Piqua Compassion Network wins the pitch; Pitch Piqua awards $50,000 grant


By Haylee Pence

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PIQUA – The Piqua Community Foundation hosted their first ever Pitch Piqua event on Thursday at the Fort Piqua Plaza, where three non-profit organizations presented their projects to the community to try and win a $50,000 grant to make their projects come to life. The grand prize winner was ultimately the Piqua Compassion Network.

The other two organizations that competed for the prize — and still received other grants and donations through the Piqua Community Foundation and community members on Thursday evening — included the Child Care Choices, Inc. and Piqua City Schools.

There was much work put into their final project reveals. In July of 2021, non-profits submitted narrative applications to be considered. In August, the non-profits went through semi-finalist interviews with the finalists being announced in September. From October to the project reveal on Thursday, the three organizations worked to “perfect their concepts and pitches” through multiple meetings and working closely with professionals with project and presenting experience.

Each group had five minutes to present their projects, including what need their project will help in the community, how it will help, the cost breakdown, and how they will measure their project’s success. Then, each group had five minutes to answer questions from the panel of judges.

The judges included Amanda Brown, Jim Sever, Timothy Risner, and Kathy Sherman. The judges based their votes on a variety of criteria, which included the impact on Piqua residents, evidence of the community’s need for their project, readiness to launch, sustainability of their projects, and the overall quality of their presentations. The audience also had the opportunity to vote for their favorite project by donating $10 or more for the organization.

The first group to present was Child Care Choices, Inc., which was represented by Co-Directors Jenny Fox and Renee Matsunami. Their project aimed to address the child care crisis and provide a solution for the workforce in Piqua.

“The mission of Child Care Choices is to spark positive change and growth in the child care capacity in Miami County by partnering with providers, businesses, area governments, and families,” the Child Care Choices mission statement.

The evidence the organization collected via a survey of Piqua businesses is that 68% of businesses said employees struggle to find quality child care, 48% are unable to hire/retain employees, and 80% indicated employee productivity is negatively impacted from lack of adequate child care. In Piqua, there are four child care centers and six preschools with 38 open staff positions, which leaves about 306 child care spots unfilled.

Child Care Choices, Inc.’s solution to address this need has three steps, recruitment and retention, trainings, and credentialing. If they fill the 38 open positions, they estimate that 912 parents/caregivers can enter the workforce. The judges asked a variety of questions including the sustainability of the project, where Fox and Matsunami informed the audience that they plan to grow this project to outside of Piqua to include the rest of Miami County.

The next group to present was Piqua City Schools, which was represented by the Directors of Curriculum Teresa Anderson and Scott Bloom. Their project, Bookmobile, aims to bring books to young children throughout Piqua to increase literacy.

“The mission of the Piqua City Schools is to work in partnership with students, parents, and our community to help each student create a successful path to graduation and to be prepared for success after graduation from Piqua City Schools,” the Piqua City Schools mission statement. According to Anderson and Bloom, there are 3,300 children in the Piqua City School system. Anderson stated, “Exposure to written words at an early age leads to better literacy, better outcomes, and a better well-being.”

They stated two-thirds of the children entering kindergarten in Piqua are without the “readiness” skills, and students that aren’t reading at a third grade level by that grade are four times less likely to graduate. With 36% of Piqua third graders not hitting the reading level, it means there are fewer graduates that are prepared for the future.

The Bookmobile project would deliver books to young children through a new cargo van with space to organize and display the books with a space to include STEM materials to foster learning. The Bookmobile would also partner with the Piqua Public Library to deliver library materials to local senior citizens who cannot get out. The judges asked about the long-term costs of the Bookmobile, which Scott and Anderson responded Piqua City Schools would cover the long-term costs of gas, maintenance, and insurance.

The final group to present was the Piqua Compassion Network, which was represented by volunteers Chloe Clark and Caleb Patton with support from the Executive Director Rebecca Sousek. Their project, Power Project, aims to bring a center and services to the teens and youth in Piqua.

“Piqua Compassion Network exists to transform lives by providing Christian hope, education, and basic needs assistance to Piqua area residents. We are committed to providing a hand up by empowering individuals to move forward from crisis and poverty,” the Piqua Compassion Network’s mission statement.

The Power Project is set to create a “safe and inviting center for all teens” to build up their physical, mental, and social health by providing access to resources. The center would empower the youth through “implementing programs that empower youth to stay in school and achieve success, connecting caring professionals to at-risk youth, providing community-based resources to help meet youth needs, and utilizing partnerships between schools and the private sector to provide assistance to our youth,” according to Patton and Clark.

The budget for project totals $75,000, which includes $56,000 in start-up costs. The judges asked about staffing for the building. Patton and Clark responded it would be a volunteer-based staffing similar to Piqua Compassion Network’s current staffing setup, which would allow the program to be free of charge for teens. They also talked about future expansion to include younger youth and seniors.

The grant was funded by the French Oil Mill Machinery Company Fund, the Richard Donnelly Personal Gifting Account, and the G. William Hartzell Charitable Fund. The 2022 Pitch Piqua Sponsors include Miami Valley Steel Services, Inc., Edison State Community College, Park National Bank, and Premier Health: Upper Valley Medical Center.

The grand prize winner was the Piqua Compassion Network with 138 community votes with $5,101.71 for a total amount received of $55,101.71.

The first runner-up was Piqua City School with 44 community votes with $1,598.13 for a total amount received of $6,598.13.

The second runner-up was Child Care Choices, Inc. with 47 community votes with $1,495.93 for a total amount received of $6,495.93.

Chloe Clark from the Piqua Compassion Network commented it was “awesome to win” and that she “is excited to move forward” with the project. Rebecca Sousek said that the organization is “honored to have won.” They wanted to thank the community for their support and the other organizations for their help and support along the way.

Kathy Sherman, president of the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce and a judge for Pitch Piqua, stated it was “extremely difficult” to make her vote for one of the organizations. She also stated that she’s “proud of the great work all of the non-profits do to help the Piqua community.”

“No matter which organization won, the real winner is Piqua and its residents,” Sherman commented.

According to Emily Shawler, president of the Board of Directors and Resource Committee Chair for the Piqua Community Foundation, stated that there were “over 300 people in attendance.”

Cathy Drake and her mother, Ruth White, from Troy, were among the audience members and commented, “It’s a great event with very inspiring and uplifting projects especially with all the bad things going on around the world.”

Michelle Perry, executive director of the Piqua Community Foundation, stated that, overall, “[the event] was a massive success that exceeded all of our dreams! We cannot thank the community enough for their support!”

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