Rising Foundations/The First 72+ Wins GNOF’s Pitch It! The Innovation Challenge

Charles E. Leche
Judges with first place winner Derrick Perique

NEW ORLEANS – The First 72+/Rising Foundations won the first place prize worth $25,000 at Pitch It! The Innovation Challenge. The second place prize worth $7,500 was awarded to the Luke’s House Clinic and the third place prize worth $5,000 was awarded to YMCA of Greater New Orleans.

         Now in its fifth year, the highly competitive Pitch It! The Innovation Challenge was held on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz and Heritage Center. The three finalists who presented their pitches were selected from a pool of nearly 20 applicants who submitted a diverse range of innovative ideas to address community needs.

         Derrick Perique, a program coordinator and peer mentor at Rising Foundations/ The First 72+, presented the winning idea to create a Pay It Forward Communal Loan Fund, which would stop the cycle of incarceration by transforming destructive debt into an opportunity to build credit. The Fund will assist formerly incarcerated people with (re)joining the workforce, resolving court debt to remove the risk of arrest and incarceration due to missed payments, and building small businesses. Loans will be made at zero interest, and the recipients will be required to attend ongoing financial education and peer-led lending circles that will meet monthly. Additionally, loan payments will be reported to the credit bureaus to build a positive credit history for recipients.  

         Second place presenter, Luke’s House Clinic executive director Adam Bradley, presented the Street Medicine New Orleans idea, which would expand its clinical outreach to the streets of New Orleans to reach patients who do not have adequate access to health care and other social services. The project will bring together physicians, medical students, case managers, mental health professionals and other social services providers to bring wraparound services to people experiencing homelessness.

         Third place presenter, Association Aquatics director at the YMCA of Greater New Orleans Rachael Jonas, presented H2Geaux, which will bring the Y’s Safety Around Water class on the road and bring free swim lessons directly to vulnerable kids in areas currently without life-saving swimming education.

         “Innovation in the nonprofit sector is paramount to responding to changing needs,” said Andy Kopplin, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “The Greater New Orleans Foundation is proud to support the visionary nonprofits making a difference in our community by thinking outside the box to better serve their constituents.”

         Pitch It! The Innovation Challenge, a project of the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Organizational Effectiveness initiative in partnership with The Kresge Foundation and Chevron, supports breakthrough ideas in the nonprofit field by encouraging nonprofits to think outside the box to discover new and innovative ways to address our community’s needs, organizers said.

         This year’s judges were Leah Brown, manager of policy in the government and public affairs for Chevron’s Gulf of Mexico Business Unit; Yvette Ruiz, VP, Office of Nonprofit Engagement, JPMorgan Chase; Michael Shaw, program officer, Kresge Foundation; and Tod Smith, president and general manager, WWL-TV.

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