Keith Terry of YStrive for Youth won the judges’ hearts and the top prize in the Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara Fast Pitch Thursday night. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

In just three minutes, Keith Terry convinced a Goleta crowd that his nonprofit YStrive for Youth, Inc. deserved $15,000 to further its mission.

Terry, the executive director of YStrive, won the top prize at the Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara Fast Pitch Thursday night.

He himself benefited from the type of program he now runs on the South Coast, which provides tutoring and mentoring for local youth and employment opportunities for people recently released from jail and prison.

The organization links people with the three businesses it runs – a carpet-cleaning company, a handyman company and a moving company – and with more funding, it can expand its services.

YStrive has been around for 10 years and helps rebuild families, Terry told the huge crowd at the grand finale of the Fast Pitch competition.

Ten nonprofit leaders pitched their ideas to a panel of community judges after two months of working with volunteer coaches and mentors to hone their quick pitches. 

The stakes: $45,000 awarded to the top pitches.

The contenders: A field of 10 finalists who represent local nonprofit organizations. 

Terry was the one cheering the loudest for his fellow finalists throughout the evening, but when he was announced as the winner, the entire crowd at the Deckers Brand Corporation Rotunda in Goleta went wild and gave him a standing ovation.

The audience-favorite award of $10,000 went to Tyler Speier representing the Isla Vista Youth Projects, Inc. which provides child care for low-income families in Isla Vista.

In a dramatic move that clearly stuck in everyone’s minds, he showed the audience dozens of pictures of adorable babies – the organization’s waiting list. There are 10,000 people living below the poverty line in I.V., not including students, he said.

“Whenever you show babies – that’s almost cheating,” joked judge Angel Martinez, chairman/CEO of Deckers, after the presentation.

The $5,000 sponsor prize went to Sue Eisaguirre of NatureTrack Foundation, which organizes free outdoor trail field trips for local schoolchildren during the school day. Last year, her organization served 3,000 local students and she hopes to reach even more in the future.

The $5,000 coach prize went to Melissa Fontaine from the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County for a health-education program that trains community health leaders. Ending hunger is more than handing out food, she said. “Stomachs may be full but poverty persists.”

Every finalist received $1,000 for his or her organization and gave passionate pitches at the finale event.

The full list of the top 10 finalists includes: 

» Elizabeth Cordero, Lideres Campesinas

» Sue Eisaguirre, NatureTrack Foundation

» William Fiedtkou, Santa Barbara Youth Music Academy

» Melissa Fontaine, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County 

» Kristen Hoye, Friendship Center Adult Day Services

» Jefferson Litten, Community Environmental Council

» Eder Gaona-Macedo, Future Leaders of America, Inc. (FLA)

» Sarah Rudd-Lawler, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Barbara County, a Family Service Agency

» Tyler Speier, Isla Vista Youth Projects, Inc.

» Keith Terry, YStrive for Youth, Inc.

The night was emceed by Geoff Green, executive director of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation.

This year’s panel of judges included: Angel Martinez, chairman/CEO of Deckers Brand Corp.; Ron Gallo, president/CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation; Janet Garufis, president/CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust; Katrina Rogers, president of Fielding Graduate University; Seth Streeter, CEO of Mission Wealth; and 2014 Fast Pitch winner Bethany Markee, who is the director of food services for the Solvang School District. 

The semi-finalists for 2015 include: 

» Erika Adler, Postpartum Education for Parents (PEP)

» Eryn Eckert, Jodi House, Inc. 

» Chuck Flacks, Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness 

» Christy Haynes, What is LOVE? 

» Tracy Lang Wood, Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County

» Debbie Loucks, Join-Up International 

» Paula Michal, Alano Club of Santa Barbara 

» Marisa Pasquini, Alpha Resource Center

» Kathryn Scott, Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Maria Valley 

» Mark Wilkinson, Santa Barbara Trails Council

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.