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In Cincinnati, Ohio, a good idea could let you quit your job.
That’s how it happened for Tracy Brumfield and Tamia Stinson, this year’s winners of the $100,000 Haile Fellowship, an initiative that allows community members to take a year-long “civic sabbatical” if they can present a way to make life better for local residents.
Brumfield, who is a recovering addict and was homeless until two years ago, won for her idea to create a monthly newspaper that helps people in prison learn about their options upon release. Stinson, who has a background in fashion merchandising, won for her plan to connect the city’s creatives – photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists – with the firms that can hire them.
“When I got the call, my heart was pounding a million times a minute,” Stinson tells Business Insider. “I excitedly called my parents to tell them the news, and once the shock wore off, my brain immediately went into work mode.”
The Haile Fellowship is put on by People’s Liberty, a Cincinnati-based philanthropy group. When the organization launched in 2015, it set about the mission of awarding 100 grants within the first five years. The Haile Fellowships are the two largest it awards, in addition to three annual grants of $15,000, and 16 grants of $10,000.
All throughout January, People’s Liberty conducted interviews and relied on a panel of six Greater Cincinnati leaders to whittle down the entrant pool from 70 applicants to just Brumfield and Stinson.
If past grant winners are any indication, the two women have a whirlwind year ahead of them.
Brandon Black’s idea of helping millennials improve their home-repair skills by connecting them with retired contractors led to the launch of Retire Repair. The company linked 12 homeowners with 12 retired DIY-ers over the course of the year.
Julia Rose Fischer, meanwhile, used her $15,000 grant money to open the Play Library – a repository of toys that families could check out just as they would books at a normal library. Earlier this March, she opened her first brick-and-mortar location.
Stinson says the money will go a long way toward bolstering the creative spirit of Cincinnati.
“People need to understand what our image-makers actually do, and how their talents contribute to the landscape of Cincinnati’s world-class branding and design community,” she says.
Brumfield, who calls her prison newspaper RISE (Reenter Into Society Empowered), says in an ideal world every facility in the tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana would make use of the publication. She has her sights set on working with local publishing houses in each county.
“Who knows how big it could get?” she says. “If we can show that RISE is helping and changing lives, hopefully we can get continued funding beyond this fellowship year. That’s my perfect world!”