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The Inspiring Rise of Pitch Your Peers

Empowering Women and Uplifting Mercer Island

In the heart of Mercer Island, a remarkable story of community involvement and women's empowerment unfolded, centered around the inspiring journey of Erin Krawiec, Alyson Burks, and their organization, Pitch Your Peers, Inc. (PYP). Mercer Island City Lifestyle proudly presents this narrative, highlighting the transformative power of collective giving and the profound impact women can have when united by a shared purpose.

Erin Krawiec, a dynamic and visionary leader, made her way to Mercer Island after a career spanning the demanding realms of corporate consulting and startups. Her transition from the fast-paced business world to the heart of philanthropy was driven by a deep-seated desire to create tangible change. Erin currently serves as the President and Co-Founder of PYP, and her role as Communications Chair ensures that their message of collective giving and community involvement resonates far and wide.

Alyson Burks, Erin's next-door neighbor, shares a similar commitment to uplifting the community. With roots extending from California to New England, Aly has made her mark in the realms of finance and real estate. Her journey now includes managing investments for a family office, but her passion for making a difference transcends traditional boardrooms. Aly rocks out as a member of a local rock cover band, proving that community involvement takes on diverse forms.

Together, Erin and Alyson have forged the foundation of PYP, an organization that transcends conventional philanthropy. PYP's unique approach empowers women to pitch their passion projects, creating an experience akin to "Shark Tank for charity." This not only channels funds to critical causes but also highlights the remarkable skills and talents of their members. It is a testament to the idea that women in high-pressure careers can leverage their skills for the greater good.

My two remarkable friends have cultivated a sense of community involvement that extends far beyond their island's borders. Their dedication to uplifting women and fostering volunteerism has attracted a diverse group of like-minded women, each contributing their unique skills and backgrounds to the collective mission.

This is far from a complete list of members, I just wanted to give a shout-out to the Board.

Dina Wampold, with her background in retail and merchandising, Catherine Booms, a physician committed to social responsibility, Mina Velamoor, a tech-savvy engineer, Kim Kamolz, a professional coach, Sarah Morris, a social work advocate, and Jody Kris, a former lawyer who transitioned into community leadership, all share a common thread of passion for giving back. Together, they have woven a tapestry of talent and commitment within PYP that mirrors Mercer Island City Lifestyle's commitment to uplifting women and the community.

PYP's unique approach to philanthropy involves granting up to three awards per year. Donations received are distributed among the winning projects, with the grant pool size varying based on member contributions and corporate matching. In 2022, PYP granted a total of $242,500, making a significant impact on local nonprofits.

The process for nonprofits seeking funding from PYP is straightforward. Members interested in pitching a nonprofit, known as "Grant Champions," submit a Grant Request Form. If more than three forms are submitted, members vote to select the top three charities to be pitched. Grant Champions then present their proposals to fellow members during the annual Pitch Night, a captivating in-person event.

In 2023, the 7th Annual PYP Seattle Pitch Night took place on October 18th at the Amazon Doppler Building in Seattle, WA. Each pitch, lasting no more than 15 minutes, was accompanied by a visual presentation, followed by a 5-minute Q&A session.

The grant cycle schedule is currently in swing. The grant winner voting will be on November 29-30. Assuming the vote is conclusive, and a re-vote isn’t needed, winners will be announced on the evening of November 30.

This year, the 2023 Grant Champions and their causes exemplify the diverse range of projects supported by PYP:

- Hamlin Robinson School aims to offer free STAR Early Literacy Screening and training to educators in King County, addressing the equity issue in early diagnosis of dyslexia. Shannon Leversedge is the passionate Grant Champion behind this cause.

- Key to Change, a Black-led nonprofit, provides world-class music instruction to underserved youth in South King County. Funding supports their expansion and diversification efforts, with Linda Floyd and Jody Kris championing their cause.

- The Healing Center provides crucial support for people who have experienced the loss of an important person in their lives. Julie Yee is the Grant Champion behind their cause, emphasizing the importance of reducing the isolation, fear, and stigma of grief.

Pitch Your Peers Seattle, with its unique approach to philanthropy and the dedicated efforts of Erin, Alyson, the board, and members, redefined how communities can come together for meaningful change. Their story embodies the spirit of Mercer Island City Lifestyle's commitment to community involvement and uplifting women, showcasing how women's empowerment and collective giving can create a brighter future for all.

Look for our follow-up story announcing the winner in an upcoming issue!

“When I met Erin and Aly, I quickly felt the energy from this electric twosome. I love how they’ve made giving experiential, fun, and fulfilling!” - Chris Ishii

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