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Donations Save Bars, Brewers & Wikipedia

The first donation came in Dec. 16, with $5 to $200 donations following at a steady clip. Celebrities including Susan Sarandon and The Roots' drummer, Questlove, pitched in, while local businesses contributed thousands. Not long after the group made $2,000 from a fundraiser at the nearby Actors' Playhouse, the theater's owner, Lawrence Page, kicked in the rest to save the restaurant and formed a partnership with the owner. Fifteen jobs were saved. That's 15 that would have been added to the more than 7 million people who lost their jobs during the recession.

"It speaks volumes to the community in general, because people are just fed up," Kwubiri said. "Though we're coming out of the recession, people are still thinking 'If I can help someone else out, maybe someone can help me.' "

Though the Tea Cup's supporters followed the public television/National Public Radio model -- the same one Wikipedia used to take in more than $8 million during the most recent fund drive -- not all community financing is couched in altruism or benevolence. When the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation announced in November that it intended to sell Pabst and holdings that include the Schlitz, Old Style, Lone Star, Olympia, Stroh's, Ballantine, Piels and other labels for $300 million, two ad men saw the opportunity for a grand social experiment.

Brian Flatow, president of New York firm The Ad Store, and Michael Migliozzi of Forza Migliozzi devised a plan to purchase Pabst through a "crowd-sourcing" initiative that solicits $5 to $250,000 online donations through social-networking sites and its own modest Web site. Donors are promised shares in the company as well as either a bottle, case, quarter keg or half keg, depending on their donation. That Pabst's brewing is currently contracted out to the SABMiller (SAB)/ MolsonCoors (TAP - Get Report) joint venture MillerCoors is of seemingly little concern, as beer lovers' enthusiasm has pushed the effort to more than $131 million, or more than halfway, to its goal.

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