The mission of *culture is not optional is to work for the flourishing of all in our community through radical rootedness and boundless imagination.


Imagining and building collaborative flourishing in our rural city.


Kindling an incarnational vision of the good life through imaginative gatherings that foster belonging, learning and celebration.


Fostering storytelling and conversation around diverse models of faith practice in everyday life.

The Huss Project

Growing imagination and friendship through food, art, and play since 2009.

Pounds of veggies distributed to neighbors lacking fresh food access
Meals served to school-aged kids during summer 2020
Volunteers in 2019
Neighbors who joined us for Future Festival 2019

Recent stories

*cino Work, Education, People, Three Rivers

*culture is not optional partners with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

$2,500 grant from Three Rivers Area Community Foundation helps provide free books for children in Three Rivers 

THREE RIVERS, MI: *culture is not optional (*cino) announces the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) launch in Three Rivers! Each month, the Imagination Library provides an age-appropriate book for every registered child ages 0 to 5 in the City of Three Rivers, absolutely free to the family. The Three Rivers Area Community Foundation (TRACF) awarded *cino a grant to help launch the DPIL. 

TRACF supports effective programs and projects that improve the quality of life within Three Rivers and the surrounding townships, focusing on community improvement, education, health, recreation, and cultural programs. The foundation’s $2,500 grant funds books for each child for the first year. *cino is actively seeking additional support to fund subsequent years, and donors can contribute to the program on *cino’s web site at www.cultureisnotoptional.com/donate.

Improving early childhood literacy with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library creates opportunities for children to thrive and succeed in school, helping their communities grow and prosper. “The mission of *culture is not optional is to work for the flourishing of all in our community through radical rootedness and boundless imagination,” said *cino’s Executive Director Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma. “We’re excited to partner with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to send books directly to children in our city. Research continually shows that an early introduction to books and reading at home sparks curiosity, wonder, empathy, and cognitive development that leads to later positive achievement. We hope that this partnership will contribute to growing our city’s capacity for imagination for future generations of Three Rivers neighbors.”

The Imagination Library is available to all age-eligible children in the City of Three Rivers. Sign up at www.cultureisnotoptional.com/imagination-library.

About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Since its launch in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation has gifted well over 150 million free books in Australia, Canada, The Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Imagination Library mails more than 1.8 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to registered children from birth to age five. Dolly envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring them to dream. The program’s impact has been widely researched, and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. For more information, please visit imaginationlibrary.com

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*cino Work, Education, Hospitality, Leadership, People, Three Rivers

Apply now for our AmeriCorps VISTA positions!

*culture is not optional (*cino)/The Huss Project is now accepting applications for three full-time AmeriCorps VISTA positions; the deadline is very soon, so apply now! We’re looking for folks who will help us take our work to the next level in the areas of food systems, education, and economic development through the Huss Project, World Fare, and other partners in Three Rivers.

AmeriCorps VISTA

*culture is not optional runs the Huss Project, which is transforming a former elementary school in the rural city of Three Rivers, Michigan into a community hub for growing our capacity for imagination. For the next year, we are building on our efforts to develop a more resilient and just local food system in our rural city, growing our experiential learning opportunities on our urban farm, and expanding our focus to include transportation (specifically a community-run bike shop). We are hiring three positions this year: Farm Eduction Coordinator, Food Distribution Coordinator, and Events & Communications Coordinator. Huss is at the center of a multi-faceted, community-wide effort to strengthen local food systems while providing land-based education, particularly for low-income households and using universal design principles that improve the system for all. In the inner circle of the ecosystem is an urban farm, a neighborhood farmers market, and multiple food distribution programs. These entities are connected to numerous food producers, businesses, civic organizations, and social service agencies throughout the city. Our AmeriCorps VISTA project will help build the capacity for this system to meet the next level of its potential. Experience with activities like social research, community development, event planning, education, program development, volunteer coordination, permaculture design, food systems, non-profits … these are the types of things we’re looking for in people who will thrive collaborating at a high level with a grassroots org in a funky, small, Midwest city. We’re looking for people with solid enough experience to function as peer collaborators in creative design toward significant community outcomes, in a spirit of curiosity, joy, and accountability. Here are four words that are floating around for us at the moment as we search: compassion, collaboration, innovation, and detail-orientation. Visit our listing on the AmeriCorps site to submit your application. Applications are open until August 12, but we’re looking to fill these positions as soon as possible to allow our VISTAs to plan for an August 29 start date. Here are some more details:
  • Application deadline: August 12, 2022
  • Dates of service: August 29, 2022 to August 28, 2023
  • Weekly commitment: Full time, 40 hours per week
  • Compensation: living allowance (just over $12,000/year), plus educational award or end-of-service stipend and health insurance
  • Housing: Reduced-cost housing available ($250/mo. including utilities)
  • Other benefits
  • Apply here!
Thank you for your help in spreading the word and please let us know if you have any questions! We’re really looking forward to this next phase of our community’s work in Three Rivers.
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