Wheeling Heritage’s Show of Hands event is the epitome of community: the community supports and votes, the prize money comes from community members and businesses, and the community benefits from the winner’s project.
But tonight at Show of Hands, the concept of community went even further — winner Will Wallace, with a giant display check for $5,390 in his hands, shared $1,000 with fellow contender, Chris McCoy of RNR Discovery & Learning Center.
Tears and applause accompanied Wallace’s generous gesture at the Artisan Center at the close of the event.
Wallace pitched his business, Clientele Art Studio and its goal of making an impact on the arts community of Wheeling, to the crowd of around 260, and brought in the most votes to take home the big prize. But, as he accepted the check, he said, “My day job is an engineer, and I have a huge investment in getting people to do more engineering. I want to give $1,000 to RNR [Discovery & Learning Center] just to help them out.”
RNR Discovery and Learning Center, which opened in the Fulton neighborhood of Wheeling late last year, offers year-round programs to children that promote learning through play, focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and STEAM (STEM with the Arts included) concepts.
RNR Discovery co-owner Chris McCoy — whose hope for his business is to “build memories” — was surprised at the kind gesture.
“We’re very happy for Clientele, and the generosity is absolutely beyond words right now. I talked to him actually right before the presentation and wished him good luck. … talked about future collaborations with him.”
Sharing his winnings “was spur of the moment,” Wallace said. “We ran into each other and started talking; I told him how much I appreciate what he was doing. After I walked away, I thought … ‘They deserve something, one way or another.’”
Also pitching to the crowd were Kyle Phair of Country Roads BBQ and John and Pamela Clark of SweetZekes Coffee Company.
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Phair is hoping to “add value” to the city of Wheeling, while the “coffee people,” the Clarks, want to “support the Wheeling feeling,” with their dream of owning a coffee business.
Before the winner was announced, Alex Weld, project and outreach manager of Wheeling Heritage, commented that “it took a lot of guts to come up here and talk about what you want to do and what your dreams are and ask the community to support those dreams. I’m always so impressed with everyone. This night is really about networking and bringing the community together. I think that says a lot about everyone in this room. Remember these four who got up in front of you and really put it all out there. Be sure to support them in their businesses.”
Tonight’s event brought the total of money awarded to Show of Hands winners to more than $50,000 in 16 crowd-funding events over the past few years, according to Jake Dougherty, executive director of Wheeling Heritage.
The next Show of Hands is set for May.
• After nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigalhas joined Weelunk as managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.