- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

WESTON, Wis. (AP) - Music, lights and over 200 pieces of art hid around every corner of the old Becker Communications building in Weston.

Over 250 people wandered the maze-like hallways of the building, taking in the sights and sounds of SOUPthree, a micro-granting event aimed at funding community projects that may not get off the ground any other way, USA Today Network-Wisconsin (https://wdhne.ws/2oQvXjP ) reported. The Wausau SOUP events launched in October, the brainchild of Nick O’Brien, engagement specialist at MCDEVCO, Marathon County’s economic development agency. The SOUPthree event was presented as part of Wausau’s YPWeek.

SOUPthree brought four new pitches to the table, vying for the $1,300 collected at the door as an admission fee. For $5, each attendee got a bowl of soup from Becca’s Cafe, a piece of bread, a soda and a chance to cast a ballot for the project of his or her choice.

The winner of SOUPthree was Yauo Yang and his team from The Cross church, a multi-ethnic, non-denominational congregation that Yang is the pastor of.

Yang pitched an idea for a soup kitchen that would remain open all year long, seven days a week. Yang and his congregation noticed that many homeless people don’t have a warm meal every day, and wanted to help the down and out get back on their feet.

The Cross will use the money to help kick start the building of a commercial kitchen, as well as launch more addiction recovery classes like the one the church hosts every Wednesday night. The Cross took home the $1,300, and with an emotional speech, thanked the crowd for helping them get closer to their dream of helping those in need in the Wausau community.

Formed by Kelsy McCartney, Kasey Greenheck and Heidi Nowitzke, Empower + Createis a women’s entrepreneur support group. The group meets monthly to empower women who own their own businesses or plan to launch their own business. The group asked the crowd to help them fund their path to becoming a registered non-profit, as well as launch a grant that could help a central Wisconsin women launch her own business.

Presented by Weston resident Kayla Duncan, the Weston community garden asked the SOUPthree crowd for funding that would help prepare space in Weston for a community garden. Duncan said that the garden would include gardening space for rent each summer, in which community members would be able to plant and tend to their very own garden.

The fees from the seasonal membership would help support the garden after the initial start-up money, and would give residents a space to come together, Duncan said.

The team behind this time bank aimed to provide the greater Wausau community with a way to exchange needed services without money.

The bank would encourage people to volunteer to help others in exchange for hours to be put into their banks. The hours could then be exchanged for services - like dog walking, babysitting, painting, etc.

The project was pitched by Lauren Henkelman, who got the idea from a similar project in Dane County. Henkelman said that if the group won the money, it would help them to become an official nonprofit and launch marketing campaigns to make Wausau area residents aware of their services.

The winners of the past two SOUP events also returned to present the progress of their projects. Justin Tetzlaff, the winner of SOUP II, informed the crowd that the Wausau Makerspace is on its way to becoming an official non-profit and will likely start hosting monthly member meetings soon.

Andrew Lynch, the winner of the original Wausau SOUP, said that his Open Streets event will take place on May 21, closing down Third Street between Wausau Center mall and Athletic Park so that bikers and walkers will get a chance to hit the road without any cars.

After all four pitches had been presented, Cassandra Ambrosius and Chris Norfleet presented a fifth project, to raise money for a memorial to those who lost their lives in the March 22 shooting spree. The team collected money separately from the other projects, raising $401 for a four-sided memorial that will be topped with an eternal flame. The team will continue to fundraise for the memorial, and hopes to install it in a Weston park by March 2018.

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Information from: Wausau Daily Herald Media, https://www.wausaudailyherald.com


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