The blustery evening wind let up just long enough tonight for the Awesome SA trustees to award Ashlea Denton of Paws Ranch Rescue & Animal Sanctuary (PRRAS) $1,000 for her adoption vehicle transformation.

The nonprofit organization found homes for 132 animals last year and is hoping to double that number in 2013 by having more adoption events at local pet and animal supply stores.

Ashlea Denton, January's Awesome SA grant winner. Her awesome idea was to finalize repairs and modifications to the ___ adoption van. Announcement photos by Iris Dimmick.
Ashlea Denton, January’s Awesome SA grant winner. Her awesome idea was to finalize repairs and modifications to the Paws Ranch Rescue and Animal Sanctuary adoption van. Announcement photos by Iris Dimmick.

“We have contract permissions at pet stores so we (and the van) can be out in front instead of in the back of the store,” Denton said.

Smiling graciously, she thanked the “awesome” trustees, PRRAS volunteers and the crowd that gathered at Alamo Street Eat Bar for the ceremony, adding, “This is really going to make our year.”

This is the second time Denton has applied for an Awesome SA grant. She says that this time she put more heart and soul into the application.

“The first time, I really didn’t think I had a chance, ” but encouragement from friends and family led her to apply again.

[Read more about Denton in her idea description below.]

In what is becoming classic Awesome SA style, finalists shook hands after the announcement and much of the crowd lingered at the bar and various food trucks.

Tonight was also the third evening of the first annual Meat Week in San Antonio. Local chapter organizers Noel Cisneros and Denise Aguirre who co-own The Point Park & Eats were there with fellow carnivores to taste the featured food truck, Outlaw BarBQ and support local business. The special tonight: “Keep San Antonio Lamb.” Lame lamb never tasted so good.

Meat Week organizers and The Point Park & Eats co-owners Noel Cisneros and Denise Aguirre.
Meat Week organizers and The Point Park & Eats co-owners Noel Cisneros and Denise Aguirre pose for a photo in front of featured meatery, Outlaw BarBQ.

Scott “Red Hot” Gustafson, Awesome SA dean, announced that he’s moving his new family back to Kansas City at the end of next month. Anyone interested in becoming the new dean? It’s about 15 hours a month, he said, “three weeks out of the month it’s really simple.”

The awesome dean is responsible for filtering through grant submissions, interviewing finalists, and preparing internal reports (summaries of finalist submissions) to trustees. The position requires attendance at about three meetings a month. Unpaid of course, but fun, Gustafson said.

Iris Dimmick is managing editor of the Rivard Report. Follow her on Twitter @viviris or contact her at

Previously published:


Awesome SA is a community of people that fosters the creation of surprise and delight in San Antonio through simple, lightweight funding. The heart of Awesome SA is eleven trustees who fund (with a $1,000 grant) an awesome project in the city each month.

Any individual or organization may submit a project proposal. A quality project submission will have an immediate impact on San Antonio. Project submissions may be categorized as arts, science, technology, community development or education, but there are few limitations on the nature or scope of proposals. Here are some general judging guidelines/suggestions that board members use to select the winner:

  1. Awesomeness: How awesome is the project? Can it be promoted? Will community members desire to be involved and learn more about the project?
  2. Sustainability: Does the projects produce an ongoing benefit?
  3. Diversity: Has Awesome SA chosen projects of similar purpose or impact in recent months? Does the project engage a different demographic than previous awardees?

The January Awesome SA awards will be presented Tuesday at Alamo Street Eat Bar, (609 S. Alamo St.). Meet and mingle with contestants and Awesome trustees starting at 6 p.m. At 7 p.m. finalists will be invited to present heir proposals at the gathering, and then he winner will be announced at 7 p.m..

Adoption Vehicle Transformation by Ashlea Denton

Rescue Van Rendering
Rescue Van Rendering

Here’s my idea:

About our current project: Six months ago a supporter donated a Chevy Step van. We have been trying desperately to save money to transform this van into an adoption vehicle. An adoption vehicle would allow us to host more adoption events in more locations and provide us with greater visibility during adoption events. Most importantly this vehicle could raise adoption numbers by as much as 50%. Saving twice as many lives this year; 264 up from 132 lives saved last year.

Hundreds of abused, abandoned, and neglected animals have already been saved by Paws Ranch Rescue & Animal Sanctuary (PRRAS). As many as 75% of all pets picked up by Animal Control Services (ACS) are euthanized. The numbers are staggering. On average 2,500 pets die every month! We at PRRAS along with the Alamo Area Partnership for Animal Welfare (AAPAW) and other local rescues are striving to make San Antonio a NO KILL City. You can help by getting involved. Adopt a less adoptable pet, foster a pet, sponsor a special needs animal, become a volunteer, donate funds, pet supplies, or food, educate friends and neighbors about the stray pet problem, spay and neutering, and encourage them to adopt instead of breeding or buying. Together we can reach our goal of No Kill!

A little about me:

NoShopAdopt AwesomeSA

I come from a family of Animal lovers and we always had a pack of rescue dogs on the ranch while I was growing up. I am a UTSA grad and the founder and Executive Director of Paws Ranch Rescue and Animal sanctuary a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that got its start in 2010 thanks to a publicly voted grant from Pepsi. We exist solely on grants, donations, and the help of our dedicated volunteers. Our goal is to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home or provide sanctuary to as many pets as possible.

How I will use the money:

We will use the money to pay a shop (Brad’s Pit Stop) to install an awning, plexiglass wall, vinyl decals and cage brackets. This will turn an ordinary UPS-type van into an awesome, eye-catching, life saving, automobile! Brads Pit Stop is donating labor. My father, Gary Denton, is donating new tires.

Give 100 Bikes / PoPo’s We-Cycle by Eric Keith Cerda


Here’s my idea:

As child I never owned a new bike. I did buy a friend’s bike – it was a few years old – but I don’t remember ever complaining. Painting, patching and re-patching tubes and looking for spare parts to replace the broken parts on your own bike was just part of having a bike in our neighborhood. The worst part of it all was how the envy got to many of the kids in our neighborhood and they stole others bikes. I’m not giving them an excuse, but affordable bikes weren’t available. I want to change that.

The major goal of the project will be to take old bikes and parts as donations and recycle them to be given to children and organizations selected by our board as well as homeless veterans in need of transportation. Bikes and parts will be placed into three different categories; professional, intermediate and beginner. If a professional bike can be built, it will be sold, auctioned or raffled away to build revenue that will pay the bills, salary for mechanics, advertising and such. Intermediate and beginner bikes will be given away to charities selected by our local board.

Once a location has been secured we will offer bicycle mechanic courses, repairs and an in-house tool and stand loaning service. Any of these services can be paid for with a promised service back to the shop (repairs, donation rallies, flyer handouts, etc.) or with a monetary donation. We would also like to start a build-a-bike program in which a person in need of a bicycle could help around the shop in return for the opportunity to build their own bicycle out of used parts.

Some local food and music stands have already agreed to allow us to have donation rallies in coordination with group rides or events at their locations. Donation rallies would offer discounted food or other for donations of bikes, parts or money with the discounts connected to the tier of donation. Items such as cycling hats, t-shirts and stickers have already been priced and will be raffled or given away at each rally. ?

A little about me:

I am a married with four kids; three girls (two are in college, one in kindergarten), one boy (he’s 12). I was recently medically retired from the military. After the military, my wife and I decided to devote most of our time to our children. I am a full-time student at The University of the Incarnate Word where I am majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Philosophy and Education. I can no longer serve my country but I would love nothing more than to continue to serve my community. Bikes are RAD!


Eric has been working with Haven for Hope and San Antonio Housing Authority to establish work spaces at multiple locations throughout the city. He will be working with San Anto Cultural Arts and Urban Connections on after school programming where kids will learn the skills of bike repair and will complete the programming by building their own bikes.

How I will use the money:

Hopefully we will have our nonprofit status, be incorporated and tax exempt before the grant is awarded. If so, we will use $400 for tools, bike stands and misc (lubricants, degreaser, etc.). We will use $200 on tubes (the most needed part for bikes). $200 will go to advertising; flyers, ads, and a website if we don’t have one yet. $200 will be used to purchase T-shirts, stickers and hat’s that will be sold to keep the program going. And the last $100 will go to accounting classes for me. (Just kidding!)

Outdoor Classroom and Learning Center by Lili Gonzalez


Here’s my idea:

The learning garden will teach students from Dwight Middle School how to tend a garden. The food they grow can be used as a healthy lunch and/or sold as produce to the community. The Community Garden will have benches and will be an awesome place to come and relax during the day and at night with a Community Movie night during the summer. The students will learn about sustainability plus be encouraged to stay in school.

The Dwight Middle School Principle said the students that are at risk and get into trouble at school respond positively to out-of-classroom activities – especially when they see the results of their hard work. We will try to use as many sustainable materials as possible such as recycled tires as planters that will be painted with colorful-fun colors by students and sustainable or recycled woods for frames. We will use organic and native seeds. By using these materials students will learn about the importance of recycling (less waste/toxic in landfills) and planting native and organic seeds (no competition from exotics/adapted to the region mean less water needed and less soil damage). Ultimately, students and the community will understand how tiny steps and changes in our lifestyle can conserve the earth.

A little about me:

We are the South San Main Street Project (SSMSP), an organization that has joined forces with Dwight Middle School to create an AWESOME learning garden for the students to learn about the importance of responsibility and sustainability. South San Main Street Project’s mission is to enrich and revitalize the Quintana Community by restoring its historic buildings through the development of sustainable infrastructure that will attract local investments and create cleaner and safer neighborhoods for today and future generations. SSMSP promotes sustainability and the concept of having a strong and united community.

We attend community meetings as well as host our own to inform the community of any updates and pass out flyers of any event we are involved in. We’ve also created volunteer opportunities for the South San H.S. National Honor Society group and the community, which has been very supportive. Our first goal is to create a learning garden. We placed second on the TPR Lighter Quicker Cheaper. Our plans were stalled for a second, but we are optimistic that if we win thanks to the Awesome Foundation, we can begin to implement our idea as early as January 2014.


The school and principal are supportive of the project and aim to encourage student participation by providing class credit for working at the garden. Lili is working with gardening organizations to ensure sustainability of the garden.

How I will use the money:

We will use the money to buy as many materials as we possibly can. These materials include wood for frames, paint, brushes, a few native trees to create natural shade, soil (although we are planning on creating compost in the future), and seeds (native to SA’s arid environment and/or organic). We will find used tires that will be donated from junk yards and recycling facilities to be used as planters. Volunteers will help us execute our project as well as volunteering experts.

Each One Teach One Adult Literacy Program by Carolyn Heath


Here’s my idea:

Most of us can’t imagine a world in which we aren’t able to read or write. We read consciously and subconsciously. We routinely fill out forms, write lists, conduct business, and read for information or pleasure. However, one in four San Antonians are hiding an embarrassing secret – they are either unable to read and write or do so at such a low level that it hinders their ability to reach their full potential as employees, family members and individuals.

Adult illiteracy also impacts the larger community. Society pays the price for adult illiteracy through dropout rates; unemployment, criminal justice, and health care costs to name a few. In response to the dire need for help by adult learners, Each One Teach One Adult Literacy Program (EOTOSA) is the only non-profit in San Antonio whose mission is to provide one on one tutoring to adults who function below 8th grade level academically and adults who are studying to take the GED exam.

EOTOSA receives student referrals from employers, educational institutions, non-profit and governmental organizations and word of mouth. The agency utilizes volunteer tutors to work with adult learners in two-hour tutoring sessions. Volunteers also act as teaching assistants at city GED Learning Centers. Volunteers come from all walks of life, and include retired teachers, university students, homemakers, retirees and professionals. EOTOSA staff perform student assessments, develop lesson plans, answer questions during tutoring sessions and measure student progress. The agency currently serves over 100 adult learners between all of its locations.

A little about me:

I have over 30 years of experience working for non-profit organizations in Chicago and San Antonio. Most notably I established a faith-based non-profit, Antioch Community Transformation Network, in 2001. I have been recognized for my community work, including membership in Leadership San Antonio Class 31, Community Leadership Institute Class of 2004, Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative 2007 Leadership Program, and the City of San Antonio 2011 Community Action Advisory Board.


Carolyn says that currently there are sixty students in the program. The learners range from having a third grade reading level to people studying for their GED. Sixty students is near their capacity for the moment but they continue to receive inquiries on a daily basis.

How I will use the money

The funds will be used in several ways. They are needed to purchase curriculum materials designed specifically for the adult learner. We use publishers who develop materials (reading workbooks, newspapers, math books, etc.) with adult content but written for the low level reader. The funds also will be used for office supplies, such as notebook paper, copy paper, file folders, pens/pencils, etc. Finally, the funds will be used to help with space rental costs related to tutoring locations.

Locivate: Cultivate All Things Local by Morgan Craven

Here’s my idea:

Morgan Craven
Morgan Craven

We should support small businesses every day. Locivate will transition the traditional Farmer’s Market model to an online marketplace, making it faster and easier for consumers to access local goods. Locivate will feature items such as produce, prepared foods, wine, beer, beauty items, and art. Our vision is to create a marketplace where consumers can purchase almost anything they want/need, while providing local producers with marketing support, e-commerce and distribution capabilities, and a robust web and social media presence. Locivate will provide a number of benefits:

  • Strengthen our Economy: Local businesses produce income, jobs, and taxes for communities. For every $100 spent at a large retailer, $15 stays local, compared to $45 for $100 spent locally.
  • Orlando Segura
    Orlando Segura

    Encourage Innovation: A marketplace of vibrant small businesses will encourage innovation and fair prices.

  • Protect the Environment: The typical dinner contains items from five foreign countries. The transportation of these items has serious implications for our environment.
  • Enable Healthier Eating: Produce is picked nearly a week before it reaches a grocery store. Buying local enables consumers to eat fresher products.
  • Inspire Creativity: Local artists and crafters need a space to showcase their unique works.
  • Locivate will allow producers to create “web stands” to sell their goods. Consumers will select the items they wish to purchase and pick up their “basket” from a central distribution center or one of several delivery points across the city.
Jesse Lotay
Jesse Lotay

Demand for local goods is at an all time high, yet the local goods market is inefficient because it is highly fragmented and not conducive to one-stop shopping. Small, local businesses often struggle because they do not have the marketing, distribution, and web capabilities necessary to reach a broad audience of consumers. Locivate provides a solution to both groups and, in doing so, helps to develop a more dynamic, unique and connected San Antonio.

A little about me (us):

Megan O'Kain Lotay
Megan O’Kain Lotay

Locivate is a small business that was recently formed by one San Antonio native and three transplants—Orlando, Megan, Jesse and Morgan. The four founders were having dinner at a local farm-to-table style restaurant and began discussing the benefits of consuming local, seasonal foods. That conversation planted the Locivate seed, and the idea has since grown. For the past two months, the founders have laid the groundwork for Locivate while maintaining their day jobs in marketing and the law.


Morgan said that the scope of their project has changed since applying for the grant. They would like to sell more than grocery-­type goods.

How I will use the money:

This grant will enable us to create an interim website to use as we secure additional capital, accept vendor applications, and build consumer interest. We have chosen a local designer (Jabri Design) to assist with this initial work. Development of the marketplace will require significant capital, and it is important that we have a professional web presence as we fundraise. The site will lend credibility as we build relationships with local producers and secure their commitment to use Locivate.

The Rivard Report is a sponsor of Awesome SA. 

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...