Maps Credit Union offers Salem Weekly readers, its own 41,000 members and anyone concerned about teen homelessness $2,000 for the best proposal to address the problem of homeless teens in Marion County.

Teens who have no residence experience significant suffering in Marion County. The county has one of the highest populations in the state — 13% of Oregon’s runaways and homeless teens live here, even though the county has only 9% of the state’s total youth population.

So the philanthropically oriented credit union is looking for “the most innovative and powerful solution” to the problem, and going directly to the community for fresh answers.

The $2,000 is a challenge award from a recently formed 501(c)(3) charitable entity in the credit union called the Maps Community Foundation. The award is funded mostly through the credit union’s Free Community Checking Account, staff donations and fundraisers, and member donations.

This will be the first award given by the foundation and Maps wanted it to have maximum impact. Jill Nowacki, VP of Development, and Mitzi Smith, Community Development Officer, wanted the funds to “make a big impact and inspire Maps members.” The women narrowed their list to three youth-related issues and let Maps employee votes determine which to concentrate on for the first Community Challenge Award competition.

“Teen homelessness won hands down,” says Nowacki.

The award is open to anyone who has a creative solution to address the issue in Marion County. Complete submission guidelines and contest rules are posted on the Maps website ( Submissions can be sent by email and should include a one-page executive summary of the idea, the cost of implementing it, and a way to measure the effectiveness of it.

A volunteer panel of Maps judges will rate submissions on originality, usability, affordability, and measurability and will select the winner. The award will be split between the person (or group) who submits the best proposal and a local nonprofit selected in partnership between the winner and the credit union.

This is the latest community action devised by Maps, a company that emphasizes volunteerism, charitable giving and involvement to improve lifelong learning and economic development in the towns and cities where it operates.

The deadline for interested people to submit a project is October 1. The winner will be announced at the credit union’s annual meeting on October 30.

Maps promises to host similar competitions focused on other community issues in the future.