Good Life

Have an idea to improve our community? This group might give you $1,000 to make it happen

Shelby Seybert spent last weekend painting seven picnic tables tie-dye thanks to a $1,000 Trailhead grant.

They’ll be distributed to seven families throughout the area in an effort to encourage conversation and build relationships in neighborhoods.

Seybert said she’s been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a good neighbor and how people can invest in those who are right around them. A picnic table provides the opportunity to sit outside, engage with those passing by and invite them to join.

And that’s pretty much the aim of the Trailhead grant program.

“Anybody can apply for them regardless if you’re a 5-year-old or a 95-year-old, (and) anywhere in between is totally OK. And the only stipulation is we want to see it go to ideas that make the Centre Region a better place to call home. What you choose to do beyond that is totally up to you,” said Spud Marshall, who launched Trailhead and is the co-founder of and New Leaf Initiative.

Marshall has long been a proponent of bringing different voices to the table and letting people help shape the future of what State College (and beyond) looks like. He said that a few months ago, a group of people were talking and realized that there’s no central gathering place for people who want to be active participants in this effort.

So Trailhead was born, with the goal to connect and fund ideas that make Centre County an “awesome” place to call home, Marshall said.

The funding element is through the $1,000 grants. Seybert received the first grant, and Mariele Schechter received the second, which was given out in early July.

Schechter will use her grant funding to create a “communitree,” where people can hang up hammocks and “literally hang out” with people who are different from them. The vision is to embrace oneness and unity within the community.

“I’m all about the little things in life, and I think it’s little things like this that will make State College better and ultimately the world a better place,” she said.

The grants are a way to say that Trailhead trusts people and their ideas and doesn’t need to micromanage them, Marshall said, adding that they hope to spread that culture in the community.

“This is designed to be a grant that has very little oversight or strings attached to it. So if you’ve got a crazy idea and you just want to throw $1,000 at it to see if it works, that idea may totally fall on its face and that’s OK. We want to see this money put toward things that are stretching people’s comfort zones and their abilities and what they think they’re capable of actually seeing come to life in this town,” Marshall said.

He continued: “This is trying to embed a lot of trust in the community.”

The grant program piggybacks off of the Awesome Foundation. Marshall said each month Trailhead trustees put in $100, and for each $100 donation, people get one vote on what idea should receive the grant that month.

He said upward of 30-35 people are chipping in that money, and so they realized they could do more than just give out grants.

The “connecting” and where that connecting happens is the piece that Trailhead is going to grow and evolve into, Marshall said.

To apply for a grant or become a member, visit