Personality: Joshua Ryan ‘Josh’ Epperson

Spotlight on co-founder of FeastRVA

9/15/2017, 10:50 a.m.
Josh Epperson, co-founder of FeastRVA, lives each day by a quote by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. ...

Josh Epperson, co-founder of FeastRVA, lives each day by a quote by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

It was during what he calls his transition from “can’t to can” in 2011 that FeastRVA was born.

The nonprofit pairs people who have great ideas with people who can help fund them. Specifically, people pitch their ideas to a group of about 250 people at a community dinner. The diners then vote on the idea or program that impresses them the most, with the winner receiving a grant of either $500 or $1,000 to help bring the idea to life. The dinners are held quarterly. About 250 tickets — at $25 each — are sold to diners, with proceeds from the “feast” funding the various projects.

Through FeastRVA, Mr. Epperson says, “We’re changing the entire fabric of society by giving people a taste of ‘can’ through funding ideas running the gamut — from kids programs, a project fighting sex trafficking and teaching kindergarteners yoga to relax, which is hilarious and heart- warming.”

FeastRVA has awarded 21 grants totaling $10,000 in the last six years.

The organization’s next feast will be 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, at Glave Kocen Gallery, 1620 W. Main St. Tickets are available online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/feast-rva-september-17th-2017-tickets-37139361831 or at the door.

“We like to say that we fund the small steps that make big ideas happen,” Mr. Epperson says. “Unlike many other grant-giving organizations in Richmond, we focus on giving individuals small amounts of money through a democratic process.

“Our grants are intentionally small because we believe to get big things done, you have to take small steps. And, sometimes, great ideas don’t require a ton of cash. Our grants are an invitation to break your dreams down into actionable goals and then fund the steps along your path.”

Even if some presenters don’t win a grant, engagement with the community and practicing pitching an idea can be priceless, he says.

The 34-year old Maryland native who says he grew up as “a troubled child” in the Stonegate projects in Reston, Va., was inspired to start the Richmond nonprofit because of FEAST Brooklyn, which is no longer in operation.

In New York, “FEAST” was an acronym for “Funding Emerging Arts with Sustainable Tactics.”

“We loved the concept,” he says, “except we lost the acronym and just let feast stand for coming together over food. “We changed some things from the Brooklyn iteration, simplifying some things and dialing up others,” he explains. “But the concept is the same — bring people together, combine resources, share ideas and give away money to make a project come to life.”

Mr. Epperson believes Feast-RVA helps people recognize the “can” in their own abilities. Rejection or difficulty from the outside then becomes less important because of personal confidence, he says.

“These are ‘can’ people who have come alive and don’t ask what the world needs, but give what the world needs.” Meet this week’s Personality, inspiring community activist and dream funder, Josh Epperson: