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‘A kick-start for community action’: New initiative looks to fund ‘awesomeness’ in Westminster

A group of Westminster residents have come together to fund businesses, nonprofits and individuals that have one thing in common: awesomeness.

Josh Ambrose, an associate dean at McDaniel College, recently put together an initiative called “Hey Westminster! Let’s be awesome.” He and a few other board members gather once a month to pick a pitched idea that would enhance the community, and the group donates $1,000 to bring the idea to life.

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Ambrose said it’s not a nonprofit or a profiting business but a “kick-start for community action.”

“We want to highlight every month something awesome in Westminster and, you know, try to pour a little gas on that fire,” he said.

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Josh Ambrose is the executive director of the Center for Experience and Opportunity (CEO) at McDaniel College. In this role, he oversees the CEO, as well as The Encompass Distinction program in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Josh Ambrose is the executive director of the Center for Experience and Opportunity (CEO) at McDaniel College. In this role, he oversees the CEO, as well as The Encompass Distinction program in innovation and entrepreneurship. (Posted by McDaniel Communications, Community Contributor)

The initiative’s website states members are looking for “do-gooders and problem solvers, folks who roll up their sleeves to get things done,” artists, technicians and “cool people, doing cool things.”

“It really could be anything at all,” Ambrose said.

Conversations about the initiative started in the fall, and Ambrose reached out to potential board members in October. The board held its first meeting in November.

The nine-year Westminster resident said the community has an “incredible amount” of potential. And with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, he wanted to “spark good stories.” He saw people in the city doing good and wanted to get behind their ideas.

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Ambrose said there are 11 or 12 members signed up so far but only 10 need to pitch in $100 every month to give to one of the applicants. The group will give away the first grant next week to a nonprofit and plans to give away another to a small business next month.

Erin Benevento, a trustee for Hey Westminster, Let's be awesome, Katie Kirby, founder and director of Together We Own It, a youth center, and Jason Stambaugh, who's also a trustee member, pose for a picture after the first grant from Let’s Be Awesome was given.
Erin Benevento, a trustee for Hey Westminster, Let's be awesome, Katie Kirby, founder and director of Together We Own It, a youth center, and Jason Stambaugh, who's also a trustee member, pose for a picture after the first grant from Let’s Be Awesome was given.

One of the members is Westminster Mayor Joe Dominick, who said the idea sounded interesting and he wanted to see it through.

“We’re always looking for ways to give to the community,” Dominick said.

As a partner in Gauge Digital Media, which helps grow companies’ online presences, it’s outside of what he typically does but not a necessarily new concept.

“I think the simplicity of it is what I like about it,” Dominick added.

Ben Yingling, a Westminster Town Council member, described the initiative as “bullish” and noted how it helps bring the community together.

“I believe we have a lot of talent in Westminster,” he said, adding they bring big ideas.

Yingling said doing something unique like this could bring people to the city.

The board has received only a few applications so far, but Ambrose hopes they have another 22 by the end of the year.

“I’m excited to see where it goes as far as sparking entrepreneurial thought,” he said.

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