Elevating the Upstate with Grants Since 2013

Elevating the Upstate with Grants Since 2013

One of last year’s winners was the 96 Mill Village Association’s Movie in the Park series.

Every year in June, Ten at the Top opens the application period for $5000 Elevate Upstate grants, given out every year for programs, projects, and initiatives that promote community vibrancy.

Since 2013, Hughes Investments, Inc. has provided $80,000 in funds to 24 local communities as part of the Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grant program.

What is community vibrancy, anyway? Think of the things in your own community that make you proud to live where you live, that get you out of your house and interacting with your neighbors. Things that make your streets more attractive and celebrate what makes your community unique. Those are things that make your community vibrant.

Phil Hughes, president of Hughes Investments, says, “The Elevate Upstate Grants are for those wishing to bring new life to their communities—a spark, a fresh idea, a new tradition—something that will excite the public and bring people together from all walks of life in a new way.”

One of the winners from 2013, the first year the grants were awarded, has become a popular annual event in Greer.

Past Elevate Upstate grant winners include public art projects, interactive outdoor education, downtown music, a food truck plaza, and more. The key element is that the proposed initiative will increase community vibrancy and sense of place and benefit the community as a whole. Take a look at the list of past winners here, with some video clips that explain the projects.

Do you have a community vibrancy project that could use some funds to get off the ground? Do you want to find out more about how to navigate the process of applying for an Elevate Upstate grant? On July 16th, we’ll be hosting an Elevate Upstate Grant Workshop here at our event facility, and we’d love to see you there.

The town of West Pelzer capitalized on its designation as a bird sanctuary and created an educational art installation of bird houses along Main Street.

You’ll hear from Mary Anne Goodman from the Ninety Six Mill Village Association, who successfully applied for a grant to fund a community movie night. You’ll also hear from Coie Switzer and Curtiss Hunter from the Union Environmental Art and Music Festival, who were runners up and received a matching grant—and how they got the support they needed to launch their event a year ahead of schedule.

For those interested in applying, an interest form is due by August 1st and the completed applications due by September 16th. Two grants of $5,000 each will be awarded at Ten at the Top’s annual Celebrating Successes event in November, where finalists will have the opportunity to present their proposed project before a final judgment is made.

Article by Sharon Purvis

Congratulations to Main Street Laurens’ Jonathan Irick

Congratulations to Main Street Laurens’ Jonathan Irick

Jonathan Irick, Director of Main Street Laurens since 2006, has worked hard to make downtown Laurens a place that locals can be proud of and that visitors will want to return to, and he was recently awarded the Main Street America Revitalization Professional Credential. Congratulations, Jonathan!

A press release from Main Street America said of Irick and Main Street Laurens, “During his tenure as the Director of Main Street Laurens, Jonathan has continued to lead the program and its many volunteers to become a model program both across the state and nationally. Main Street Laurens is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote, improve and preserve the unique character and economic vitality of downtown Laurens.”

In 2014, Main Street Laurens won a Hughes Investment Elevate Upstate grant, presented by Ten at the Top, for the Finally Friday on the Square program. It was billed as a “celebration of all things Laurens,” with live music to bring people into the historic downtown area from April through September. The $5000 grant allowed Laurens to pay for the music artists for all of 2015, but the music was just the beginning—other attractions include free trolley rides, extended business hours, and special treats like an ice cream social.

Main Street Laurens’ Facebook page lists events, including the upcoming Sip ‘n’ Stroll Wine Tasting on April 25, and promotes local businesses. If you haven’t visited downtown Laurens recently, check out one of their events, visit their businesses, and be sure to tag any photos you take with #upstatevibe365!

All photos courtesy of Main Street Laurens

Celebrating Successes, Elevate Upstate Grants, and Milestones

Celebrating Successes, Elevate Upstate Grants, and Milestones

by Sharon Purvis

This week, Ten at the Top hosted its annual Celebrating Successes event, in which companies and organizations celebrating milestone anniversaries are recognized, service awards are presented, and Elevate Upstate grant finalists make their presentation and winners are announced.

More than 200 people gathered at the Greenville Marriott for the event; attendees included representatives from the milestone organizations and Elevate Upstate finalists, along with Ten at the Top funding partners and other supporters.

More than 100 milestone entities were recognized, including Oconee and Pickens Counties and Park Seed Company celebrating 150 years in the Upstate. Next year’s celebration will include Ten at the Top’s 10th anniversary, and executive director Dean Hybl promises an extra special celebration. (If you know of a landmark anniversary that should be included next year, please email it to spurvis@tenatthetop.org.)

Mary Ann Goodman of the 
Ninety Six Mill Village Neighborhood Association gives her Elevate Upstate grant presentation 
(photo credit: Chris Kelly/KB Photography)

The Burdette Leadership Award, named for Ten at the Top founding board member Carol Burdette, recognizes a woman in leadership who has made a significant contribution to our region, went to South Carolina state legislator Chandra Dillard, who had previously served for several years on the Greenville City Council.

Irv Welling gives the Welling Award for Regional Collaboration to Terence Roberts and Rick Danner (photo credit: Chris Kelly/KB Photography)

The Welling Award for Regional Collaboration, named for founding board member Irv Welling, went to two other founding board members, Terence Roberts and Rick Danner, mayors of Anderson and Greer, respectively. The two men have supported the collaborative efforts of Ten at the Top since its inception and continue to look outward from their towns to embrace a more regional outlook.

Last year was the fifth year in Phil Hughes’ 5-year commitment to fund the Hughes Investment Elevate Upstate Grants, and after last year’s grants were awarded, he committed to another five years. In those five years, 21 grants were awarded for a total of $67,000—exceeding Hughes’ original commitment of $10,000 per year.

As in past years, the five Elevate Upstate grant finalists each gave a four-minute presentation about their proposed community vibrancy projects. Out of 26 applications, the grant committee selected the following five finalists:

  • Centuries of Gaffney: A Walking Tour (City of Gaffney)—signage to indicate historically significant sites from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries in Gaffney
  • 1st Annual Charles Townes Art & Technology Experiment (Jeff Sumerel of Spontaneous Productions, in partnership with the Town of Travelers Rest)—laser-based light and audio installations celebrating Charles Townes, Greenville native, Furman University graduate, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics
  • IDEAS Festival: Increase Dialog about Engagement in Arts and Social justice initiatives (The Arts Center of Clemson/City of Clemson Arts& Culture Commission)—an interactive, community-based arts festival that increases engagement with the arts and social justice
  • Ninety Six Movie Night at the Park (Ninety Six Mill Village Neighborhood Association)—in a town with no movie theater, a community initiative that brings residents together to increase use of Ninety Six Mill Park
  • Environmental Art Festival (Piedmont Physic Garden, in partnership with Union County Arts Council, USC-Union, and Union County Tourism Commission)—an arts festival with the theme of “Imagine a Sustainable World,”highlighting the rich natural resources in Union County
The Elevate Upstate Grant committee deliberates 
(photo credit: Chris Kelly/KB Photography)

The two grant winners were Jeff Sumerel (who gave his presentation with the aid of a ventriloquist puppet) and the Charles Townes Art and Technology Experiment, and the Ninety Six Mill Village Neighborhood Association’s Movie Night at the Park—after project coordinator Mary Ann Goodman charmed the audience with her comedic timing in her presentation. The Union Physic Garden was runner up, receiving a $3,000 matching grant.

Left to right: Coie Switzer (Piedmont Physic Garden), Phil Hughes, Mary Ann Goodman (
Ninety Six Mill Village Neighborhood Association), Jeff Sumerel (Spontaneous Productions)
(photo credit: Chris Kelly/KB Photography)

As always, Ten at the Top thanks Phil Hughes and Hughes Investments, the grant finalists, and all of the other applicants for their contributions to community vibrancy all over the Upstate.

Main Street Laurens USA and Greenwood Arts Center Receive Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants

Main Street Laurens USA and Greenwood Arts Center Receive Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants

Upstate, SC [November 17, 2017] – Ten at the Top (TATT), an organization created to enhance economic vitality and quality of life across the Upstate by fostering collaboration and strategic partnerships, has announced the recipients for the 2017 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants. The two recipients, each receiving $5,000, are Main Street Laurens USA for their Food Truck Plaza project and the Greenwood Arts Center for their Bee smART project.

The grants, which began in 2013, annually provide “seed funds” to support vibrancy initiatives in communities across the Upstate region. There were 22 applications for the 2017 grants and five finalists gave brief presentations before the selections were made during the Celebrating Successes Brunch presented by Fluor on Thursday, November 16, at the Greenville Marriott as part of the Our Upstate Vision Forum Series presented by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.

“The goal of the Elevate Upstate program is to get communities thinking about what types of initiatives or programs might help spark vibrancy within their area and then provide some seed money to get some of them started,” said Hughes Investments President Phil Hughes. “In the five years we have done this program, I have been amazed by the great ideas and passion of communities across the region to grow their vibrancy and sense of place. It was a real challenge to narrow the field to five finalists and to select the recipients.”

In addition to providing $10,000 to the two winners, Hughes also pledged a $2,000 matching grant to each of the three other finalists. If they raise $2,000 towards completing their project, he will provide a matching $2,000 contribution. The other three finalists were the City of Landrum for their Art of the Horse project, the Abbeville County Farmers Market for their Farm to Fork Dinner and the City of Seneca and Blue Ridge Arts Council for their Art Wall at Monarch Park.

In the five years of the Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grants program, Phil Hughes and Hughes Investments has provided a total of $73,000 to help with 22 different vibrancy initiatives across the Upstate region.

The two $5,000 recipients for 2017 are:

Main Street Laurens USA | Food Truck Plaza– As a part of a larger Downtown Master Plan for the City of Laurens, the Food Truck Plaza will dedicate space within the city where food trucks will be located for residents and visitors to enjoy a variety of dining experiences. The plaza will include colored shade sails, brick pavers and picnic benches as well as power and water for the food trucks.

Greenwood Arts Center | Bee smART – The City of Greenwood received the Bee City USA award in 2016 and will use the Elevate Upstate Grant to develop educational and interactive art programs designed around the Bee City designation.

Finalists Announced for 2017 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grants

Ten at the Top (TATT), an organization created to foster collaboration, partnerships and strategic planning across the Upstate, has announced the finalists for the 2017 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants.

The five finalists were chosen from a total of 22 applications submitted for the two grants available in 2017. Hughes Investments is contributing at least $10,000 per year to the program with two recipients each year receiving $5,000 to support a new vibrancy initiative in the Upstate. The program began in 2013 in conjunction with a series of Community Vibrancy Workshops hosted by Ten at the Top. Since the inception of the grants program, Hughes Investments has contributed a total of $57,000 to community vibrancy initiatives in 17 communities across the Upstate.

During the Ten at the Top Celebrating Successes Brunch on November 16th the five finalists will each provide a brief overview of their initiative before the 2017 recipients are selected and announced. The cost to attend the brunch is $35, prior registration is required. The event will be held from 11:30 am -1:30 pm at the Greenville Marriott. To register go to www.tenatthetop.org.

Here are the five finalists (applying organization, project name and brief summary):

Art of the Horse – City of Landrum – In celebration of the 2018 World Equestrian Games being held in nearby Tryon, NC, the city will be displaying as public art a life size painted fiberglass horse. The city is looking to use the Elevate Upstate Grant to allow for the display to become a permanent component of the public art in the City of Landrum.
Farm to Fork Dinner – Abbeville County Farmers Market – The Abbeville County Farmers Market is looking to host a “farm to fork” dinner to highlight the vital role of local farming and farmers markets in creating local vibrancy in Abbeville.

Food Truck Plaza – Main Street Laurens USA, Inc. – As a part of a larger Downtown Master Plan for the City of Laurens, the Food Truck Plaza would be a dedicated space within the city where food trucks would be located for residents and visitors to enjoy a variety of dining experiences. The plaza will include colored shade sails, brick pavers and picnic benches as well as power and water for the food trucks.

Art Wall at Monarch Park – City of Seneca and Blue Ridge Arts Council – As part of the Eagle Scout project for a local student an art wall has been created in Monarch Park, located within walking distance of Main Street Seneca. The Elevate Upstate Grant would be used to commission three-dimensional butterfly art for the wall and park.

Bee smART – Greenwood Arts Center – The City of Greenwood received the Bee City USA award in 2016 and would use the Elevate Upstate Grant to develop educational and interactive art programs designed around the Bee City designation.

The selection committee for the Elevate Upstate Grants Program includes Phil Hughes (President, Hughes Investments), Ingo Angermeier (SmartPulse), and Terence Roberts (Mayor, City of Anderson).

Creating a Sense of Place Helps Grow Economic & Community Vibrancy

Creating a Sense of Place Helps Grow Economic & Community Vibrancy

By Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top

There was a time in America when regardless of the size of the community, the commercial heart of any town or city was its downtown or main street. These commerce centers were typically oozing with energy and vibrancy as they included stores, banks, restaurants, the post office, local government buildings and many other components of an active community.

As communities began to spread out in the 1960s and 1970s, many main streets and downtowns went from being the epicenter of the community to a forgotten and often dangerous place where few good things happened and most dared not venture.

Having only lived here in the Upstate since 2010, I have a hard time imagining a time when Downtown Greenville was not a vibrant showpiece. However, I have heard from many who did grow up in this area that for many years the main street was little more than a vehicle thoroughfare for people passing from one part of town to another.

Of course, today Downtown Greenville is lauded as a national model for creating both community and economic vibrancy and is a one of the more attractive features for making the Upstate a tourist and business destination.

Many main streets, downtowns and neighborhoods of all sizes across the Upstate have a rich history of being the local epicenter for their community. When Ten at the Top developed the Our Upstate Vision through the engagement of more than 10,000 Upstate residents in 2010 and 2011, one of the areas identified as being important for the Upstate was to maintain and grow the vibrancy of our individual communities, downtowns and neighborhoods.

While not every downtown has prospered to the level of Downtown Greenville, there are many other places across the Upstate that have recognized that returning vibrancy and commerce to their downtown core and neighborhoods is a key strategy in growing their economic base as well as developing a “sense of place” for their local residents and visitors.

In 2013, Ten at the Top and USC Upstate partnered to develop “Great Ideas for Community Vibrancy”, which highlighted 50 examples from across South Carolina and the United States of communities and neighborhoods of all sizes that had cultivated their local vibrancy through a project, event or initiative. We then brought representatives from 10 of those programs to the Upstate and held four community vibrancy workshops across the region.

In conjunction with those workshops and to help with creating new vibrancy initiatives across the Upstate region, local developer Phil Hughes established the Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy grants. The original commitment was for $10,000 per year (two grants of $5,000 each) for five years.

Since the first grants were awarded in 2013, Hughes has actually provided $57,000 in funds for vibrancy initiatives in 17 communities across the Upstate.

Because vibrancy, sense of place and local needs are different in all communities, the projects funded through the program have also been very different, but all have helped reinvigorate main streets, neighborhoods or even organizations across the Upstate.

Included amongst the projects was creation of the Greer International Festival, which though it was funded only once through Elevate Upstate has become an annual event in Greer with an estimated economic impact of more than $100,000 for the local community. The City of Laurens created their Finally Friday music series in 2015 through an Elevate Upstate Grant and the monthly event has become a key component of the Main Street program in Laurens.

Though Ram Cat Alley has long been a staple of Downtown Seneca, it was through a grant to the Blue Ridge Arts Council that they were able to create a series of artistically painted cast iron cats that now dot the landscape of the community and have become a favorite scavenger hunt for children in the area as the cats are regularly moved from place to place in town.

Those projects represent only a handful of the vibrancy initiatives that have popped up across the Upstate due to Phil Hughes and the Elevate Upstate program.

For 2017 the grant process brought 22 applications that have now been narrowed to five finalists. Those potential projects are for new vibrancy initiatives in Landrum, Seneca, Abbeville, Laurens and Greenwood. Each finalist will make a final “pitch” during the Ten at the Top Celebrating Successes Brunch on November 16th and then the 2017 grant recipients will be announced that day.

If you would like to learn more about the Elevate Upstate Grants, Ten at the Top’s Community Vibrancy initiatives or register to attend the November 16th Celebrating Successes Brunch, please visit the Ten at the Top web site (www.tenatthetop.org).