After National Search, Citizen E Also Awards Grants to Runners Up to Provide Fruit Trees to Help with Puerto Rico Recovery, Help Provide Used Items to Families in Need, Grow Food for Underserved in Los Angeles and Chicago, & Expand Use of EVs

LOS ANGELES, Calif., Mar. 19  -  Citizen E, a Los Angeles based nonprofit initiative that searches for and supports “citizen entrepreneurs” today announced artist and activist Brontë Velez as the winner of 2018’s Citizen E $10,000 grant, along with 5 runners up who received $1000 or $500 grants. Citizen E’s national search called for individuals taking responsibility for a corner of their world with a bold idea or project to create healthier, stronger, greener communities.

Velez and her partners will organize a series of events in Atlanta starting on April 4, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, including breaking ground on the very first garden using shovels made from melted metal gun parts. She chose this first location after losing a friend tragically to gun violence. To learn more, visit:

“The loss of my friend due to gun violence moved me to support metabolizing grief for communities impacted by persistent-traumatic stress, and environmental justice, ” says Velez. “I'm so moved that Citizen E—along with everyone that voted— saw this work’s urgency and its beauty. I want to find more ways to expand and be creative about how we’re approaching violence, and do that in ways that are imaginative.”

“In a time we are facing growing challenges in our communities and our world, it is clear we can’t wait for Washington,” said Matt Petersen, founder of Citizen E. “We felt Brontë Velez’s project stood out for its unique and creative approach to ending gun violence while helping heal communities and restore the environment. My hope is that each individual Citizen E creates change in their community by taking responsibility for a corner of their world, while inspiring others to follow their example.”

Petersen created the Citizen E project in 2016 to provide support and resources to individuals around the country that are using their creativity and can-do spirit to tackle a problem they see in their community. Petersen believes we need more than just government and nonprofits to step in to address climate change and other challenges, we need citizen entrepreneurs. Petersen is currently President and CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, a non-profit organization creating an inclusive green economy. Previously, he was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2013 as the City of Los Angeles' first ever Chief Sustainability Officer.

The national search for Citizen E narrowed entries to 10 finalists, each of whom are women. The public was then invited to vote on their favorite submission--voting informed the final judging which was based on need, innovation, and impact. Citizen E committed to provide the top 3 vote recipients with at least $500, while selecting the winner and runners up based on the judging criteria and evaluation by the Citizen E committee.

The Citizen E runners up and grant amounts are:

  • Miry Whitehill-Ben Atar of Los Angeles ($1,000): Soliciting and providing items needed to help refugees turn their new house into a home. (NOTE: Miry received the most public votes).
  • Dana Wells Boyd of Los Angeles ($1,000): Converting a blighted lot in her neighborhood to grow fresh food for the underserved in the community.
  • Dejah Powell of Chicago ($1,000): Using the raised bed school garden she built to help educate students & community how the food system affects their lives.
  • Amira Odeh of Puerto Rico ($500): Providing seeds and fruit trees to communities whose gardens were wiped out by Hurricane Maria.
  • Salem Afeworki of Orange County, CA ($500): Doing outreach and education to help low income families access affordable EVs while improving air quality.

For more information on each award recipient, how you can support their work directly visit our home page.  To learn about the other top 10 finalists, please visit the finalist gallery. Donations to Citizen E in the next 30 days will be distributed to the winner and finalists projects.


Citizen E was launched by Matt Petersen on November 8. 2016, where at his 50th birthday celebration he launched the organization by raising funds from friends and family to provide $3,500 in grants to the initial four Citizen E recipients.  Citizen E is helping and shining a light on those with an idea—no matter how big or small—to take responsibility for a corner of their world. The work of Citizen E is powered by volunteers and donations of generous individuals including those on the Citizen E committee. Learn more at




by Matt Petersen, Founder of Citizen E

Help us find and support an individual with a bold idea with up to a $10,000 grant for their project.

Washington is rolling back federal actions to fight climate change. EPA budgets protecting clean air and water are being cut. We’re facing ongoing struggles to address gender, environmental justice, and income inequality. All this and more have left so many of us are asking, “what can I do?”

While we need nonprofits to advocate, local governments to lead the way, and business to put in place solutions, it is clear to me we also need individuals who rally others to join them to make the world better a place.  

There are individuals across the nation who are what I call a citizen entrepreneur, or a Citizen E.  At their core, a Citizen E is a citizen environmentalist who serves as a citizen example, and takes risks to make the world a better place in this citizen experiment.

A Citizen E unleashes their creativity, and can-do spirit to tackle a problem they see in their community. A Citizen E rallies people around them and their bold (perhaps some would even say crazy) idea, however big or small.  

A Citizen E can be anyone- a teacher, janitor, driver, doctor, retail worker, architect or full time parent. A Citizen E sees things in their local community that can be improved, and are willing to do something about it.

A Citizen E steps forth and calls us all to join them in making a lasting difference for their home (be that our community or the planet) and their family (from their loved ones, to all of us).

I created the Citizen E project to provide support and resources to these individuals. Our first nationwide Citizen E search will identify and provide grants to people who have great ideas and the passion to make them real. If you think this is you, click here.

The people we fund can be at the start of their journey, or may need a little help to complete their bold idea. The Citizen E project will select finalists, and feature them online. A public vote on the finalists will help a jury determine who will be awarded a $10,000 grant, with each finalist eligible for a runner up grant of $500 or more.

Last year on my 50th birthday, I celebrated with an informal launch of Citizen E. With the help of donations from friends and family, we gave away $3,500 that night to help support and empower change makers—each a Citizen E--here in LA, including:

· an individual who started an annual eco-festival in East LA to raise awareness about solar and electric vehicles;

· a police officer who wants to have cops volunteer with local groups to help do green community development;

· a hairstylist who started an after school edible garden and cooking program; and

· a local activist who helps take care of a neighborhood’s community garden and provides school supplies to local students.

Do you, or does someone you know have a crazy idea to take responsibility for a corner of our world?

Nominate them today. Because armed with a bold idea, a can do attitude, and rallying the support of friends, anyone can be a Citizen E. And it's what we need more than ever.