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Granting wishes 

Creative, imaginative people tend to dream about projects they'd like to pursue "someday." Someday, they'll have the money, or the time, or the know-how. Often, that "someday" never comes.

But five projects, ranging from a summertime community garden to a wintertime jazz musical, will come to fruition, thanks at least in part to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation's new Ingenuity Grants program.

"I wanted to design a grant process that would encourage social entrepreneurs to make their great ideas happen," writes executive director Michael Hannigan in an e-mail. "In essence, I focused on 'find great people with great ideas, and make it happen.'"

The community foundation serves as a hub for all things philanthropic in the Pikes Peak region: It helps individuals and organizations create charitable funds (such as the Independent with its annual Give! campaign) and then manages those funds; it matches would-be donors to appropriate local nonprofits; and it even stewards community treasures like Venetucci Farm and the Pikes Peak Conservation Fund.

In the grand scheme, Ingenuity Grants deal with small numbers; they'll top out at $5,000. But as kickstarter.com has made clear, that's just the boost a lot of people need.

Hannigan, two staff members and a seven-person advisory committee solicit proposals within three areas of interest: food and wellness; economic strength; and arts, music and cultural resources. Projects that use technology to give firsthand experience to people, especially children, are encouraged. Applicants must partner with a local business and a local nonprofit who provide guidance during the application process and beyond.

"We are looking for people who have ideas that can change our community in positive ways far into the future," writes Hannigan. "In the short term, we hope to inspire people who have been chewing on a great idea for years, but have never put it into action. In the long term, we hope to build a network of 'ingenious people' who believe it is possible to do almost anything that will benefit our community."

Chair and share

A couple recipients will be familiar to Indy readers. One is Sean O'Meallie, the renowned artist and sculptor who is heading up the Manitou Springs Chair Project. O'Meallie, who's recently shown at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and has 22 separate installations in this year's Art on the Streets, is organizing an event on Oct. 9 during which more than 1,000 empty chairs will be lined up, facing east, along a shut-down Manitou Avenue. "The Chair Project" received a $5,000 grant. (To learn more about O'Meallie's plan, for which I've done some PR, see manitouchairproject.org.)

Another is the Pikes Peak Community Cupboard, whose barter-and-trade events were described in a June feature story ("Sultans of swap," Break, June 9). The organization received $2,000 for a community dinner it's scheduled for Sept. 25 at Hillside Gardens. The idea is, essentially, the biggest potluck you've ever seen: Have local people make dishes from scratch with as many local ingredients as possible, and join in for a night that celebrates community. (See pikespeakcommunitycupboard1.weebly.com for info.)

Along similar lines comes a lesser-known project that has to do with food and fellowship. On town-owned land near Palmer Lake's "Old Jail," eight volunteers are helping Palmer Lake Country Store & Deli owner Sylvia Amos grow a community garden.

Amos says a couple years ago, she was amazed to see more than 100 locals opt into a deal to get produce grown at Wellington-based Grant Family Farms. The idea with the community garden, Amos says, was to show people what they can grow themselves in Palmer Lake, and make the local-sourcing circle even tighter.

Even before its $2,500 grant had been announced, Amos and Co. had planted five beds of mostly cool-weather vegetables. Early yields have been promising, and Amos is looking forward to a Harvest Moon celebration in the fall, at which community members who tend their own private gardens will be invited to share their hauls with each other and the community gardeners.

Amos expects to get more gardens going next year, and has already fielded numerous inquiries about making it into a co-op. Consequently, she's thinking big.

"Maybe next year, we can rent some of the beds to families in the community," she says. "We want to ... donate produce to some needy families in the community, and also fix some meals with the produce so we can sell them to the community cheap, so we can raise money toward a greenhouse."

The right notes

From greenhouses, it's not too far a jump to Greenwoman Magazine.

Sandra Knauf is a gardener and writer who in recent years put out six issues of a zine called Greenwoman. She made the jump to a full-fledged magazine earlier this year, working as publisher, editor, designer and ad saleswoman — and getting help from her daughter Zora and copy editor Cheri Colburn — to produce her inaugural issue in early July.

Rather than the usual gardening tips and recipes, Greenwoman features poetry, fiction and non-fiction, editorials, interviews, art, even a comic strip starring vegetables. Knauf hopes to distribute her "baby" through farmers markets and health food stores, and online at greenwomanmagazine.com.

"I think if people are outside and connected with nature more, it does something," Knauf says. "I think it transforms you, because you realize that you're connected to something way bigger and you're participating in something that feeds you in more ways than just nutrition."

Knauf already is recruiting contributors for the winter/spring issue. She's open to publishing rookie writers, but wants to keep experienced, lower-maintenance writers in the mix — which is one reason why she's so excited to have a $5,000 grant.

"It has just lifted quite the burden from me about borrowing money, because that's what I would have to do to make this happen," she says. "And I was going to make this happen."

A different type of cultural start-up comes courtesy of Judy Sellers and Kathy Loo, longtime friends and fixtures of the nonprofit community. After seeing New York City productions of Bending Towards the Light, a "jazz nativity" event, they wished Colorado Springs offered something like it.

"It's such an unusual presentation of the traditional Christmas story," Sellers says. "With the element of jazz, it's unlike anything I've ever seen or heard of."

After a few years, they took the project on themselves. They got permission from the New York team and started figuring out logistics and recruiting musicians, including Broadmoor Harmony, a jazz quartet.

The one-act production debuts Dec. 3 and 4 at Broadmoor Community Church, which has offered the space for free. Its music director, Lynn Hurst, is helping, while Brad Bietry of the Broadmoor Academy of Music has found musicians, and KRCC-FM 91.5 has offered to handle ticket sales and on-air publicity.

"We've had a very warm welcome, in effect," Sellers says. "Nobody has sneered at us and said, 'What do you think you're doing?'"

Bending Towards the Light received $3,000, which will go toward general operating expenses.

Additional reporting by Kirk Woundy.

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