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TOLEDO, OH, October 22, 2020 – Greater Toledo Community Foundation and The Blade, in partnership with The Center for Nonprofit Resources, The Andersons, Buckeye Broadband and WTVG-13abc, are happy to announce the Tenth Anniversary Northwest Ohio Nonprofit Innovation & Excellence Award winners, recognizing local nonprofit organizations that stand out for their contributions to our community. 

The 2020 Northwest Ohio Nonprofit Innovation & Excellence Awards presentation took place virtually, on Facebook and LinkedIn, on Tuesday, October 22nd.

A panel of judges selected the following three organizations to receive recognition at this year’s ceremony:

  • Innovation award: Midstory - Summer Programming
  • Small agency Excellence award:  Baby University
  • Large agency Excellence award:  Bittersweet Farms

In addition to being recognized as a leader among northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan’s nonprofits, these winning organizations receive:

a $5,000 unrestricted grant from Greater Toledo Community Foundation;

a $1,000 unrestricted grant from The Andersons;

free half-page ad in The Blade;

and a one-of-a-kind blown glass art creation by local glass artist Shawn Messenger.

In celebration of the 10th Anniversary of this event, Greater Toledo Community Foundation provided two additional grants at this year’s event.   One organization received a $10,000 unrestricted grant, and one organization received a $5,000 unrestricted grant. The winners were pulled from the pool of all recipients of the Nonprofit Innovation & Excellence Awards from 2011 through 2020.  The winners of those awards are: Black Swamp Conservancy - $10,000; and Family & Child Abuse Prevention Center - $5,000.

About Our 2020 Innovation and Excellence Award Winners

Midstory emerged two years ago to address the growing disconnect between the voices of the Midwest and coastal regions by striving to inform high school and college students about current, relevant subject matters in our community that are reflected on a larger, regional and national scale. Midstory’s Summer Programming is an ambitious program that brings local students and students from across the country to our city to experience and develop storytelling multimedia projects that explore local issues under a national umbrella.

In the first two years of operation, Midstory received over 100 national applicants to summer college and high school programs. The results of their efforts reveal that the students overwhelmingly improved their perception of Toledo and that students would consider looking for employment in Toledo after having been through the program. 

In 2020, the second year of operation, Midstory reported a 232% increase in their applicant pool for summer programming including applicants from 10 different states and 10 universities, including UT, UPenn, Princeton, Amherst, BGSU, UMich and Purdue. Statistics from their first two years of programming reveal an increase in reach and interest in the program, as well as a diverse group of students showing interest in our community, thus continuing their mission to attract young talent to the region.

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Baby University exists to empower parents with evidence-based parenting workshops and home visits, connecting families to vital community resources.  Baby University has been serving low-income parents of children ages 0-5 in Toledo’s Old South End neighborhood by equipping parents for the vital role they play in their child’s development and education.

Baby U is a data-driven program. Data informs five main initiatives:

  • Reduce infant mortality by partnering with the Pathways Hub to provide education for healthy pregnancies and babies;
  • Improve family stability by connecting families to social services;
  • Give parents the educational tools for healthy, strong family connections;
  • Increase family literacy in kindergarteners by making reading a part of daily life; and
  • Seek input from parents for program improvement.

Baby University has strong and effective partnerships with Mosaic Ministries, the Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB and Lucas County Health Department, among others, and has seen more than 725 graduates complete the initial Baby University workshop.

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Bittersweet Farms exists to positively impact the lives of individuals with autism and those whose lives they touch. Bittersweet provides supportive and well-structured programs that emphasize meaningful activities and work toward developing special talents and abilities of individuals with autism. The end goal is to increase autonomy and self-reliance, empower choices, maximize dignity and encourage community interaction.

Bittersweet offers residential services, a school transition program, after hour’s programs which include social and recreational opportunities, and day program opportunities in Whitehouse, Pemberville and Lima. Bittersweet credits their success to a unique farm setting and model. Participants have access to the diverse activities of a working farm including agriculture, horticulture, grounds keeping, animal care, creative arts and commercial culinary production.  Coupled with an engagement in community outings that enrich the lives of participants, Bittersweet has found success in participants’ enjoying the art, music and sports in our community, while learning fine motor and social skills as a bonus.

Bittersweet Farms works with community partnered agencies within the Developmental Disability sector to create and enhance best practices such as Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Avenues for Autism, ProMedica, Mercy Health, Autism Provider Network, and Autism Speaks, along with many other industry-specific organizations.

Special Drawing Winners

Family & Child Abuse Prevention Center ($5,000 ) was the 2015 winner of the Large Agency Excellence Award.  Family & Child Abuse Prevention Center works to promote healthy relationships and break the cycle of family violence so every home can be a safe home.

Black Swamp Conservancy ($10,000)was the 2015 winner of the Small Agency Excellence Award. Black Swamp Conservancy is a land trust dedicated to protecting agricultural land and natural areas, now and for future generations, through land conservation agreements. They do this to preserve the rural heritage, unique natural habitats, and lakes and streams of northwest Ohio.

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About Greater Toledo Community Foundation

Greater Toledo Community Foundation is a public charitable organization created by citizens of our community to enrich the quality of life for individuals and families in our area. In existence since 1973, the Foundation has more than 900 funds with assets of approximately $330 million. The Foundation provides philanthropic services for individuals, families, businesses and corporations to meet their charitable giving needs. For more information about Greater Toledo Community Foundation, visit or follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

The mission of The Center for Nonprofit Resources is to ensure nonprofit organizations in our region have the information and resources required to operate in an efficient and effective manner. For further information about The Center, visit  or contact Heather Bradley, Director, at [email protected] .

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