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Clinton nonprofit SomethingToGive.org hopes Pepsi Super Bowl money will provide jump-start

Andy McRea of Clinton has a good idea, and he hopes everyone will vote early and often to bring it to pass.

“We need South Whidbey’s help to make people’s dreams come true,” McRea said.

He hopes to jump-start his project by winning thousands of dollars in Pepsi grants available through an Internet-driven competition among new ideas that promise to do good.

Pepsi didn’t advertise during the recent Super Bowl broadcast. Instead, the company is using the $20 million it would have put into airing new commercials to fund Refresh Everything, a 12-month program to reward ideas that benefit communities.

The company will give away $1.3 million in February to the proposals in several categories that receive the most votes online.

McRea’s project is one of 730 nationwide chosen to compete in several categories for a piece of February’s Pepsi pie. It’s in the group vying for a $250,000 grant.

McRea’s fledgling nonprofit is SomethingToGive.org, an Internet startup he’s building with the help of volunteers, including his wife, Kris, and his business partner Doug Durbin of Seattle.

Their idea is straightforward: People get together and exchange life experiences, using the currency of volunteerism.

“We hope to increase volunteerism by rewarding it,” McRea said. “Basically, everybody has something to offer somebody else that’s cool.”

He said he got the idea in Iceland, where he worked for a time with the Keiko Foundation of “Free Willy” killer-whale fame.

Being an insider, he could arrange intimate tours of the operation for family and friends.

The tours were such a hit, that he thought the idea might be a great way to bring people in a community together.

“They can live vicariously through somebody else for a short time,” McRea said. “I thought, how do I offer this to the public to reward somebody who’s done good in the world?”

SomethingToGive.org appears to be the answer. But to partake of an experience, a person would be required to earn points by volunteering in the community.

The experiences themselves would be offered by others as yet another way of giving.

McRea said the process would reward people for volunteering, and likely would create a larger volunteer force.

“We all have something to give,” he said.

McRea, 38, a South Whidbey resident since 2004, has a varied business background, and owned and operated a “green” construction company before taking on his Internet project full-time a year ago.

He and his wife, Kris, South Whidbey Elementary School PTA president, have two young children. He also has been active in Little League and Babe Ruth baseball on the South End.

His friend Durban, a retired financial-services executive, lives in Seattle, but has a vacation home on Whidbey.

“I’m the spokesperson, the talking head,” McRea said. “He’s the one who keeps it in perspective.”

McRea hopes to generate enough online votes to gain a $250,000 prize in March. SomethingToGive.org was sitting in 51st place in the February voting as of Thursday; the top 100 ideas move ahead into the next month’s competition.

You can vote once a day for as many as 10 different projects, he said. He said if 1,000 South End residents voted every day for his project, it would probably win next month.

McRea said that if enough South Enders could be persuaded to vote regularly in the next year, there’s no reason why a number of worthwhile projects in the state couldn’t receive grants again and again.

“A winning streak would fuel attention,” he said. “I just hope California doesn’t catch on,” he added with a laugh.

McRea said the Pepsi contest could be a great way for other worthwhile organizations to raise money, with the help of a dedicated block of local Internet voters.

“We have such a great group of nonprofits,” McRea said. “There’s a lot of good being done here.”

SomethingToGive.org is partnering with Good Cheer Food Bank and the Whidbey Institute, McRea said.

To vote in the Pepsi contest, visit www.refresheverything.com/somethingtogiveorg. For information about other projects in the state, visit www.refreshwashington.com.

For more information about McRea’s project, visit somethingtogive.org or call him at 331-5183.

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