First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta March 4 announced the winning grant recipients of its 2019 Epiphany social venture competition, in the style of TV's "Shark Tank." Epiphany is the Midtown church's new initiative that aims to help launch entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to address social challenges, as well as harness the capabilities of one of Atlanta’s oldest churches in impactful new ways.

The five ventures selected include initiatives targeting some of Atlanta’s most pressing social needs: a home-sharing model to increase the supply of affordable workforce housing; job training in the automotive and hospitality sectors for at-risk young men and refugees; a mobile app to enable more successful court outcomes for thousands of low-income tenants facing eviction each year; and a new social enterprise to fund more healthy meals for vulnerable seniors. The church's congregation will help the winning startups through access to capital and community resources during an incubation period.

The 2019 Epiphany grant recipients are:

Automotive Training Center - Entrepreneur Larry Witherspoon Jr.: It's a social venture to train and equip at-risk youth and young adults for jobs in the automotive sector, and provide reliable, trust-worthy services for car repair to the consumer market eager to use their dollars for social good.

Eviction Assistance Mobile App – Entrepreneur Andrew Thompson: It's an easy-to-use technology application that will provide successful outcomes to tenants facing eviction and enable court systems to better/more efficiently handle exploding eviction caseloads.

Padsplit – Entrepreneur Frank Furman: It's a technology marketplace platform creating safe, clean and affordable housing units for working Atlantans.

Purposeful Pecans - Entrepreneurs Todd Holcombe, Jason Tucker and Hillary Baker: It's an innovative solution to generate additional revenue to provide more than 400,000 healthy meals annually to vulnerable seniors. Purposeful Pecans, a gourmet candied pecan, is the first product created by this established nonprofit.

Refugee Coffee Co. - Entrepreneur Kitti Murray: It's a radical approach to welcome, integrate and train refugees to take the next step in their own personal American dreams.

The Epiphany process began last fall when more than 88 entrepreneurs submitted applications to participate. The church narrowed the applications to 22 that proposed innovative business models to address areas of social concern. From there, members of the church's congregation used their relevant skills, experiences and connections to help refine ideas, equip the entrepreneurs and prepare them for launch and greater impact.

For several months, participants received hands-on business coaching from these experienced mentors, and semifinalists participated in a workshop with business and city leaders. After a final pitch to a panel of judges, five grant recipients were selected to receive funding, as well as financial and business planning assistance from the church. Feb. 24, all finalists were introduced to the congregation during worship services.

The initiative is designed to promote individual economic empowerment and reinforce the church's identity as the Atlanta church that balances spiritual conviction with tangible compassion.

“It was an Epiphany to us that we might participate in God’s mission in this new way, not creating more church programs, but instead helping to launch others’ ideas to make our world a better place," the Rev. Rebekah LeMon, the church's executive pastor, said in a news release.

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