United Way of Central Maryland has announced the Changemaker Challenge finalists for each of the participating jurisdictions in Greater Baltimore. Finalists could win up to $30,000 to bring their ideas to life. In total, the organization will be awarding more than $600,000 in grants across the region.

The Changemaker Challenge finalists each submitted their idea to one of the jurisdictions United Way serves, including Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties, and Baltimore City.

Individuals and nonprofits were invited to submit their ideas to address community needs and to help close gaps in services and resources. United Way received almost 200 ideas addressing issues like access to healthy food, mental health support, digital access, expanding equity, early childhood and youth education, maternal health support, trauma-informed care, workforce development and others.

Finalists will receive a $1,500 stipend and coaching support leading up to the final competitions this spring, where they will pitch their ideas before a live audience for United Way grants of up to $25,000 per location, and could win the Audience Choice grant of $5,000. Grantees will also receive free access to The Lonely Entrepreneur learning community, a one-stop shop for the tools and support needed to start or grow a business.

The local finalists are:

Anne Arundel County (April 30)
● Annapolis Ag: A collaborative food preparation framework where people gather in pre-existing, certified kitchens to prepare meals for themselves and their neighbors.
● Ms. Maze: Storybook Maze installs book vending machines in book deserts to combat illiteracy and encourage early reading.
● Ballet After Dark: The organization provides trauma-informed programming that explores performance art, STEAM therapy and education to encourage healing, enhancing arts appreciation and providing mentorship.
● Co-op Arundel: The organization offers five 16-week community-based, trauma-informed life goals achievement and community leadership courses for underserved at-risk youth, women and men.
● Kits to Heart: Kits to Heart gives cancer care kits to patients and caregivers. The program reimagines community service by hosting service projects in existing community spaces, such as libraries, cafés and community centers.
● Opportunity Builders: The organization is working to create the first fully-inclusive nightclub tailored to accommodate the unique needs of people with disabilities, yet designed to attract individuals with and without disabilities.
● Rob’s Barbershop Community Foundation: The program provides apprenticeship training for Anne Arundel County Public School students who have barriers to entering their barber vocation program.
● Shelley’s House: The organization proposes Family Wellness Retreats with a focus on intergenerational well-being.
● Street Angels Project: Recovery Linkz is a peer support app providing accessible resources and personalized guidance to individuals navigating substance use disorders and mental health challenges.
The Anne Arundel County Changemaker Challenge will be livestreamed on April 30 at 6:30 p.m. RSVP to attend virtually or in person, and vote for the Audience Choice grantee during the event.

Howard County (May 7)
● Ballet After Dark: Lack of access to proper menstrual products, resources and education are things Black and Brown girls and youth below the poverty line endure. Ballet After Dark will launch Periodt!, a peer education fellowship program for girls led by girls and youth.
● Brightminds: Reimagining the Rainbow: Strengthening Community Through Visible and Transparent Support will include, educate and celebrate topics of interest inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community through a year-long hybrid speaker series run by Howard County Public School System high school students in partnership with local community groups.
● Community Ecology Institute: The Farming for Food Security initiative improves food security in Howard County by creating a collaborative team of local farms, food assistance programs, and youth community members to distribute fresh and nutritious food to those in need.
● Eudaimonia Project: A compassionate initiative dedicated to reshaping the perception of mental health in Howard County, emphasizing a community-driven approach to foster a culture where mental wellness is embraced as an essential aspect of overall well-being.
● HoCo Pride: With a focus on creating a more inclusive Howard County, HoCo Pride will provide an inspiring, powerful program for LGBTQ+ individuals to share and spread their voice through images.
● Irie Cooking Adventure: The initiative brings joy to home cooking with a Caribbean-American version of the Mediterranean Diet.
● JustLiving Advocacy: Grammy’s KIDS is a community service program that serves as a resource to promote access to successful development for kids ages 6 weeks to 17 years old in early learning education, youth workforce readiness, tutoring and social activities.
● Luminus Network for New Americans: Luminus seeks to empower up to 10 young undocumented immigrant girls or non-binary people in one to two Howard County High Schools seeking to pursue studies in STEM through comprehensive immigration representation and mentorship in pursuit of their educational goals.
● NonFudgery: The organization aims to become Howard County’s premier tech-focused nonprofit, empowering educators and youth to excel in an Artificial Intelligence-driven future.
● Sacral Roots: A certified peer support training and toolkit focused on maternal mental health for anyone affected by a maternal mental health crisis.
● Sobar: Sobar Secure is a program for bars, restaurants and entertainment venues to help them create a safe, profitable, adult non-alcoholic beverage program that will reduce alcohol consumption and provide options for people in recovery.
● Women’s Art Therapy Support Group: Create a monthly Art Therapy Support Group for women to create art and community in a therapeutic environment.
The Howard County Changemaker Challenge will be livestreamed on May 7 at 6 p.m.

RSVP at zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2cocI_EmQGKsOCHUGzn3gQ#/registration to attend virtually and vote for the Audience Choice grantee during the event.
The Changemaker Challenge began in Howard County in 2017 as a partnership between United Way of Central Maryland, the Horizon Foundation, the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County, and the Community Foundation of Howard County. For the first time, Howard County Government is providing $100,000 in grants to support changemakers in Howard County.

To learn more about United Way’s Changemaker Challenge, visit www.uwcm.org/changemakerchallenge.