This post has been sponsored by the American Heart Association.

If you look around the neighborhood you live in, you may see a community that’s thriving and has all kinds of great amenities and opportunities available. And if you live in a major city like mine – Chicago – down the corner and around the block, it can be a whole other story. So many of our communities are in need. And so many of us see the best ways that change can come, the areas that are suffering from a lack of care or attention or funding. The American Heart Association is seeking to provide support for those changemakers, those aspirational community leaders.

The goal of the recent AHA EmPOWERED To Serve summit was to generate and support neighborhood transformation through passionate, creative efforts to engage communities in need. “As an Association, we know that to affect meaningful change in the communities we serve, we must tap into and value their knowledge and experiences. We know that innovation is fueled by diversity and inclusion. We are looking to learn from and collaborate with organizations with innovative and creative solutions to address the social determinants of health. This is an important strategy for developing solutions to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity, regardless of circumstances, to be healthy and well,” says Tanya M. Odom, Ed.M., Global Diversity and Inclusion, education consultant, and chair of the American Heart Association’s Diversity Leadership Committee.

Here are some facts straight from the AHA, that directly speak to people of color and our communities in need:

This stuff hits close to home for me, and it did even all the way in my community in Trinidad. High blood pressure runs in my family. We have had relatives suffer strokes and my own mom has had cardiovascular concerns through the years. It’s not just where I’m from, it’s where I live now and all across the cities and states we live in.

The EmPOWERED To Serve Summit took place on 10/17 in the Kellogg Conference Hotel, Gallaudet University. After entering the online competition hosted at, ten finalists gathered to present their business solutions before a panel of judges. These lucky ten finalists had been whittled down from 128 submissions – click here to check out the top ten.

Following a judging panel with public voting via a Facebook live stream event, three winners were chosen, and they will receive financial awards ranging from $10,000 – $30,000 to implement their plans for their community!

Check out the big winners!

Nyasha Nyamapfene, creator of Gospel Run, Chicago — Gospel Run is a public health organization created to inspire health, transformation and expanded possibilities in the individuals, families and communities we serve.

Maria Rose Belding, creator of MEANS Database, Philadelphia, PA — MEANS Database notifies food banks and pantries of food donations in their neighborhood. Food Connect delivers surplus food from retailers to community organizations serving the hungry.

Cecil Wilson, creator of GoffersGotIt, Chicago, IL — the GoffersGotIt motto is “Getting Things Done on the Go!” Goffers provides on demand mobile task assistance. Services included, but are not limited to grocery shopping, laundry delivery, and prescription refills.

Congratulations to the big winners, the real winners are the communities and people in need who you’ll be empowering with your work! Thank you for what you do, and thank you to the AHA for the community support!

For more information on the EmPOWERED To Serve movement and the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Business Storytelling Competition, visit, or check out @EmPoweredToServe on Facebook and @AHA_EmPOWERED on Twitter.

Photos via AHA EmPoweredToServe’s Facebook

This post has been sponsored by the American Heart Association, but the opinions are all my own.