Causeway announced Monday the five finalists for their 3rd annual COTY (Changemaker of the Year) Award. Nominees include Roenesha Anderson, Ann-Marie Fitzsimmons and Niki Keck (joint nomination), Ricardo Morris, Galen Riley and Iunike Stevens. More information and voting can be found at www.causeway.org/COTY.
"Causeway was founded on the belief that any person, in any neighborhood, who has an idea for positive social change should have access to the resources and the tools they need to act on that opportunity," officials said. "Causeway’s COTY award celebrates a person who uses their entrepreneurial mind for good; rolling up their sleeves, working tirelessly in their neighborhoods and communities to create the change they want to see, whether that is through a nonprofit, a business or a community project."
Nominations were submitted by the general public through the Chattanooga Startup Awards. The Startup Awards celebrate Chattanooga’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and are co-produced by Causeway, The Company Lab, INCubator, Society of Work and Launch Chattanooga. To choose the COTY finalists, Causeway evaluated all of the nominees on a rubric that measured levels of engagement, innovation, execution and impact. The five finalists scored highest in those areas.
The final winner will be chosen through a public vote. People are invited to cast their ballot to choose the final winner via Causeway’s website at causeway.org/coty. Individuals may vote once per day until the vote closes at midnight on Oct. 20. The Changemaker of the Year will be announced on Thursday, Oct. 24, via social media and at the Chattanooga Startup Awards, a free event being held as part of Startup Week Chattanooga at Waterhouse Pavilion at Miller Plaza at 7 p.m.
“At Causeway, we get the chance to meet so many people who are rolling up their sleeves, working tirelessly in their communities, often without any recognition,” said Abby Garrison, Causeway’s executive director. “We think it’s important for new people and new ideas to get infused into Chattanooga’s social and entrepreneurial sectors, and are thrilled to highlight these talented changemakers who are building innovative solutions in their own communities.”
Meet the nominees:
Roenesha Anderson believes that environmental stress and dysfunctional patterns faced by young Black girls can be transformed through yoga practices.
Roe was born and raised in Chattanooga and knows first hand the impact that trauma and stress can have on a child. Founder of several local efforts geared toward kids, Roe recently founded Girl Stance in order to introduce young black girls to people and ideas that help transform environmental stress and dysfunctional patterns through the use of yoga practices. Children aren’t able to choose the environments they are placed in as youth and through the practice of yoga, Girl Stance aims to teach young girls the tools to combat harmful stresses and utilize the resource of breath, movement, mindfulness and awareness. It also increases girls' physical, emotional and spiritual health, equips them for meaningful relationships and shows them resources for economic growth. Causeway met Roe when she participated in several of our Causeway Challenges and through our fiscal partnership offering.
Ann-Marie Fitzsimmons and Niki Keck believe homeless services should meet people where they are.
Ann-Marie and Niki started Help Right Here, a mobile homeless outreach based out of retro-fitted bus. Both teachers at CSAS, Ann-Marie also manages On My Own 2 Feet and Wheels, a homeless running and biking program of The Chattanooga Community Kitchen, and Niki has long volunteered with the Homeless Healthcare Center. Through that work, they saw the growing homeless camps all over Hamilton County whose residents struggle to make it to the services more easily available to the urban population in Chattanooga. Help Right Here delivers food, fuel, tents, tarps, water, clothing to homeless camps all over the Chattanooga area. Causeway met Ann-Marie and Niki when they took Causeway’s CO.STARTERS for Causes class.
Ricardo Morris believes you can change anything if the arts are part of the strategy.
As special events manager at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre and with a long resume of other arts roles locally and nationally, Ric knows the power the arts have on a community. He recently founded Chattanooga Neighborhoods Arts Partnership (CNAP) to help bring the arts to ALL regardless of their zip code and ability to fund them. Under CNAP’s umbrella Ric offers programs such as the Chattanooga Festival of Black Arts & Ideas: Juneteenth Commemoration, Black Artists Networking Directory (BAND) and Arts-N-Parks. In many disadvantaged neighborhoods, which often tend to be black in Chattanooga, people don't have the resources needed to participate in the joy the arts bring and the power they have to improve their quality of life. Through partnerships and sharing resources like concert equipment and supplies, CNAP hopes to improve the quality of life for all neighborhoods while improving relationships between all members of the Greater Chattanooga community. Causeway met Ric when he participated in the 37404 Causeway Challenge.
Galen Riley believes in breaking down barriers between members of the LGBTQ+ community and sports fans.
Galen, along with Dan and Rebecca Ryan and several other volunteers, founded Prideraiser.org as a coalition of independent soccer supporters that raise money for local LGBTQ+ charities every June. With his background as a software engineer, community organizer, burlesque performer and Chattahooligans volunteer, Galen started Prideraiser.org to break down barriers between members of the LGBTQ+ community and sports fans. Prideraiser.org is a novel and easy model for fundraising and outreach. Growing to 50+ cities across the US and Canada, Prideraiser campaigns have pledged more than $188,000 in support of local LGBTQ+ organizations like Chattanooga's Nooga Diversity Center and the Ruth Ellis Center of Detroit with thousands of grassroots donations.
Iunike Stevens believes hunger is a 24/7 issue and that neighbors will gladly help neighbors if they have a way to give and receive anonymously.
As a commemoration to the way her late mother opened her home to feed anyone who needed or wanted a meal, Iunike founded Helping Hands Community Pantries. Similar to Little Free Libraries, Helping Hands Community Pantries are 24/7 accessible mini-pantries located throughout several neighborhood in Chattanooga--in a front yard, at a bus stop, in a church parking lot--filled with non-perishable food items by neighbors. Helping Hands pantries are educating people about hunger, changing the stigma around it, and reminding people that "you don't have to be homeless to be hungry.” Causeway met Iunike when she participated in the 37404 Causeway Challenge.