Google Awards $50,000 Apiece to Four Nonprofits for Economic Initiatives

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After Google announced in October that it was pouring $1 billion into free training and technology tools over the next five years to help people reap the benefits of a digital economy, Ilyssa Manspeizer and Jennifer Flanagan found their email boxes flooded with messages.

Both women run nonprofits that have a workforce training component, and the emails urged them to apply for $250,000 in grants that Google planned to award in Pittsburgh as part of the worldwide Grow With Google initiative.

Ms. Manspeizer, executive director of Pittsburgh Conservation Corps, and Ms. Flanagan, executive director of Community Kitchen Pittsburgh, agreed the messages from colleagues and supporters helped convince them to enter the competition.

Both organizations won $50,000 to pursue programs that will create jobs and economic opportunity for underserved individuals.

They were among four winners of’s Impact Challenge Pittsburgh announced Wednesday at the search engine giant’s offices in Bakery Square, Larimer.

The others were Idea Foundry and Prototype PGH.

More than 90 nonprofits entered the competition.

Besides a $50,000 prize for each winner, Google will award $50,000 to one of the four after the public votes for the most promising initiative between Feb. 28 and March 14.

Google chose Pittsburgh as the first city for its nonprofit challenge. Another competition is underway in Oklahoma City.

Pittsburgh Conservation Corps, based in North Point Breeze, will use the funding for its Project Landforce, which trains people in environmental restoration. Its goal is to help at least 150 individuals who receive public assistance to earn more than $10,000 and to contribute a total 110,000 hours of restoration work.

It will also explore expanding into training for green industries such as solar, wind, weatherization and green infrastructure, said Ms. Manspeizer.

Hazelwood-based Pittsburgh Community Kitchen plans culinary training and job opportunities for 100 individuals transitioning from jail, homelessness, addiction or mental health issues. “The food industry is an economic engine and a growing industry in need of good labor,” said Ms. Flanagan.

Erin Gatz and Louise Larson, founders of Prototype PGH, a North Oakland feminist makerspace, will use their grant to help 1,000 women through workshops that focus on technical training and how to achieve financial independence. The nonprofit also aims to incubate at least five female-owned startup firms and hire a makerspace manager.

At Idea Foundry, a business accelerator in Oakland, the grant will fund a new program for early-stage entrepreneurs and assist the launch of 10 firms led by immigrants or minorities. A goal will be for each company to create five jobs within five years.

The four-member panel that selected the winners included Mary Frances Cooper, president and director of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; Grant Oliphant, president of the Heinz Endowments; Charlie Batch, philanthropist, businessman and former Pittsburgh Steeler; and Kamal Nigam, site lead and engineering director, Google Pittsburgh.

Mr. Nigam’s message to the winners: “The ball’s in your court. Go make it happen.”

By challenging nonprofits to create jobs and build communities, the Google program “is instrumental in making sure Pittsburgh’s new economy benefits a wider mix of the region’s population,” said Mayor Bill Peduto, who was among the officials who attended the awards ceremony.

“We have to be proactive to make sure nobody is left behind.”

By Joyce Gannon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Chea Davis