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Greenwich's Pitch Your Peers Awards Community Centers Inc. $30K Grant

From left: Rachel LeMasters, Dara Johnson, Brooke Bohnsack and Nina Lindia, the four founders of Pitch Your Peers.
From left: Rachel LeMasters, Dara Johnson, Brooke Bohnsack and Nina Lindia, the four founders of Pitch Your Peers. Photo Credit: Carolyn Mueller

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Pitch Your Peers of Greenwich recently named group member Steviann Martines as its first winning "grant champion," and Community Centers Inc. of Greenwich as its first ever grant recipient.

Martines will present CCI with a check for $30,000 from PYP at the inaugural grant reception on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m. at the Innis Arden Golf Club in Old Greenwich.

“I put a lot of hard work into the pitch, and it paid off,” Martines said. “To have my $1k turn into $30k and for CCI to be the recipient is extremely rewarding.”

PYP is the newest grant-funding 501(c)(3) organization in Greenwich, with a membership of 37 Greenwich women. Collectively, the organization funds grants to nonprofits that serve the community. Membership is by invitation only.

The organization's focus is on developing a select group of women comprised of a mix of working and stay-at-home moms. The main thread that bonds members is local philanthropy and a few degrees of separation from founding members Brooke Bohnsack, Dara Johnson, Nina Lindia and Rachael LeMasters.

Unlike other grant-funding organizations, PYP has no request for proposal process. Rather, it is the members who come forward as "grant champions," representing the charity they are passionate about by pitching it to the membership at the group's yearly pitch meeting, the first of which took place Oct. 6 at the Greenwich Library.

The membership then votes, and the winning grant champion is awarded a grant to the nonprofit for which she successfully advocated.

"The PYP process highlights the membership's existing skill set of sales, marketing and public-speaking, all while educating the membership about deserving charities right here in Greenwich," Bohnsack said.

This year's grant champions included Karena Bailey and Julie Karish for B*Cured, Monica Huang for the Byram Park Pool Project, Martines for CCI and Karina Solomon and Lisa Getson for Kids in Crisis.

After the first pitch meeting, members had an opportunity to ask questions and visit the sites and working projects of the agencies, where possible.

“What is special about this process is that our membership became educated about all four projects in a unique, hands-on way,” Bohnsack said. “In turn, each charity was given the opportunity to recruit new volunteers and potential funds to their respective causes. The PYP membership voted through an anonymous online survey, and we were faced with a tie between Kids in Crisis and CCI.”

PYP held a second round of voting Nov. 3, with CCI emerging as the winner by just one vote.

“Community Centers Inc. of Greenwich is extremely grateful to be this year’s recipient of the PYP grant,” said Lauren Franciamore, CCI’s executive director. “This grant will enhance our ability to raise funds for our programs, create more awareness of our organization and ultimately increase our impact with respect to counseling, education, recreation and advocacy activities for Greenwich residents in need.”

Students from the advanced broadcast journalism class at Sacred Heart Greenwich have been filming the PYP process, interviewing founders and grant champions, and creating a short video package about PYP.

“We were thrilled to have these aspiring film-makers, under the direction of their visionary teacher, Ellyn Stewart, participate in our pitch meeting, and we are all looking forward to having them at our first grant award ceremony,” Lindia said.

For more information on PYP, click here.

To read the Daily Voice story about the group’s inaugural pitch meeting, click here.

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