For the Few, All It Takes Is a Show of Hands

By Steve Novotney



ReInvent Wheeling will host its third “Show of Hands” program this Thursday evening in an ongoing effort to spur economic development in the Friendly City.

Four presenters will explain their ideas to a Capitol Theatre Ballroom crowd of individuals who donate at least $5 to attend. A local musician also will perform and be introduced during the evening. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and the competition is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Appetizers will be supplied by Quaker Steak & Lube, and several different beverages will be available as well.

“’Show of Hands’ adopts the essence of crowd funding – taking small amounts of money, putting it all together, and then putting those dollars toward a project,” explained ReInvent Wheeling’s Jake Dougherty. “And it’s also a community event that brings neighbors and business leaders together to see what projects are possible.

“There are always four projects that are presented to those who attend these events,” he said. “Those who attend donate $5 to attend and to vote on the project they like the most.”

Once the votes are tallied, the presenter attracting the most is guaranteed a $1,000 prize. The collected donations also are added to the financial reward.

“At the end of the day, the presenter who gets the most votes gets the money collected, as well as the $1,000 donated by Orrick,” Dougherty said. “The amount of money varies because it depends on how many people attend the event and how much the people wish to donate. It’s only $5 to attend, but there are several people who contribute more than that because they want to see new things here in Wheeling.”

The public support has been encouraging to Dougherty because prior to the initial “Show of Hands” event, he did not know what to expect as far as attendance was concerned. At first, he believed fewer than 50 folks would attend.

“It was incredible to see the support these programs receive from the public,” Dougherty said. “When we first started ‘Show of Hands,’ we were not sure how the first one would go. I thought we might have 40 people attend, but there were more than 100 folks who showed up.”

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Gaining the sponsorship from international law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe was a turning point for ReInvent Wheeling, a 501-C3 non-profit. Not only does it represent the private sector’s involvement in revitalization efforts in Wheeling, but it also offers the participants a guaranteed amount of prize money.

“Orrick stepped up and supported this program with a lot of enthusiasm. It’s been absolutely incredible,” Dougherty said. “Orrick’s support has made a huge difference to the people with the ideas. It lets them know that there will be at least $1,000 they could win to go toward their idea.

“When the participants present at these events, they are usually just getting started so this money goes a long way in the start-up phase, and it lets them get a little closer to the final goal.”

On Thursday, the four ideas scheduled for presentation involves the following: a local couple and their “Cheese Melt” food stand idea; Lydia Sheppard and her Wheeling history learning program at the Ohio Valley Children’s Museum; a gentleman and his “Second Life Arbor” woodworking initiative in South Wheeling; and a façade project on a multi-family loft complex in East Wheeling.

Past winners include Grow Ohio Valley, a local business promoting and selling locally grown fruits and vegetables that was recently featured in a PBS story, and Stages, a costume store on Main Street in downtown Wheeling. A few of the other presented projects have included the Vagabond Kitchen in the McLure Hotel, photographer Bennett McKinley’s “Meet Me in the Alley” art project, Artworks Around Town’s “Third Friday” concert series, and a drinking fountain at Heritage Port.

Those who have presented in the past, said Dougherty, are encouraged by ReInvent Wheeling to apply again. “We encourage that,” he said. “We limit it each time to four participants because it works well for those who attend, but we understand that projects change as time passes.”

The format places the presenters in a literal spotlight, a situation most people greatly fear. Each presenter gets four minutes and then four questions from members of the audience.

“I think something can be said about presenting a project in public,” Dougherty explained. “That makes it much more real. One of the most feared things is to stand up in front of people and offer your ideas.”

The fourth, “Show of Hands” event is set for early February at the Capitol Theatre. More could follow if a sponsor is acquired.

“We committed to the first four, and Orrick is on board for those four,” Dougherty explained. “Hopefully we can attract the support from another company so these events can continue.”