Local nonprofit helps the ‘unexceptional’

August 31, 2012
By

JP SOUTH—Tucked away in an unremarkable corner of South Street, a group of unexceptional people are helping other unexceptional people, one donation at a time.

The Endowment for Unexceptional Humans, based out of an apartment at 215 South St., is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide financial and community support to those in need. It gives scholarships and grants to regular people who need a boost to improve themselves and their lives.

More than that, the Endowment aims to help “regular people find what is extraordinary in themselves,” founder Amy Clark told the Gazette.

“It’s really important to us that recipients are chosen for their potential, rather than their prior performance. We like to think of ourselves as sort of the anti-merit-scholarship,” Clark explained. “We don’t think a person should have to already be exceptional at something to qualify for a little help.”

Unexceptional grant winners include college students—the very first grant was a $5,000 check to allow a college student to return for her sophomore year—small businesses facing unexpected shortages, and average people trying to better themselves and their communities.

Board member Jeremy Bushnell was the second to receive help from Clark. In 2009, Bushnell was creating a business to design and sell a board game. Unexpectedly, his computer failed. Clark, his friend, gave him a used machine on which to finish his project.

“The experience got us [Bushnell and Clark] to talking about doing this sort of thing in a broader way, so that we could help other ‘unexceptional’ people—out there in the wider world—complete their projects or attain their goals. I was enthusiastic about the idea and I pushed for us to organize as a formal institution,” he said.

The Endowment for Unexceptional Humans Clark now is a registered, 501(c)3 nonprofit run by volunteers—Clark is a writer and educator and Bushnell is a writer, teacher and game designer. It focuses on creating and giving opportunity, resources, and support to those who need it, instead of those who deserve it, Clark explained.

“We do not believe that every person deserves to be rich and famous, or even that every person deserves to be successful. But every person does deserve a chance to try to make herself into whatever she dreams herself to be,” Clark said. “We believe that opportunity is a human right, and that help should be freely given. So we’re just trying to do our small part to help, and we’re hoping that as we grow, we can do more and more.”

Applicants must outline exactly how the grant would be used to achieve their goals, from college schedules that include extra tutoring and a job to detailed business plans and budgets. There is no mention of test scores, grade-point averages or recommendations.

“It’s important to remember that almost all humans are unexceptional. That isn’t to say that we don’t have elements that make us unique, or that we don’t all work hard, or that we don’t have the potential to have great accomplishments,” Bushnell said. “It is simply to say that most of us are more alike than not, and that the majority of people encounter the same sets of social issues and institutional oppressions.”

The Endowment is still completely run by volunteers and donations. It hopes to distribute $5,000 this year, according to its website, unexceptionalhuman.org.