Lighthouse Louisiana Wins GNOF’s ‘Pitch It! The Innovation Challenge’

NEW ORLEANS – Lighthouse Louisiana won the first place prize worth $25,000 at Pitch It! The Innovation Challenge. New Orleans Food & Farm Network won the second place prize worth $7,500 and the third place prize worth $5,000 was awarded to YMCA – Educational Services.

         Now in its fourth year, the highly competitive Pitch It! The Innovation Challenge was held on Friday, October 7, 2016, at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The three finalists who presented their pitches were selected from a pool of more than 30 applicants who submitted a diverse range of innovative ideas to address community needs.

         Jenice Heck, Vice President of Vision Rehabilitation Services at Lighthouse Louisiana, presented the winning idea, “Mo-Mobility,” to increase independence for people who are visually impaired by improving the bus route system through smartphone technology, bus stop markings, call center sensitivity, and verbal destination announcements.

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         Second place presenter, Sanjay Kharod, Executive Director of New Orleans Food & Farm Network, presented “Real Food Real Local” to incubate a food manufacturing business with Big Easy Bucha that sources ingredients from local farmers and provides on-the-job training for formerly incarcerated individuals in New Orleans.

         Third place presenter, Shannan Cvitanovic, Director of YMCA – Educational Services, presented “Literacy Concierge” to help adults navigate the complicated landscape of education and job training by providing information tailored to their needs.

         “New Orleans has become a hot-bed for entrepreneurship and we at the Greater New Orleans Foundation are committed to ensuring the not-for-profit sector is part of this vital transformation,” said Andy Kopplin, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “We are honored to make these grant awards to such courageous and visionary innovators.”

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         Pitch It! The Innovation Challenge, a project of the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Organizational Effectiveness initiative in partnership with The Kresge Foundation and Chevron, supports breakthrough ideas in the nonprofit field by encouraging nonprofits to think outside the box to discover new and innovative ways to address our community’s needs.

         This year’s judges were Leah Brown, Manager of Policy in the Government and Public Affairs for Chevron’s Gulf of Mexico Business Unit; Fred G. Karnas, Senior Fellow for Human Services and Health Program at the Kresge Foundation; Quentin Messer Jr., president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance; and, Yvette Ruiz, Vice President of the Office on Nonprofit Engagement at JPMorgan Chase.

         The Greater New Orleans Foundation is one of the oldest and largest philanthropic organizations in the region. Together with a family of donors, the Foundation has invested more than $100 million in the region since it opened its doors over 30 years ago to respond to community needs.

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