Altruistic POP

Help Pepsi Give Away Millions to Fund Local Ideas. Vote Now!

The Heath (Ohio) Community Arts Council wants to “Complete the Dream” they had to fully restore the 1861 Davis-Shai House, “the community’s only historic building.” The Theater Collaborative of South Jersey wants to put a new roof on the 100-year-old Gateway Theater, the only “performance space available for use by community theater groups in Atlantic and Cape May Counties.” An Akron insurance broker named Kenneth Glaser wants to “make (and distribute) marbles and toys for special needs children.” While a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mother is afflicted with MS wants to raise money for research into the disease. According to his pitch: “I started riding my bike in the MS150 Bike Tour when I was 12, and I haven’t really gotten off since. I ride for my mom. I always have and I always will.”

Closer to home Cellmate is looking to “open a factory in Little Haiti to recycle cell phones for the poor;” Make a Play wants to “provide scholarships and give college tours to inner city Florida youth;” MedPals would like to “create fun experiences for terminally ill children and their families;” and Life is Art is endeavoring to “produce a series of art exhibitions showcasing South Florida artists.”

Each of the above, and many thousands more of like minds, are appealing to the proverbial better angels of our nature so that we might vote them into being. Oh, these folks are not asking us for money, mind you; they’re asking us to recognize their initiative’s potential. The money? Well, that’ll come from Pepsi.

It’s all part of the Pepsi Refresh Project, a year-long campaign to fund some of the most altruistic efforts in America. Thirty-two new grants and $1.3 million is awarded each month to the initiative with the most votes. Since its January launch, the Pepsi Refresh Project has shelled out $7 million. And considering the grants range from $5K to $250,000, that’s a whole lotta good goin’ on.

Say you’ve got a bright idea that’s gonna help the community. It could be something as simple as Kenneth Glaser’s aforementioned marble toys for special needs children. It could be something as weighty as the Gateway Theater’s new roof. Whatever it is, you log on to the Pepsi Refresh Project website and apply. If you’re selected you start campaigning. And those with the most votes at the end of each month get the loot.

Yes, it is that easy.

It’s also that popular. According to Pepsi “over two million users have registered on the Refresh Project site, which has captured over 5,000 new ideas from all 50 states.” And that’s just through the end of May. In June Pepsi doubled the give back by adding the Do Good for the Gulf Initiative.

“There is no shortage of crowd sourced ideas to clean up the Gulf oil disaster,” reads a Pepsi Press release, “but Pepsi is the first to step in with crowd sourced solutions to help the Gulf communities affected by BP’s monumental blunder.”

For one multinational corporation to chastise another in such a manner is, well, refreshing. That Pepsi is putting their money where their fizz is, now that’s downright upright.

Pepsi already has a rather progressive history. After Walter Mack took hold of the company back in 1938, he hired a black advertising executive named Hennan Smith to “lead an all-black sales team,” and after WWII decimated the ranks, he did it all over again, this time “hiring Edward F. Boyd to lead a twelve-man team,” solely for the black market. (Thanks Wiki!). Sure, Mack considered blacks to be a “niche market,” yet he put an end to the stereotypical ad campaigns then prevalent in the land. In fact, Mack might’ve been the first CEO of a multinational corporation to run ads that cast blacks in a more “positive light.” And one of the earliest campaigns he oversaw featured none other than future Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.

Here though the only color Pepsi is considering is green, and they’re giving it away with a noble consistency.

SunPost Weekly took a look at a few local leaders in the Pepsi Refresh Project’s July round up. Here’s what we found.

Produce a series of art exhibitions showcasing S. Florida artists

Life is Art

Led by local Miami artists Annette Peikert and James Echols, Life is Art is intent on celebrating South Florida’s burgeoning art scene, and it appears they’d like to do so in the most organic way possible. In other words, instead of askig artists to pay exorbitant fees to get in on the action, Life is Art would use the Refresh loot and open up the field.

As they say in their pitch, their goals are simple:

* To produce a series of low-cost art fairs to showcase local artists.

* To provide community support through cultural opportunities.

* To support the South Florida art community by providing promotion.

* To support the economy by providing opportunity.

“The arts are growing fast in South Florida, but much of the amazing local talent is being left behind. Also, research shows that the arts provide significant economic impact.” Says Echols.

“Every show will be open-call, juried by a group of experienced jurists and art professionals. Many art forms will be included, e.g. visual, performance, dance, music, film, design, etc.”

Which is to say it won’t be whom you know but how you paint or film or dance or perform. And how worthy you look to Life is Art. 

Establish the first Educate Tomorrow in the Heartland.

Educate Tomorrow

The big idea here is to expand an already successful Miami program and bring it to “the Heartland.” Spearheaded by April M. Schmidt, whose “aim [is] to positively impact the community by empowering at-risk youth with independence through education.” Educate Tomorrow is most concerned with the disparity between foster kids and those that live with their biological parents.

According to Schmidt’s entry:

“Less than ½ of foster youth complete high school, 83% are dependent post-emancipation, 40% depend on public welfare, 42% are homeless within one year. By 22, 49% are unemployed. Nearly all of homeless adults are former foster youth; 80% of U.S. prisoners are former foster youth.”

Schmidt’s goals are thus:


* Establish the first Educate Tomorrow in the Heartland using a proven m

* Give disadvantaged youth a sense of purpose and self-worth

* Decrease the amount of senseless youth crime, drug abuse, and self-injury

* Instill in youth an appreciation for family values, healthy connection

* Stop the cycle of poverty with the cycle of independence

Educate Tomorrow “was 1 of 30 organizations recognized at the White House in January for developing a model program that has positively affected over 1,000 foster youth and is projected to reach 50,000 more as it expands around the country.” Not bad for an outfit that was only founded in 2003.

Create fun experiences for terminally ill children and their families.

The MedPals Foundation

As you might suspect, the MedPals Foundation is all about kids; in this case terminally ill kids. And MedPals endeavors to help these kids in any way they can.

According to their pitch:

“MedPals functions through local medical school chapters that procure donated passes and tickets from local attractions, recreational venues, and sporting events and subsequently use those tickets for medical students to take sick children on various outings.

These outings provide an outstanding experience for the children as well as some much needed rest and relaxation for the children’s parents. In addition, these experiences garner a sense of compassion and volunteerism in medical students, attributes that will be extremely important for our future doctors.”

This works wonders, how do we know? Because Medpals already has chapters at the University of Michigan and at the University of Miami. Now they wanna open 10 more across the U.S.

How can you go wrong with something like this?

Provide scholarships and give college tours to inner city FL youth

Make a Play Foundation

Florida is big on football. Real big. And the Make a Play Foundation wants to exploit that popularity on behalf of inner city kids. Make a Play partners with former players of three of college football’s most legendary rivals – namely UF, FSU and UM – all of who have access and schooling in common. Together they literally show the kids around the respective campuses and, via scholarship incentives, give them something to shoot for. Make a Play gets ‘em when they’re first entering high school, and helps keep ‘em on track through to graduation.

According to their pitch:

“We want to be able to bring them to campus so they can visualize themselves there. In some communities, these students see no way out or have no expectations or role models encouraging them to earn a college degree. We feel if we can get them on campus, and provide scholarship incentives during their undergraduate years, we can help them get on campus and become successful students”

Make a Play already works with NFL players in the same capacity; knowing the passion that rides on college football, this looks like a win-win for everyone.

About John Hood

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