We want to bring goodwill to the commuters on our streets whether they ride or drive. We want everyone to enjoy themselves while they’re getting around town.

Our focus is on safety, sharing the road, resources, education, fitness, low-impact transportation, community connectivity and having fun.

We connect the people in San Antonio who love to ride bikes. Whether you ride for hobby, for sport, for transportation, or for fun, we want to let you know what is currently going on in our city and where you can find trails and group rides.

We bring awareness to the laws of the road, which are designed with the safety of everyone in mind. We advocate for both cyclists and motorists obey these laws. Respect and kindness on the road will prevent crashes, injuries and deaths.

We educate cyclists on their rights and their vehicles. We maintain the goal of providing free written materials, mechanical workshops and confidence building seminars. Our services are geared for teens and adults of all levels of ability and knowledge.

We promote urban cycling as a way of life. We recommend that the option of cycling as a means of transportation be explored by all citizens of our city, on all sides of town, in all areas. We can walk when things are nearby, bike when things are a little further away, and take the bus when things are too far to ride. This makes our city cleaner, less congested, leaner, richer, and greener. We want to make San Antonio a better place for everyone who shares our roads.

How I will use the money:

We would use the funds to launch our first awareness campaign. We plan to create highly visible Public Service Announcements by utilizing San Antonio’s amazing and diverse artist community.

Our goal is to commission a series of murals in different areas of San Antonio with a positive message of road safety while being beautiful, visually interesting, and high impact.

Not only would this beautify the neighborhoods where the murals are installed, but it will promote safety and sustainability.

Finalist: John Medina with Sculptural Bicycle Rack

A little about me:

John Medina Sculptural Bike Racks
Photo from John Medina.

San Anto’s Public Art Program (SACA) identifies, develops and mobilizes artistically –inclined youth and young adults to create collaborative community murals / public art pieces within the San Anto Cultural Arts community. The goals of the program are to create and inspire collaborative, quality public art. San Anto creates public art works of various scale that are symbols of the Westside, defining its character through the eyes of its residents.

Here’s my idea:

The 2120 Collective is San Anto Cultural Arts’ after school program for creative youth who are interested in pursuing a career in the arts. Members of the SACA Collective have the opportunity to develop artistic skills and learn about various aspects of the art world including process, theory and business. Furthermore, they gain real-world experience through participating in San Anto’s public art projects, which they can use to develop their own professional art portfolios. Trips to local museums and visits to the personal studios of well-known, local artists are all part of the well- rounded development of these young artists.

One aspect of the Collective is that members get to propose their own projects so that they can learn about things they are interested in. It is through that process that we have developed this particular proposal.

Many of our participants use bicycles as their primary form of transportation, In the past, SACA has had issues with bicycle theft. We do not have a safe and secure place for our visitors to lock up their bikes. As a result, when the collective meets we have numerous bikes stacked inside our building which takes up a lot of space. Our participants recognized this issue and instead of asking us purchase a standard bike rack they saw this as a learning opportunity.

So that brings us to our proposal.

SACA and the 2120 Collective would like to build an artistic bicycle rack. This functional art piece would serve to beautify our corner of the community while offering our visitors a safe place to secure their bicycles. Participants will work with a local metal artist to complete this project through a series of workshops. Through designing this bike rack, participants will learn about the fundamentals or 3-dimensional design and public sculpture. They will also learn advanced metal fabrication techniques which will include forging, welding and powder coating.

How I will use the money:

The awesome grant will be used to purchase the materials necessary to complete this sculpture project. In addition it will also pay for artist fees associated with the project. The entire proposed budget (including artist fees) is $1,189.00

I have included pictures of proposals for the design of the bike rack. Keep in mind, this is not necessarily what the end product will look like. They are simply examples of proposals for the project.

Finalist: Kasi Gravell with Helping Hands/Caring Hearts

A little about me:

I am a single mother of two children who has started a business on the basis that it is a blessing to be a blessing.In 2009 I was an unemployed single Mother of two amazing children. I was cleaning a few houses to  help pay the bills as I continued to search for full-time work. After over a year of no luck of finding a full-time job, I gave up my search and started cleaning houses.

Kasi Gravell

As the clientele list starting growing for house  cleanings, I started noticing a pattern of who was really seeking my help and seeing how hard it was for  not only them but also their family members to meet all their daily needs.

That is where the idea of Caring Hearts came from.

Community members helping other community members meet their daily living needs without feeling ashamed or embarrassed. We offer services such as transpiration to those that can longer drive to the grocery store and doctor appointments. We also take our clients that are battling cancer to their chemotherapy sessions and hold their hand so they know that are not alone. We give transportation to that single parent whose only vehicle is broke down and also help with after  school care to those that cannot afford daycare but has to work those long hours. We also fill the gap that home health services is not allowed to do, such cleaning and meal preparation for everybody in the household. There is a saying that I grew up on, “It takes a village to raise a child”, but as I have grown older I now realize that it takes members of community to show the world that we all having a caring heart.

Here’s my idea:

Our focus is on helping the elderly and disable. We clean our client’s houses, take them grocery shopping, clothes shopping, to doctor appointments, to visit out-of-town family that they might not get to go see on a regular basis, and so on. We fill in the gap between home health and family care. Home Health does allow their employee’s to transfer clients and family members cannot always get off of work to take their loved ones to their appointments.

How I will use the money:

A thousand dollars would allow us to take of five clients full-time for one month at no charge to these low-income clients who really cannot afford this help.

Finalist: Marco Lienhard with Japanese Music Concerts

A little about me:

I am a professional Taiko player for more than 30 years.While touring as a professional Taiko player in Japan, I studied and mastered the shakuhachi under Master Katsuya Yokoyama, quickly becoming a virtuoso solo artist. I studied the fue and the nohkan (Noh theater flute) with Masayuki Isso. Lienhard has performed more that 3000 concerts in Europe, Asia, and North America with appearances at some of the world’s most prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, etc.

Here’s my idea:

This project consists of a series of high quality concerts in the area. The concerts would basically be of Japanese music. This grant would help me present shakuhachi and koto concerts in the area. Along with the concerts, I would also offer workshops and lessons. This would help complete the goal that I have set myself to do in life. I have been fortunate enough to have lived and studied in Japan for over 25 years and studied with one of the greatest Master of the shakuhachi, the late Katsuya Yokoyama. Before his passing, he had asked me to share my knowledge and art to as many people as possible through out the world there is always a great need for some awesome Japanese music concerts of the highest quality and I am here to provide it. I have travelled all over the world and perform also regularly in Japan.

The response after the concerts is always very positive. People need to be exposed to music of different cultures and I believe this will help bring a better understanding between people. These unique concerts are also a way to open new windows of opportunity and new collaboration between musicians of different cultures. The concert would be a mix of traditional music as well as new compositions. Some of the new compositions would be by local artists. This awesome grant is a great way to build bridges to new ventures, possibilities and concerts in the future.

This project will definitely lead to new and bigger things and in the creation of new compositions that would be later performed in other parts of the world. This would lead in getting great exposure for local artists to new audiences around the world and of course nationally. I have done performances on every continent and given concert in some of the greatest concerts hall in the world. I have done concerts with rock, jazz, avant-garde musicians and I am open with this project to push it even further.

How I will use the money:

The money would be used to cover some of the expenses of the concert set up, rent and advertisement . I have a lot of friends locally and they would help me with the logistics of the concerts. The money would also help to pay for the concert fee, but I hope to also ask for some donations after the concert to help pay for the costs. This grant would be a just a great way to set things into motion and make it happen. A truly awesome project that will bring people together through music.


Okay, readers, who should win? We’d like you to post your thoughts, comments, and votes. If we get enough responses, we will announce the People’s Choice winner Tuesday night. Come on, jump in.

Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook.


Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at