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Accelerate 2018: Northeast Ohioans compete to improve the region

Grand prize winner receives $5,000 to launch their community project

It's like Shark Tank, but with a bigger heart.

Accelerate 2018: Citizens Make Change took place in Cleveland Wednesday evening, where 25 Northeast Ohioans took the stage, each pitching an idea for how to make the region a better place.

Finalists were selected in five categories - Community Change, Economic and Workforce Development, Educating for Tomorrow, Health & Wellness, and Quality of Life.

Architect, artists and activist Allison Lukacsy-Love was one of those hopeful finalists. "There is something to be said about standing up in front of a bunch of people and speaking about an idea that comes from your heart," said Lukacsy-Love.

Her initiative Give Box Cleveland, takes the idea of the free little free library and morphs it into a free little pantry, offering free hygiene products and non-perishable foods in small boxes posted next to sidewalks and bus stops throughout various neighborhoods.

"It's give what you can, take what you need," said Lukacsy-Love. "GiveBox Cleveland is all about neighbors helping neighbors."

Her pitch was one of 25 that made the cut out nearly 80 different submissions, and Lukacsy-Love is an Accelerate veteran. In 2016, she became a finalist when she proposed turning bus stops into exercise stations in a concept called "Bus Stop Moves: Exercise While You Wait."

The pitch event Accelerate, presented by Citizens Bank and the Cleveland Leadership Center at the Global Center for Health Innovation, was started in 2015. So far, the program has helped get dozens of civic-minded proposals off the ground.

"You don't have to have a non-profit. You don't have to have this organized group or have your own funds to leverage," said Lukacsy-Love. "You just need an idea."

For Allison, winning means she could create 50 Give Boxes throughout Northeast Ohio, but she says the event is ultimately about more than just the prize money.

"All of the people in the room who are judging you are really there to support you to and find the next great idea in Cleveland," said Lukacsy-Love.

For more information on the Give Box Cleveland, visit here.

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