Community

Local push for Pepsi’s online grant money is gathering steam

The effort to get South Whidbey nonprofits into an online contest for grant money is snowballing, according to Andy McRea, organizer of the campaign.

Eight proposals for South End projects made the cut for May’s segment of Pepsi’s Refresh Everything, a 12-month program to reward ideas that benefit communities nationwide.

Pepsi dedicated $1.3 million per month to the contest instead of buying $20 million worth of commercial time at this year’s Super Bowl.

May’s eight local entries join McRea’s own nonprofit project, an Internet startup based on volunteerism. The project has been in the contest since February, has been in the top 20 every month and has scored as high as sixth.

Pepsi includes 1,000 ideas nationwide per month, determined by rapid voting online, first-come, first-served, similar to a scramble for rock-concert tickets. Entrants must complete registration four times to qualify for selection, McRea said.

Nonprofit projects can be entered in one of four categories — $5,000, $25,000, $50,000 or $250,000. Online voters can vote for as many as 10 different projects each day. The 100 top vote-getters each month move into the next month’s contest. The top vote-getter each month in each category wins the money.

“We should be able to just crush this contest,” McRea said Thursday. “It’s not hard to win if you have a committed group of people voting every day.”

McRea’s own project, SomethingToGive.org, is competing in the $250,000 category. It attempts to reward volunteerism by matching volunteers who have acquired enough points with free “life experiences” provided by firms, groups or individuals.

McRea said the concept is designed to create a larger volunteer force in the community.

Other local projects qualified to compete in May are:

• South Whidbey Cub Scouts: $5,000 to make sure all Scouts can participate fully in all activities regardless of cost.

• Greater Freeland Chamber of Commerce: $25,000 for gift certificates for Freeland businesses to give away to locals and tourist to stimulate the economy.

• South Whidbey High School’s Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle Team: $25,000 to expand the team to the middle school, and to pay for travel and related club expenses.

• South Whidbey Elementary School PTA: $5,000 to purchase furniture and supplies for the elementary school library.

• South Whidbey Cooperative Preschool: $5,000 to purchase and build a play area and sandbox for the preschool.

• KWPA Whidbey Public Radio: $25,000 for a transmitter to boost power to all of Whidbey and Camano islands.

• Langley Center For New Media: $50,000 to purchase training computers and software, and to offer classes and workshops for students in new-media technology.

• SomethingToGive.org: $25,000 pilot project with Good Cheer and South Whidbey Parks & Recreation to build online tools to help nonprofits schedule and track volunteer hours.

McRea’s mission now is to get out the online vote to place another 20 to 30 South End good ideas onto June’s voting list as part of the RefreshWhidbey campaign.

He said that with everyone involved in the local groups voting each day for themselves and each other, a formidable online voting bloc can be created.

“Each group that comes in brings another new batch of votes,” he said.

McRea also said that Whidbey Telecom’s rapid Internet service gives island voters an online advantage in getting new projects registered to compete.

Meanwhile, McRea and others continue their push to persuade other local nonprofits to go after the free money.

“When you ask them if they have funding problems, everybody on the South End does,” he said. “When you come up with a potential solution, they want to talk.”

To vote in the Pepsi contest, visit www.refresheverything.com. For information about other projects locally and statewide, visit www.refreshwhidbey.org or www.refresh washington.com.

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