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New batch of ideas welcomed by Toledo SOUP organizers

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    Ryan Bunch of Toledo has been connected with Toledo SOUP since it began in 2012. The nonprofit organization awards money for community development project ideas.

    THE BLADE
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    Ryan Bunch of Toledo, right, has been connected with Toledo SOUP since it began in 2012. The nonprofit awards money for community development project ideas.

    THE BLADE
    Buy This Image

n2bunch-1

Ryan Bunch of Toledo has been connected with Toledo SOUP since it began in 2012. The nonprofit organization awards money for community development project ideas.

THE BLADE
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Before the curtain goes up on another Toledo SOUP event, there’s a lot of scurrying behind the scenes.

The area nonprofit will award money to a winning community development project idea at the Oct. 26 “Halloween Happening.” The submission deadline for the event closed Oct. 1, and now a panel of judges must decide who gets to present their big idea.

Armed with a loose set of parameters, the judges must pare submissions, usually between 15 and 20, down to the handful of presenters that audience members will see at the event. Judges look for projects with a concrete idea that is achievable with SOUP funds and has a direct community impact.

Toledo SOUP, which began in 2012, is an initiative to fund lower-cost community projects through donations and fund-raisers such as the “Halloween Happening.”

Individuals and groups are encouraged to submit projects that can come from “small business, the arts, urban agriculture, local food, as well as local charities and community groups from all over the Toledo region,” the organization’s Web site states.

New judges are selected for every SOUP event and often feature members of local government, funding agencies and other community developers. SOUP committee members also try to include past winners as judges.

At the show attendees pay $5 for a soup dinner prepared by local chefs and a vote for who should win the money. The top vote-getter leaves with the pot of money generated from the $5 donations.

Ryan Bunch has been connected with the organization since its beginning in 2012. He serves on the committee and sits in on the judges’ selection meetings for the quarterly events.

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Ryan Bunch of Toledo, right, has been connected with Toledo SOUP since it began in 2012. The nonprofit awards money for community development project ideas.

THE BLADE
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“Personally, that’s what I like about it,” Mr. Bunch said of the rotating judges. “Each panel brings its own set of interests.”

He said the change promotes fairness and exposes community leaders to a variety of projects.

“We want people to know all of these projects are happening, not just those that walk away with the money,” Mr. Bunch said.

Maxwell Austin, the winner of the first SOUP event in 2012 and owner of Glass City Pedicabs, has seen the application process from all angles. After winning, he helped through fund-raising and served as a judge in 2013, always looking for ways to add “more money to the SOUP pot.”

“I didn’t just want to take the money and run,” said Mr. Austin, who used his winnings to pay for one year of insurance for his cabs.

When considering pitches, “short and simple” wins out, he said, drawing on his youth in a “business-oriented family” on a Christmas tree farm in upstate New York.

“I look for people with a solid structure and a clear idea where the money will go,” he said. “It helps when people do their homework.”

Soon the judges will select who will showcase their ideas. Mr. Bunch said the audience faces a difficult decision when picking a winner. “So often we hear, ‘Can’t you give money to all these people?’ ” he said.

It’s often enthusiasm that sets winners apart.

“People who won had strong presentations,” he said. “People who believe in their mission and convey that in their excitement, that’s the most dynamic thing.”

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at: llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or onTwitter @lelindstrom.

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