July 24, 2017

New Friend Request: 5 innovators you should follow

These nonprofits are empowering individuals in their communities, from providing healthy produce to helping them gain financial independence

The Empowerment Plan founder Veronika Scott speaks during a "Made in America: Detroit" panel discussion during Martha Stewart American Made Summit, Nov. 7, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

Get ready to like, follow, and friend request these change agents who are creating local solutions across America. Here are five innovators making a positive impact in their communities and beyond.


All it took was an interaction with a homeless woman in Detroit to give Veronika Scott, the CEO of The Empowerment Plan, (@empowermentplan) the idea for the organization’s business model. When Scott first began distributing coats, she was confronted by a homeless woman who said she didn’t need a coat, she needed a job. The Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit based in Detroit, is working to permanently end the generational cycle of homelessness. They hire single parents from local shelters and give them the training needed to manufacture coats. Scott designed the coats to meet the needs of homeless individuals—it transfers into a shoulder bag and a sleeping bag. The goal is to help employees secure their own permanent housing, while distributing coats to others in need across the U.S. and Canada.


This urban farm in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston is doing its part to support a healthy a community. Located in front of a homeless shelter for single mothers, the ReVision Urban Farm, part of @VictoryPrograms, provides job training, summer jobs for youth, and affordable, healthy produce to shelter residents.

We want to thank everyone who came out for our seedling sale this past Saturday!!! We appreciate you coming through and showing us love ❤️ and support!! #seedlingsaleboston #urbanfarmingfreshness #grateful

Posted by ReVision Urban Farm on Monday, May 15, 2017


Art From the Streets (@artfromthestreetsaustin) is an art studio for homeless or at-risk residents of Austin, Texas. This organization is giving back to its community by providing a safe space for these Austin residents to be creative and productive. They provide a workspace for participants to produce art. The organization also hosts art classes to help them build up their skills and posts an online marketplace for artists to sell their work and ultimately gain financial support.


As a teacher in Baltimore, Jennifer Cox noticed a lot of the kids in her classroom were disengaged. A lot of them were also living in homeless shelters. After volunteering in shelters, she also noticed most services were geared towards adults. The environment, she felt, wasn’t providing a healthy developmental space for kids. She founded Empower4Life, (@empower4lifemd) to provide health education, fitness, healthy food, and other health instruction to kids living in Baltimore-area homeless shelters. She also wanted to give kids a space to be kids, and build the confidence to pave their own path, she told CNN Heroes.

The kids at INNTerm Housing love yoga with Courtney!

A post shared by Empower4Life (MD) (@empower4lifemd) on


Aloha Harvest (@AlohaHarvest) rescues and distributes food donated by area restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets to social service agencies around Oahu, Hawaii. With their help, these agencies are able to receive food from 40 donors and feed the food insecure in their community.

Anita Ferrer

Anita Ferrer is a contributor to The Renewal Project.