April 8, 2019

5 things we learned at The Renewal Summit

The Atlantic and Allstate celebrated the nonprofits that are building stronger communities at this year's Renewal Summit in New York City. Here's what we learned.

All the winners of the Renewal Awards offer different pieces of advice we can learn from. Photo by Paul Petronella

While the big news at The Atlantic’s Renewal Summit, which is made possible by Allstate, was the announcement of the winners of this year’s Renewal Awards, there were plenty of big ideas being shared. Here are just a handful of them:

1. New York City teens are sailing the Bronx River: Adam Green, founder of Rocking the Boat and Carlos Duran, student sailing program director at the nonprofit, are bringing many young New York City natives some place they never thought they’d go—out on the water. The organization brings students into STEM-based programming throughout high school and college where they learn environmental science, boatbuilding, and sailing. It also offers social and emotional support so that they can truly thrive out on the water.

2. Small organizations can still have an impact: One of the five winners of the Renewal Awards, Welcoming the Stranger is a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that helps immigrants and refugees find the support they need to build a new life and help their community thrive. The organization offers language, citizenship and computer classes, all with just one full-time staffer. But though Welcoming the Stranger is small in size, the change they affect is massive.

3. Don’t be afraid to think big: Another winner, The Compton Initiative aims high to put on big events for big impact in its community. Jeudy Mom, the executive director of the nonprofit, shared why they put on four huge events per year. At each event, thousands of volunteers from all ages and backgrounds help renovate homes, schools, and churches. This big effort around these big projects has the added benefit of creating a sense of bonding in the neighborhood. “Unification is in our heart. Mobilizing 2,000 people shows we’re in it together,” said Mom.

4. If you can’t give, volunteer: Two speakers at The Renewal Summit emphasized what a difference volunteering makes. “If you can’t participate by being a donor, be a volunteer,” said Vivian Nixon, executive director of the College and Community Fellowship. Volunteering has been proven to have health benefits, but it’s also what keeps some organizations running. “We could not do our programming without volunteers,” said Jenna Hania of the nonprofit New Moms, another winner of the Renewal Awards.

5. Learn this name now: Singer and composer Alexis Morrast is just 17 years old and is already a two-time winner of amateur night at the Apollo Theater. She brought down the house at the Renewal Summit with her soulful performance of “My Funny Valentine.” It’s likely you’ll be hearing her name again soon.

The Renewal Project