People

Welcoming new *cino staff: Brad

As the Summer begins to unoffically wind down and we are transitioning into new projects and landscapes

This week we are proud to introduce you to Brad Armstrong in our final AmeriCorps introduction.

Brad, a native of New Haven, CT  with the traveing heart of a pilgrim decided to work with *cino after searching for over decade for something that felt right.

“The short answer [on joining *cino] is that it’s a great mission driven organization doing work that matters. I’ve been looking for something like this to commit to and do vocationally, that combines community and sustainable practices with mission driven work. Community development is my jam.”

His decision to work with AmeriCorps came on the heels of the Coronavirus pandemic. Brad feels that ” serving others is the only thing that matters in this crazy world, and this is what I want to do personally and professionally” so a year with AmeriCorps felt like a solid choice.

During his year with AmeriCorps, Brad is working hard to complete some personal and professional goals. “I’m using this opportunity to get a Diploma in Permaculture, and I’m in an eco-spirituality/eco-psychology program called Seminary of the Wild. I value relationships, and although I never expected to find myself in Michigan I really like it so far, Three Rivers an amazing community and place, and I’m really excited to explore more of the Great Lakes region while I’m here.”

When not schemeing up ways to save the world, Brad enjoys music, especially DJ electronic dance styles, sustainability, food, cities, and wilderness. Also, he loves nature and outdoor sports like skiing and hiking. And animals, especially dogs.

Stop by this week at the market and say “howdy” to Brad while you are there.

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People

Welcoming new *cino staff: Melody

We are continuing our series of introductions to the newest members of our small but mighty organization here in Three Rivers.

Next up we have Melody Spencer.

Melody, most recently from Charotte, North Carolina, has always had a heart for helping others and a drive to find creative ways to do so. After spending over a decade a professional digital marketer, 2020 found her searching for something new.

“When COVID-19 hit, I suddenly found myself without a job (due to lack of funding in the non-profit sector) and a place to live. I had always had an interest in AmeriCorps positions but the timing for them never felt right. It felt like the Universe suddenly gave me permission to pursue this dream.”

Melody chose to work with *cino because of their focus on community development, creativity and sustainability. She also felt a distinct pull towards a new place (and a new state!) full of a vibrant community in which she could become rooted in.

“After the craziness of the past couple of years, now coupled with the pandemic, I was beyond ready for a fresh, new start. My experience with *cino so far has been a lovely compliment to the personal growth I am currently experiencing in this season of life.”

In the past 2.5 months, Melody has immensly enjoyed getting to know Three Rivers and Western Michigan while spending as much time outside as possible. When she’s not working, Melody enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, and working on her personal and professional goals (including yoga and herbalisim certifications).

Be sure to stop by our Saturday Market or our weekly Free Veggie Distribution on Tuesdays and say hello to Melody.

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*cino Work, People

Welcoming New *cino staff: Shaina

This week we are excited to begin introducing you to our three, new full-rime, year long AmeriCorps Vista members.

First up we have Shaina Opperman.

Shaina, a native of South Lyons, MI decided to join AmeriCorps after COVID-19 ended her social research project at the University of Michigan.

“For the past two years since finishing undergrad at MSU, I’ve been doing social research at U-M about people’s perceptions toward the concept of diverting human urine from the waste stream for re-use as fertilizer. That sounds like a highly specific—and perhaps unusual—kind of project, but in a lot of ways I feel it connects naturally to the things I’ll be doing here—building trusting relationships, sharing knowledge, staying accountable to people’s concerns, and co-creating solutions. While I’m serving with AmeriCorps, I’ll have the opportunity to continue working through the kinds of social questions that have been on my mind a lot lately. So as a personal next step I think AmeriCorps just fits.”

Since joining the team, Shaina has been really drawn to the generosity of spirit embodied by everyone in Three Rivers as well as the *cino community’s commitment to creative collaboration. She especially loves how *cino pushes ourselves to self-reflect and let experience and community input guide us toward ways to live together more responsibly. What *cino does has evolved through many different people continuously working on creating stronger community partnerships. She sees the Saturday market as an example of this. “The market works through a lot of people coming together, including our visitors, and it would never exist in exactly the same way if it had been created in a different place or emerged from another group of people. I really enjoy seeing these unique things we create together, so I view my contribution to this team with a lot of gratitude and curious anticipation.”

When she’s not working, Shaina enjoys long walks in nature, keeping the community house cookie jar full to the brim with baked goods, and working her way through her “to-read” list.

We are thrilled to have her with us for the year.

Stop by the market soon and say hi to her and the rest of the *cinocrew.

 

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*cino Work, People

Welcoming New *cino staff: Nikki

This week we are continuing our series of introductions to our Summer Associates, Next up is Nikki.

Nikki Ambs, a Three Rivers local, is no stranger to *cino and The Huss Project. Thanks to her Aunt, Julie Keefer, a prominent member of the *cino community, she learned all about what makes our organization unique years ago. She was drawn to this position because she wants to “help the community through service and make new connections with people.” 

In Nikki’s own words, her passion for joining *cino came from a longing to better understand the community she grew up in. 

“As someone from Three Rivers, I want to get more involved in the community that I am from.  I think it’s important to learn more about where you are from, and through this opportunity I am able to do so!”

Nikki is currently attending Western Michigan University where she studies Graphic Design and music.

We can’t wait to see the insights that Nikki gleans from this Summer at The Huss Project.

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*cino Work, People

Welcoming New *cino staff: Tiffany

This week we are continuing to introduce you to the newest members of our *cino community. It is our hope that you will better understand what drives us towards doing this work by getting to know our staff members.

Next up is Tiffany Chiang.

Tiffany, a native of Kalamazoo, developed an interest in being an AmeriCorps Summer Associate after her friend and current *cino AmeriCorps Staff member Jeff Torano,  told her about the great work the organization was doing.

After graduating college, Tiffany was confused about what she wanted to do with her life. She was interested in working outdoors and with other people so the opportunity to work at The Huss Project seemed like a perfect fit!

“Jeff was actually the one who told me about CINO! After hearing about it from him I was interested in learning more and found the Huss Project home page. It seemed like a community that I would fit well into and I was really interested in learning more about how an urban farm actually runs.”

In her free time Tiffany enjoys spending time outside hiking, playing piano, working with ceramics, and rock climbing.

We can’t wait to hear more about her experience at the end of the Summer. 

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*cino Work, People

Welcoming New *cino staff: Jaz

With the start of Summer comes beautiful, new opportunities to build community and grow our organization. This year we welcomed three AmeriCorps Summer Associates to help maintain our flourishing urban farm at The Huss Project. This week we want to introduce you to one of them.

Jaz Popa, originally from New Jersey, has called Michigan home since college. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a minor in Food Systems. Her passion for farming, specifically urban farming, came after taking a few classes in food systems and seeing the need for a major societal shift in the way we approach food.   

She decided to join *cino for the Summer because it aligned with her pa

ssion for helping others  as well as “to help provide food insecure community areas with fresh,  healthy food and increase food access / knowledge.” 

Jaz also felt that the opportunity to work with AmeriCorps would provide her “a way for me to get involved in my neighboring communities to work on preventing poverty through food access”. 

When she’s not saving the world from hunger, Jaz loves visiting the beach and her family in New Jersey, growing her own food, and painting. 

We are so thrilled Jaz has joined us for this short season and we appreciate the dedication she has already brought to her work at *cino.

Stayed tuned for more introductions of the new *cino staff in upcoming weeks!

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*cino Work, Online, Organization, People, Three Rivers

Farewell, Annelie!

Last month, we said farewell to two community members who finished their year-long AmeriCorps positions. We weren’t able to hug them goodbye, but we sent them off with heartfelt messages, food dropped off for a special dinner, and even a dance party via Zoom! Annelie Haberman first came to *culture is not optional as a summer intern, and ultimately spent over two years living in Three Rivers. As an AmeriCorp participant, she coordinated details with the Huss Project Farm and its booth at the Three Rivers Farmers Market, contributed to a Community Asset Mapping project, and immersed herself in the Three Rivers community with great passion and care. She shared a reflection on her time here and what the future holds:

What first drew me to working with the incredible community of *cino was in finding a group of folks who not only were asking hard questions about what is the right way to live, but also taking action with creativity and a social justice mindset to go about addressing the systemic problems facing our society. Getting our hands in the dirt on the urban farm to take direct action around food and nutrition insecurities in our neighborhood was what first started to cultivate my understanding of how we make concrete steps to shape our culture and help fill the gaps that our society chooses not to address. 

While working in the forest of tomato plants or harvesting the never-ending zucchini, we would talk about everything from issues around immigration rights, the theology of a soul, and exploring permaculture possibilities of the farm. Through these conversations I found myself being challenged to ask deeper questions of all of my assumptions, reassess my values, and understand that my internal beliefs directly affected the people in my community. How was I going to shape myself to have a belief system that helped everyone thrive together?

My work and life with *cino beyond the farm was all over the map, from helping create an asset map of Three Rivers to making Christmas ornaments for one of our fundraisers. Helping plan the annual summer festival of Future Fest, I came to relish the act of celebrating our imaginative, playful minds as an act of building community together. Sharing food every week for potluck is where I learned the beautiful uniqueness of everyone’s personalities, passions, and peculiarities and how we can bring all those things into a room and let them unfurl in our laughter and thoughtful conversations. And living in our intentional community house, those will be the memories I hold closest to my heart from my time with *cino. Choosing to share the daily rhythms of life together with beautiful people and caring deeply about the work of nurturing each other’s souls, this way of being human together made me so happy to be alive.

I am incredibly grateful for my time with *cino and all you wonderful people, my dear friends. I go forward from here having learned so much and grown in mind and spirit, and I look forward to the next time our paths will cross.

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*cino Work, Leadership, Online, People, Three Rivers

Farewell, Ale!

Ale, taking photos at last year’s Future Festival.

This month, we said farewell to two community members who finished their year-long AmeriCorps positions. We weren’t able to hug them goodbye, but we sent them off with heartfelt messages, food dropped off for a special dinner, and even a dance party via Zoom! Alejandra Crevier (or Ale) contributed her writing skills and thoughtful input to *culture is not optional’s and the Huss Project’s online presence as well as a Community Asset Mapping project, and pitched in wholeheartedly with numerous other tasks. She shared a reflection on her time here and what the future holds:

I’ve really enjoyed the rhythms of small town life with folks at *cino—growing vegetables, making dinners, and going to poetry nights together. My time here has really allowed me to focus on issues I care about in concrete ways such as community living and sustainability; those opportunities are a privilege and a gift. I now have a much better understanding of local agriculture and community resources and the direct impact they have on areas such as Three Rivers.

 I’ve also seen how *cino is well-positioned to confront systemic issues like racism and classism that exist in the Three Rivers area due to the respect, connections and resources we possess. White power, privilege and supremacy have to be confronted directly, and it’s been difficult at times navigating with the community here the best approaches to what that directness looks like. The work we have done in the last part of the year will hopefully build upon and make manifest *cino’s desire for equity in all aspects of its organization, community, and broader influence.

I’m thankful for the people I have met and have come to know well. I feel more equipped to personally confront daily tasks with the lessons I have learned from community living, particularly the value of supportive friends during this pandemic. What has been cultivated in Three Rivers I will certainly carry into the future. Given the reality of the pandemic, I hope to do direct action work with mutual aid networks in Grand Rapids, MI. I’m trying at the same time to remain flexible.

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*cino Work, Hospitality, Leadership, People

Growing our community safely in a pandemic

In mid-March, as Michigan pulled together and hunkered down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, our *cino crew was watching and waiting to see how our plans to welcome new people into our community this spring might change. We had a couple from Vermont planning to move into our new caretaker’s house, and we anticipated hiring seven new AmeriCorps partners—three year-long VISTAs and four summer associates—with several of these folks moving into our community house. With everything changing so fast and a growing awareness that the situation would continue for many months, we had no idea what to expect.

We continued our recruiting and hiring processes and eventually, AmeriCorps confirmed our May 11 start date for our new VISTAs. We were super excited about the three folks who agreed to join us, but how could we form a new household safely? And what would we do about the summer folks starting June 1?

So we started gathering the best, most reliable information we could and came up with a plan that we feel very good about. Because we’re a very visible group of people and because we want to maintain a sense of transparency and accountability with our broader Three Rivers community, we want to lay out some of the details of our plan.

  • As of March 16, all members of *cino’s four community households began practicing self-isolation, with distancing and other safety practices for any essential trips outside the house.
  • Thanks to adaptations allowed by AmeriCorps, our *cino staff began working remotely and our weekly community meetings shifted to video. We pivoted our work to support the acute needs of our local community with resources like emergency assistance information and free vegetable seeds.
  • When Dan and Margaret traveled from Vermont and moved into the Huss Caretaker’s House in mid-April, we welcomed them from a distance with a housewarming gift and video gatherings, while they spent their first two weeks here in self-isolation.
  • Our May 8 going-away party for two of our community house residents was a multi-faceted, creatively-distanced affair, with ways to participate by mail, text, e-mail, drive/walk/bike-by, and video. (We heard from several folks that it was the best going-away party they’d ever “attended,” so those of us who are trying to figure out how to do grad parties, showers, and so on this spring and summer: it is possible!).
  • New AmeriCorps VISTAs moving into the community house on May 9 self-isolated for two weeks prior to moving into the house.
  • As of May 9, the *cino community house at 208 N. Main Street started a “reset,” with the new group of residents self-isolating together for two weeks to establish a new primary household. During this two weeks, we’re conducting an orientation program through video and outdoor, physically-distanced points of connection.
  • For the foreseeable future, any new residents of the community house will self-isolate for two weeks before joining the household.
  • Our summer work is shifting almost entirely to fresh food production and distribution, so labor will be outdoors as much as possible with collectively designed safety practices based on the relationships among the individuals working together.
  • We’re working on a visual model that will help us all understand how we relate to one another practically and emotionally to support one another’s physical health, as well as the health of our relationships.

So why are we sharing all of this? Well, one of the challenges of this time is managing our feelings of anxiety, fear, and judgment, no matter our opinion of the pandemic response. We see a group of people gathered outside a house, clearly not residents of the same household: are they blowing off the rules? We see someone wearing a mask driving alone in their car: are they just trying shame me for not wearing a mask on my walk? In a time of such remarkable instability and uncertainty, judgment is a natural impulse, but we can practice giving the benefit of the doubt, asking genuine questions, and offering transparency.

We want our neighbors to know without a doubt: our *cino community is taking this thing seriously in the interest of supporting the health of our vulnerable family members, the essential workers with whom we come into contact, our partners at the Huss Project, our local healthcare workers—all our neighbors! When you see us out and about in our neighborhoods, working at the farm, staffing our new Saturday market at the Huss Project, we want you to know we’re taking good care for you, for ourselves, and for all of us.

Even though we’re tired of it already…

Even though the degree of risk is low…

Even though we’d love to hug our friend who’s moving across the country after two years here…

Even though we’d much rather get back to normal and throw a big party…

We will continue to practice intentional safety measures as long as we need to for the sake of public health and the common good.

If anyone ever wonders where we stand and what we’re doing to be safe together, please don’t hesitate to ask. This is going to be a long haul, friends, and we’ll get through it best with shared information, grace, transparency, and mutual respect.

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Uncategorized

Welcoming our new Caretakers at Huss!

We’re so excited to announce that our new Huss Project Resident Caretaker positions have been filled by the lovely Dan Truesdale and Margaret Wenger! Dan and Margaret will help us significantly in our efforts to build capacity at The Huss Project and The Huss Project Farm. They will be the “eyes and ears” of event and farm operations here, and will play a critical role in working with AmeriCorps volunteers over the course of the year. We’re so thankful for the support they’ve already provided this week as we’ve begun planting at the farm.

Margaret was raised here in Three Rivers and has been a long standing member of the *cino network. Dan grew up in the Chicago land area and has had significant experience with farming and community work in Georgia and Missouri.

“We’ve been enjoying settling into the neighborhood and starting to work on the farm and other projects at Huss,” they noted. “We’re glad to be returning to Three Rivers and look forward to putting down roots in this community as we work and live alongside those in the *cino community.”

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