The First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania selected three projects as recipients of the innovation grant challenge, “Spark Tank,” according to a news release.

The First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania launched this new opportunity in 2022 to involve community residents in philanthropy and solving community issues. The foundation asked individuals with ideas on advancing or promoting racial equity in Lycoming County to submit their dreams and ideas.

Spark Tank, according to the news release, is a component of the foundation’s First Focus Project, which leverages the foundation’s leadership platform to address critical issues impacting the quality of life for all members of the community it serves.

“With a current focus on systemic racism, First Focus and the ‘Spark Tank’ are designed to encourage the community to work towards a more equitable society by overcoming obstacles relating to race relations,” the news release said.

“The community response to Spark Tank has been incredible,” Jennifer D. Wilson, foundation president and CEO said, according to the news release. “The applications were inspiring and challenged our team to think outside the box as we looked to create partnerships with area nonprofits. I’m grateful to the individuals who shared new ideas with us and I am excited to watch the selected projects unfold over the next year.”

Seventeen applications were received from community residents. Members of the First Focus committee reviewed the submissions and invited finalists for an in-person presentation. Ultimately, the foundation selected three projects in which to invest up to $25,000 each. The projects will be facilitated through local 501c3 nonprofit organizations, who the foundation identified as partners to help with implementation of the programs.

The 2023 Spark Tank recipients are:

• Tell YO Story — Diana DeVaughn and Melodie Carter-Shaw are looking to inspire more people of color to share their unique life experiences using creative arts through the project “Tell YO Story.” In partnership with the Community Theatre League, they will challenge individuals to explore their creative gifts and talents through music, dance, acting, writing, and/or designing. The project will launch on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, with Janeen Hammond telling her life experiences through her production of “JOURNEY: A ONE-WOMAN SHOW.” Young adults, age 15 and older, are invited to join bi-weekly sessions regarding formulating their story in their chosen artistic modality. Participants will craft their story under the guidance and tutelage of theatrical instructors and will perform quarterly productions that will culminate into a grand production held at the end of October.

• See My Color — Sisters Natalie Griffin and Givonna Griffin are on a mission to increase racial equity through exposure and acknowledgement of the differences that various cultures contain. See My Color will work with a production team at WVIA to create a social media series of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) sharing personal information/experiences relative to their race, ethnicity and culture. The Griffins are planning their interview schedule and will be invited to attend several community events throughout the year to connect with interested participants.

• Links to Lycoming — Lycoming College seeks to strengthen Williamsport community connections for the diverse student population participating in their pre-semester orientation program which supports incoming students recruited through the College’s partnerships with several primarily urban national charter and community-based networks. In partnership with STEP Inc., an AmeriCorps volunteer will coordinate community tours, cultural and recreational activities and meetings with Lycoming County business, government and faith leaders. The college will also launch a “Sponsor-a-Student” program where vetted local families will provide a home-away-from-home, offering a safe space for a student in need of familial support while attending Lycoming College.

Additional information about First Focus and progress of the Spark Tank projects will be available on the foundation’s website, https://www.fcfpartnership.org/what-we-do/first-focus/, or social media @FCFPGives.



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