Rekindle Anderson hopes to do for community what Vesuvius Pitch night did for business

·3 min read

May 16—ANDERSON — As she looked for a model to emulate in an effort to stimulate innovation that could lead to the revitalization of Anderson, Anikka King didn't have to look far.

The annual Vesuvius Coworking Pitch Night in which hopefuls share their ideas for potential businesses provided exactly the kind of framework she sought for the Rekindle Anderson Impact Showcase Event, a competitive program. Raise will culminate in an October event at which attendees will vote on winners.

"We have a lot of apathy in this community, but we have so many people with so much talent. We just need to get our arrows facing in the same direction," said King, who is already active in a number of local initiatives including the NAACP, education and felony expungement program.

"We have so much human capital around here that we can make things happen. This is going to be an opportunity for the community to know there are people who care."

Using the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for the criteria that would determine which projects would be considered, King and the steering committee already have selected 12 teams. The UN goals include reducing poverty and other inequalities, improving education, and economic growth.

The local teams are tackling a variety of community building issues, including food insecurity, racial equity and beautification intended to benefit all residents, regardless of background.

What drove her toward RAISE, King said, was the city's lack of a comprehensive plan that would help residents understand what they can expect of the future.

"We're not just talking about it. We're modeling the behaviors and the steering committee is working together," she said. "The power should be with the people. This effort will actually speak to our citizens. It engages them with the community."

The teams take specific steps, meeting times benchmarks. For instance, King said, the first step was to identify the problem. The next step is to provide data to help determine how the problem can be solved.

Participants will compete for grants along the way.

"We are trying to equip these people to eventually grant write," she said. "This whole process is really equipping them with how to eventually bring additional resources."

M. Shane Bivens, founder of Vesuvius Coworking, said he was looking for someone who could take the concept to the next level.

"I was looking for someone to take over Vesuvius Coworking's Pitch Night for innovative social impact projects," he said. "This group of individuals came to me with the idea of engaging multiple community movers and shakers to really take on some huge challenges. They're making it bigger, better, and that's what Vesuvius is all about: keeping the flame of innovation ignited."

Donita Thompson, who is spearheading the Urban Fresh Produce and Meats team, said she found out about the competition from steering committee member Carrie Bale and decided it would be a good fit for the Redwood Foundation, which is sponsoring the mobile food market.

"I think this whole Rekindle Anderson is a great thing they have going on. It's a great way to bring projects together, ideas together," she said.

RAISE seemed like a good way to get exposure for the foundation and to do some networking, Thompson added.

"Since we started it and had our first Zoom meeting on the first of May, we have had a lot of people reach out to us," she said. "Already it has created a lot more exposure and interest from the community."

People often have great ideas but no real way to make them work except on paper, Thompson said. RAISE will help some move their ideas from the planning to the implementation stage, she said.

"A lot of them are doing great things nobody would know about if we didn't have this type of event going on," she said.

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.

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