Johnette Isham, Executive Director of Realize Bradenton, could
not contain her excitement any longer.
“In our first four years we have connected a diversity of
people to promote livability, coolness, and economic
development in downtown Bradenton. Tonight we welcome:
Poets – Politicians; Developers – Dancers; Accountants –
Artists; Moms – Musicians; Retirees – Realtors; CEOs – Chefs;
Car dealers – Ceramists; Farmers – Film Makers;
Philanthropists – Photographers; Techies – Teachers; Bankers
– Bar owners; Hoteliers – Hospital administrators; Lawyers –
Librarians; Dentists – Dog walkers; Framers – Foodies; Editors
– Entrepreneurs. Yes, we believe that Downtown is everyone’s
Applause erupted from the crowd gathered outside Soma
Creekside Restaurant on March 31st and this kicked off the big
announcement: Realize Bradenton was one of 32 winners —
selected from a total pool of 7,000 entries competing for $5
million in grants — by the John S. and James L. Knight
Foundation as part of its Knight Cities Challenge.
Realize Bradenton was awarded $90,140 for the
ReuseReCONNECT project that engages millennials through a
series of “Pop-Ups for a Purpose” events that will activate
residents 18-38 years old to connect for a cause.
Johnette credited The Patterson Foundation’s Aspirations to
Actions initiative in partnership with The Harwood Institute for
Public Innovation with helping them identify what the
community wanted.
“We held numerous community conversations with millennials
spanning economic, professional, creative and educational
backgrounds to find out what they desire in their Bradenton
community,” she said. “Multiple conversations revealed that
the most desired change was more diverse opportunities for
social gatherings that are outside of the typical bar scene.
Millennials also express interest to engage in experiences that
they can shape, as well as influence topics such as housing,
transportation, jobs, public spaces and technology.
ReuseReCONNECT will do exactly that.”
Morgan Bettes serves as Realize Bradenton’s creative
associate and was a key designer of the project. She
convened fellow millennials to get their feedback.
“Too often millennials are underrepresented in civic
conversations,” she said. “The focus is to bring young people
together, including entrepreneurs, professionals, college
students, artists, performers and community residents in
downtown Bradenton.”
Congratulations to Realize Bradenton for this outstanding
example of turning outward, listening to the community, and
discovering new resources to achieve success. We can’t wait
to see what pops up next!

Read more on the Patterson Foundation.