Supporting creativity, humanity

The Awesome Foundation expands with a Philadelphia location.

Philadelphia is a city full of people bursting with ideas to help better the community – some might just not know it yet.

A nonprofit organization, The Awesome Foundation wants to see these ideas to come to life, especially for college students.

“The primary focus of The Awesome Foundation is to give money and opportunity to ideas that otherwise would not be funded by alternative sources,” said Keith Scandone, a co-dean and board member of the foundation.

Through $1,000 grants, The Awesome Foundation’s Philadelphia chapter supports projects it believes will better the city. Its board is comprised of two co-deans and nine other trustees.

Allison Buzzanga, a co-dean of the foundation, overlooks all of the applicants’ submissions and decides which ones best fit the organization’s vision.

“We don’t have any set criteria, but what we are looking for projects that benefit the community,” Buzzanga said. “We do more standard charitable causes, including anything from the arts, sciences and more. It’s anything that stands out to us.”

Since the opening of its Philadelphia chapter in mid-August, which was initiated by Scandone, The Awesome Foundation funded the project First Book-Philadelphia last month.

“First Book-Philadelphia is the only source of new books for many children and is regarded as a precious resource by parents and literacy program directors in Philadelphia,” said Carolyn Ashburn, the chair of First Book-Philadelphia.

Through the foundation, First Book was able to provide about 400 books for those who might have not gotten them otherwise.

“Our advisory board, composed of citizens from a variety of professional backgrounds, meets regularly and identifies programs from all over the Delaware Valley – including after-school programs, school classrooms and summer reading camps that meet our criteria for free books,” Ashburn said. “We would select one of these deserving recipient groups to be our ‘Awesome Kids Read’ program and receive 400 new books, thanks to The Awesome Foundation.”

“What we liked about this project was that it was super relevant because of everything going on with the budget cuts,” Buzzanga said. “The schools were in trouble, so this would be great.”

Trustees at The Awesome Foundation Philadelphia chapter look to make improvements in various aspects of the city, especially creativity.

“While it’s important that there is potentially social or community impact, the most important thing is to support something that is hopefully whimsical, innovative and unique,” Scandone said. “So the foundation hopefully highlights projects that are a little more progressive in nature, which hopefully shines a positive light on the creative culture within Philadelphia.”

Although First Book-Philadelphia ultimately received that month’s grant, Buzzanga said there was another project that had serious potential.

“It was between First Book and a program that would make a work station in the Magic Gardens on South Street for kids to do crafts, which could benefit the arts,” Buzzanga said.

She added that it was Ashburn’s “tangible goal of providing 400 books with the $1,000 provided by the foundation” that eventually won them over.

The foundation encourages anyone, no matter the age, to consider the foundation an option when looking to make their idea a reality. Buzzanaga said college students are seen as the perfect candidate for a grant.

“It would be great to get the colligate scene into what we’re doing,” Buzzanga said. “There are a lot of creative and talented people who are lost with their projects because they may not be able to afford it. They could use us as a tool to expand their portfolio or do something for their school.”

As a new chapter in a global organization, Scandone said The Awesome Foundation’s Philadelphia chapter has high hopes for the future of its organization and the city it represents.

“We should be representing Philadelphia as one of the more culturally rich, community driven, socially conscience and creative cities among all of them,” Scandone said. “So while we want to give back to one individual or one group each month, it should be about making our mark on The Awesome Foundation map in general, which in turn brings more positive attention back to our city.”

Siobhan Redding can be reached at

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