As part of the 10-Year Anniversary of the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund, we are pleased to introduce you to the 2021 PGCSIF’s Founder’s Award Recipients

These honorees embody the essence of PGCSIF’s mission: To build social capital and look for new ways of solving old challenges in Prince George’s County. They represent exceptional accomplishment in Arts & Humanities, Business, Community Leadership, Education, and Public Service. These 12 honorees were hand-picked by Tonia Wellons, Founder of the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund and they are the last cohort of honorees who will be recognized under the current iteration of PGCSIF.

Join us in celebrating their success!

Forrest hall jr.

Forrest Hall has been with PGCSIF for all 10 years of our existence. On day one, he prepared the video, brand design, captured the photos, and the website for PGCSIF. Every year since, he’s led the charge to help us tell our story; and the story of the amazing people we’ve honored. Over the years, our secret weapon – Forrest Hall and AOTA – have been engaged by the ‘who’s who’ of the County. Because of this, they are the owners of perhaps the largest catalog of film and video on Prince George’s County. Forrest has files that will be worth millions in the years ahead.

Forrest Hall Jr.
Brian Rubin
Brian rubin

I met Brian Rubin on Twitter. Brian was as excited as I was to find a kindred spirit in black social entrepreneurship. He moved his family to this region to connect to the PGCSIF community and when we wanted to open a co-working space – PGC Works – before co-working spaces were popular, Brian offered a connection that made that dream a reality. In his ever-easy way, Brain is a community-builder who isn’t afraid to take risks and leverage his relationships. That’s what building social capital is all about.

Patrick washington

Patrick retired as a Prince George’s County 911 Dispatcher in December. A slam poet, creator of the Prince George’s County Laureate (Pre-Amanda Gordan), and a member of the Po-emcees; Patrick’s story-telling abilities are unmatched. His ability to characterize all things Prince George’s County conjures nostalgia, controversy, hope, and sometime fear (all compellingly). Every year, from the beginning, his poems for Forty Under 40 set the room on fire and leave our audiences with a vision of Prince George’s County that only Patrick can offer.

Patrick Washington
Tamara Wellons
Tamara wellons

Tamara Wellons has certainly been the sound. The sound for PGCSIF, and the sound for Prince George’s County. From her early performances as Miss Bowie State, to being a feature performer at Joe’s movement and in the Arts District before it was an Arts District; to setting the mood for every Forty Under 40 event, Tamara Wellons is a super star with a sultry voice and a powerfully soothing energy. Her voice powerfully controls the climate from the time she enters the room and sets the tone for the change we hope to create in the world. 

Marcus Daniels

Marcus Daniels’ on-line engagement on all things Prince George’s County, is brilliant. In an ever so easy and engaging way, he keeps hundreds of County residents ‘in the conversation’ about Prince George’s County. From highlighting businesses and local restaurants, to raising controversial topics or celebrating the County’s success, Marcus is a big promoter of community and embodies building social capital.

rob malone

Rob started a mentoring program a little over 11 years ago out of a desire to connect young people to opportunity. Mentoring to Manhood started as a small effort under his leadership and has grown into one of the most successful mentoring programs – Community Youth Advance – in the County and in the region. The success of this program is directly linked to Rob’s vision, commitment, and conviction to offer a pathway for young men in the County.

tami mullen

When PGCSIF opened a co-working space in Hyattsville Tami Mullen was our only paying client. She wanted to build community like us and invested in the idea. When Tami decided to open Clout Workspace, it was an easy decision to share our lessons learned. It’s been amazing to watch her enterprises grow, including her commitment to small businesses in the County.

Nichelle Schoultz

Nichelle has been a friend to PGCSIF from day one. She sat in the room at Busboys 10 years ago when we started, exuding a sweet sense of satisfaction by the energy in the room. Every day since, she’s offered a hand in recommending candidates for Forty Under 40; consistently serving on the review committee; and making herself and her network available to PGCSIF. Nichelle is a servant leader in every way.

Curtis Valentine

Curtis has had a longstanding commitment to education in Prince George’s County and nationally. His Prince George’s Community College to Morehouse pipeline; Real Men Teach campaign, service on the PGCPS School Board, and his fatherhood forums are a real testament to his vision for children, youth, and families. This work requires sustained energy and commitment and is worthy of note.

Special Message from the Founder

Dear Prince George’s County Community:

The Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund (PGCSIF) is my gift to the Prince George’s County community. And, it has been the gift that keeps on giving right back to me. I want to offer a hearty thank you to the people of this County for making space for me and the Innovation Fund.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have experienced the joy of this community in full bloom. My work with PGCSIF has allowed me to know a little bit about everything and everybody in Prince George’s County. The gift of recognizing people has brought me and our work unexpected recognition. The opportunity to dream fearlessly of a better community has attracted dreamers to my life and opened doors and relationships I had no idea I even needed. To revel in all that is good about a place is to sit in a seat of distinctive privilege.  To dream dreams about community, love, prosperity, and black excellence in a place that has the perfect opportunity to achieve community, love, prosperity, and black excellence is rare and luxurious. I am grateful to have had the opportunity for 10 solid years serve in this capacity. Thank you for making space for me.

I would also like to thank the local leadership – political, appointed, private sector, and local media – for taking an interest in this work. Prince George’s Suite Magazine and PGC Blogging were the first to pay attention to the work of the Innovation Fund and Forty Under 40; and were it not for them, we wouldn’t have received the recognition or the resources to do this work. Viki Betancourt, Desiree Griffin Moore, LaVonn Reedy Thomas, and Rushern Baker (and his administration), Sam Parker, Gloria Brown Burnette, Lionel Moore were some of the first in the County to give us affirmation which translated into community trust. Thank you!

People latched on to an idea and supported it; and me. We tried many things in addition to Forty Under 40: The 2 to 6 Initiative (in support of the afterschool infrastructure); a Co-working Space (before co-working was cool); Advocacy for Food Trucks in Prince George’s County; We built a playground in partnership with KaBoom; connected Forty Under 40 honorees to non-profit and public board service; we published a paper on Equity in Prince George’s County; and offered Start-up Worklabs, to name a few. Some of our efforts were wildly successful while others barely got off the ground. We intentionally set out to build social capital and looked for new ways to solve old problems in Prince George’s County. We moved from potential energy to kinetic energy and we did it with a touch of style, fun, and grace.

We have had a strong core of consistent volunteers from the beginning. The current Prince George’s County Advisory Board has been amazingly supportive, hardworking, and hopefully optimistic. Many thanks to: Adeyinka, Chike, Tami, JaNay, Steve, Rebecca, Brian, Jackie, Devonne, Kirk, Stephen, Ashley, Kisha, Kandace, Steve, Tamara, Leslie, Lisa, and Mark for staying the course. Mark and Lisa have been the longest standing Advisory Board members and are incredibly good friends to me, personally. Again, the gift that keeps on giving!

My kids were 8 (Asa) and 5 (Noah) when I began the Innovation Fund. They were my first staff members – organizing files, making copies, and printing documents. They hold the memories with me of our early days. They watched me refine the idea with friends (Heather, Tanja, Latonya, and Tameka) over Chinese food, and cheap wine. And, they experienced the reward I received for this important work everyday! My children attended almost every event we’ve hosted from the beginning. On January 31, 2012 when we hosted the first event right here at Busboys and Poets, Hyattsville; we received the news that my maternal grandmother had passed just before the event began. Today, September 9th, 2021 my children are in Virginia laying to rest their fraternal grandmother. Life offers full-circle moments.

And like our grands and all good things, they sometimes come to an end. The Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund was never intended to be a permanent entity. I’ve always said that we’d do this work for as long as it’s useful, relevant, and innovative. Innovation requires evolution or simply ending; so that something new can emerge. And so, the Advisory Board has made the decision to wind down the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund. Over the months ahead, we will do our best to identify a new home for Forty Under 40 Prince George’s; offer a few discretionary grants; prepare closing reports; and finally close the Fund.

I would like to end this love letter by simply saying that it has been an absolute pleasure to serve the County in this way. I look forward to seeing what emerges next.

With all my love,

Tonia Wellons, Founder
Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund