Five Nonprofits Receive National Award for Driving Positive Change in Underserved Communities from The Atlantic and Allstate

Apr 5, 2017 9:00 AM ET
The five 2017 Renewal Award winners in D.C. accepting their awards from Allstate and The Atlantic.

Five Nonprofits Receive National Award for Driving Positive Change in Underserv…

At a social innovation summit in the nation’s capital last week, The Atlantic and Allstate honored five nonprofits with Renewal Awards for their innovative, grassroots approach to solving our nation’s most pressing challenges.

The five Renewal Award recipients have a shared mission, which is to meet the needs of underserved communities, including LGBT homeless youth, incarcerated women and their families, neighborhoods ravaged by violence, and at-risk young men and women. The winners have affected thousands of lives and serve as role models for other organizations grappling with how to drive change in communities across the country.

“The Renewal Award winners embody America’s spirit of entrepreneurism and determination,” said Dave Prendergast, president, Eastern Territory, Allstate. “We are humbled and inspired by their efforts. These individuals remind us that we all hold the power to inspire hope and restore communities. We can all be a force for good in society.”

This year’s standouts were chosen from nearly 500 nominations. Judging criteria included the current and future impact of each nominee’s program and the program’s ability to be replicated in other communities. Each winner receives a $20,000 grant from Allstate to further its work.

“Washington continues to be a place of great drama and baroque intrigue, while real innovation and problem-solving are increasingly taking place at the local level,” said Bob Cohn, president of The Atlantic. “In the course of identifying the recipients of the Renewal Awards, it’s been humbling for us to sift through the good works of so many organizations. We are very proud to work with Allstate in support of these entrepreneurs.”

Winners were selected from five categories:

  • Allstate Youth Empowerment – Organizations that exemplify Allstate’s commitment to empowering future generations with the strength, confidence and skills to become successful leaders.

  • Community Action – Programs creating change and opportunity for underserved communities.

  • Ingenuity –Programs that promote simple yet creative solutions to complex problems.

  • Neighborhood Revitalization – Projects focused on rebuilding communities.

  • Self-Starter – Underdog organizations founded without substantial support from large funders.

The honorees were selected by public vote and a judges’ panel comprised of The Atlantic editors, led by senior editor Ron Brownstein, past Renewal Award winners, outside members including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and the founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits Perla Ni. Allstate selected the Youth Empowerment Award winner.

The winners are:

Allstate Youth Empowerment Award – Hour Children, Inc. (Long Island City, N.Y.): Hour Children is being recognized for helping incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women successfully connect with their children, ensuring the essential bond between mother and child remains strong and healthy. The program has made a remarkable difference in participants’ lives. Women in the Hour Children program are 10 times less likely to return to prison, and nearly all 200 children in last year’s program successfully advanced to the next school grade level.

Community Action Award – New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth (New York): New Alternatives increases the self-sufficiency of homeless LGBT youth, enabling them to successfully transition to adulthood. The organization provides education services, life skills training, opportunities for self-expression and support services for HIV-positive youth. New Alternatives also hosts thousands of Sunday dinners every year, giving clients a sense of place and family. Three of the organization’s current staff members are former clients. 

Ingenuity Award – Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop (Washington, D.C.): Free Minds’ motto is “We write sentences to prevent sentences.”  Recognizing the transformative power of books and creative writing, the organization exposes incarcerated youth to literature and in the process, changes their lives. Free Minds provides a consistent, long-term support system during a young person’s incarceration and his re-entry back into society. Through creative expression, job readiness training and violence prevention outreach, Free Minds’ participants achieve their educational goals, give back to their communities and work to stop the cycle of violence. In 2016, 90 percent of program participants had not reoffended.

Neighborhood Revitalization Award – Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) (Los Angeles): KDI is an organization comprised of architects, engineers, urban planners and community organizers who work together with community members to transform unused land into productive, sustainable community spaces, such as parks and public spaces for people of all ages. In the process, they improve the local economy, environment and quality of life for residents. Started in 2006, KDI has completed six major projects in Southern California as well as projects in Africa and Latin America. 

Self-Starter Award – Lost Boyz Inc. (Chicago): Originally started as a baseball program in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, Lost Boyz Inc.’s focus changed when the program founder became concerned with anti-social behaviors among local boys and girls. Today, the organization uses baseball and the experience of competition to mentor youth. Lost Boyz also provides entrepreneurship activities and service learning opportunities to help young people develop character and good decision-making skills. The program has served hundreds of youth ages 9 through 17; more than 75 percent of participants have maintained their GPA at 3.0 or above and are college-bound.

Ron Brownstein writes about this year’s winners, and the larger story they tell about grassroots resurgence across the country, in a piece on

Started in 2015, The Renewal Awards spotlight grassroots solutions to challenges faced by communities around the country and the people making a positive difference. The awards are part of The Renewal Project, The Atlantic’s broader partnership with Allstate that spotlights local innovation. To learn more, please visit

The inaugural Renewal Awards were presented in January 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. The six winning organizations were: B Lab (Wayne, Pa.), Champlain Housing Trust (Burlington, Vt.), Girlstart (Austin, Texas), Global Detroit (Detroit), P-TECH (New York) and The WorkPlace (Bridgeport, Conn.).