Hospitality, People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

Homemade hospitality with Trinity Episcopal Church

On Sunday, April 28, members of the *cino community enjoyed sharing coffee, tea, juice and homemade cinnamon rolls between and after worship services with members of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Since the summer of 2010, *cino has been renting Trinity’s rectory to house an intentional community, which includes volunteer staff and summer interns.  The church has also graciously allowed us to use their basement for the times extra space is needed, including summer and various student groups who come to Three Rivers for service-learning, retreat, leadership training and just-plain-visiting.  Last year, Trinity applied for a grant to renovate the bathrooms in the basement and put in a shower, which has been wonderfully helpful for all of the hosting our group does.

Trinity will celebrate its 150th anniversary this coming September and we were excited to hear during coffee hour about some of the creative plans that are taking shape for that event.  True to their long legacy of outreach and hospitality, Trinity has not only rented space to the *cino gang, but they’ve also contributed in terms of furniture, housewares, encouragement, financial contributions and, simply, friendship.  (We greatly miss our Trinity friend Jeanette and her kind pup Larry — they appear around :33 in this video — who lived across the street from Huss until Jeanette passed away last year.)  In addition to all of this generosity, Trinity has also agreed to host a Noisy Offering next Sunday to continue their support of the Huss Project Brick Campaign.  Thank you, Trinity friends, for all you do to live out your congregational mission to be “God’s love in action” in Three Rivers and beyond!

Bring your loose change and join us at Trinity Episcopal Church on Sunday, May 5 for a Noisy Offering (coins in baking pans, although bills and checks are welcome, too!).  Special offerings will take place at both the 8:00 a.m. (spoken liturgy) and 10:00 a.m. (sung liturgy) worship services.  Trinity is located at 321 N. Main Street in Three Rivers.

Check out photos of *cino goings-on at Trinity:

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Publishing, Three Rivers

Lament and hope in Three Rivers and beyond

On Holy Saturday, many of us from the *cino community in Three Rivers joined in a service of lament and hope organized by The Hermitage Community, a Mennonite retreat center located just west of Three Rivers.  The service was prompted by the evolving news over the past several months that Enbridge, the Canadian energy transport company that was responsible for a nearby oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010, is going to be adding a third larger pipeline for crude oil to its existing right of way.  The portion of their line that extends from the Canadian border to a refinery in northwest Indiana cuts through the center of Hermitage property, as well as the adjacent GilChrist Retreat Center and St. Gregory’s Abbey.

We are grateful for the leadership of the Hermitage in choosing the way of honest lament and grief over the way of legal battles and enmity.  While it was encouraging to spend time with a community that hopes for a better future, it was also humbling to walk the very land that will be torn apart in the coming months and confess our role in the violence.  Coming out of the service, we decided to do two special catapult issues in an effort to honor this gratitude and further explore the many complex issues raised by our complicity in the destruction of creation through our consumption of crude oil.  The first issue will contain some of the written and visual elements from the recent service of lament and hope.  The second issue will poke at our assumptions about progress as forward motion.  See the catapult writer’s block for full issue descriptions.

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Building, Fundraising, Three Rivers

Love the Huss Project: Give 5 minutes for $5,000!

Music, play, art, food, gardening, community fellowship, storytelling, kickball: what’s NOT to love about the Huss Project?  You can love us back right now by taking just 5 minutes to …

  1. Watch the cool 3-minute video we put together featuring Huss Project footage and the song “This House” by kindlewood (above).
  2. Vote to help us win $5,000 in a contest sponsored by the Fetzer Institute.
  3. Share this with everyone you know via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc. (just click one of the icons below this post)!

This contest is part of a grant we applied for through the Fetzer Institute.  Friends of the Huss Project can vote for us to win $5,000 and a separate panel is making a selection for a grand prize of $25,000.  That could go a long way toward things like, I don’t know, running water, don’t you think?  The Huss Project has housed so much goodness already without basic infrastructure — just imagine what we can do when we’re up and running year round!  In addition to voting, you can support the Huss Project by buying a brick.

Thank you so much for your consideration and support … and keep up your own good work!

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Organization, People, Publishing

*cino 2012: A year in review

Left to right: Rob, Chad, Deborah, Liesje, Kirstin, Jordan, Stephanie, David and Emily

Happy Advent!  Even as we set aside time for expectation for the future, we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back at what the past year has been like for the folks connected with *culture is not optional.  There are about a dozen of us now in Three Rivers who participate in various aspects of community life on the ground here and there continues to be an international community of *cino followers who regularly participate through reading, encouraging, donating and visiting.  We are so grateful to experience God’s abundance in the form of all of these wonderful people!

With love and hope,
The *cino community


January

Winter is a quieter time for the *cino community as we honor the rhythms of creation and spend more time reading and reflecting.  That said, Rob & Kirstin taught on popular culture, the empire and the Kingdom of God at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is always sort of a whirlwind!

February

Rob & Kirstin attended the annual Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh.  Several of our folks also helped support the annual Chocolate Affair, which is a fair trade bake-off (and, this year, brew-off) that happens at World Fare.

March

During two different weeks, we hosted service-learning spring break groups from Calvin College and Geneva College on themes of place, contemplation, activism and storytelling.  We also got a ton of demolition and clean-up work done at the Huss Project.  During the Calvin trip, we hosted David Bazan for a house show and packed out the VG-R living room.  On the last weekend of the month, we invited a group of Calvin students to come for a day retreat on the relationship between hope and cynicism (and also experienced the annual AYCE pancake breakfast at the Volinia Outcomes School maple project, which gives us hope for the world, indeed). At the end of the month, we helped organize the third annual Rivers of Justice film festival, which featured the films Last Train Home and Miss Representation.

April

Several of us began our Easter celebration at the St. Gregory’s Abbey Easter vigil and then Emily hosted quite a gang, including her parents who were visiting from Maryland, for Easter dinner at the rectory.  Later in the month, we displayed for *cino in the exhibit hall at the Festival of Faith & Writing in Grand Rapids, connecting with new friends and old and introducing the wonderful Eat Well study guide, created by Deborah!

May

We held our annual face-to-face *cino board meeting in Three Rivers and also had a table and painting project at the Spring Arts Festival at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

June

We began June by hosting a storytelling night welcoming Jay, Kyle, Hannah, Margaret and Christopher as our interns for the summer!  Their very first official task was to participate in the local Stand for Children Day event and we were all blown away by the creativity and attention local kids showed with our painting project.  The *cino gang also joined Trinity Episcopal Church, which hosts our resident community in their rectory, for their annual spring clean-up and potluck.  With everyone’s help, and especially Hannah and Christopher, we launched Family Fun Night, a weekly gathering at the Huss Project featuring snacks, games, crafts and conversation.

July

In July, we hosted the third annual Future Festival at the Huss Project!  Visitors from near and far enjoyed food, crafts, games, a farmer’s market, a book sale, a community garage sale, art vendors.  Future Fest was also the launch date for a gallery at the Huss Project featuring a series of art installations, including an assembly of the painting projects done earlier in the year by Calvin College students and local kids.

August

We regretfully cancelled the Practicing Resurrection conference in August due to low numbers and late promotion, but we had a great weekend with visiting friends anyway, with plenty of shared meals and music. We also hosted a group of RA’s from Calvin College for service-learning, exploring how several of *cino’s core values play out in our work in Three Rivers and their work as dorm leaders.  August was also the big wedding month for Chad and Stephanie, and we all enjoyed pitching in by baking pies, assembling terrariums, playing music and taking care of the many fun tasks required by such a meaningful outdoor celebration.

September

If you look back at our staff meeting notes, you’ll notice that in February, an item appeared on our calendar: “September vacation?  Yes, please!”  Well, we honored the need to rest after a busy summer by taking a break from *cino activity and several of us headed out of town for extended periods of time, while others stuck around and enjoyed the late summer in Three Rivers.  *cino folk also pitched in to help coordinate a big off site sale for World Fare while Rob and Kirstin enjoyed three weeks in Europe. We also celebrated ten years of publishing catapult magazine this fall!

October

October was mostly spent catching up and regathering after weeks away, including reflecting on the many experiences from our travels that made us see our work in Three Rivers in a new light.

November

Our rest must have worked its magic, because November was an explosion of activity!  Jordan moved in and became the newest resident of the rectory in the middle of it all.  We’d been talking for over a year about launching a fundraising campaign and the time seemed right to pull together and do the background work that needed to be done in order to begin the campaign.  We wrote web site text, designed logos and prints, brainstormed ideas for special events, collected poems and got organized for the …

December

Brick Campaign!  December has been a delightful month of giving and receiving as support has begun flowing in for the Huss Project, as well as for the work of *cino that goes beyond the bricks and mortar at 8th and Broadway in Three Rivers.  Throughout this full year, we’ve also continued to publish issues of catapult and keep the conversation going near and far about what it looks like to be a people of justice, love, peace, simplicity, joy, hospitality and generosity in our world today.  May you experience all of those things and more as we re-tell the story of humble beginnings in Bethlehem over two millennia ago!

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Event

From winter to summer: Spring breakers serve and learn in Three Rivers

In one respect, the two service-learning trips we hosted in March couldn’t have been more different, by which I mean the weather. We welcomed five students and a staff mentor from Geneva College in the first full week of March and, wowee-zowee, winter’s grip was holding tight on southwest Michigan, with snow and freezing temps keeping us cloistered indoors for most of the week. Fortunately, one of the nicer days encompassed the afternoon of our farm tours. On the other hand, the Calvin College trip last week was eerily summer-like, as we enjoyed temperatures in the 70s and 80s, with just a day or two of rain — another very nice day for farm tours, although it was an unsettling niceness and the farmers were nervous about the future effects of the temperature fluctuation.
Let me take a step back before I tell you more about these two trips in particular. *cino has been hosting spring break service learning trips since we partnered with Calvin College in 2010. (You can see our reports from 2010 and 2011 in our archives.) Over the three successive years, we’ve been developing the trips along the themes of rule of life and place. By rule of life, we mean the way we organize our time around what’s important to us. Toward the end of exploring this theme, we spend time with local intentional communities and practice our own basic daily rule together: morning prayers, work period, lunch, community explorations, an hour of silence, and cooking and eating a meal together. As we practice this rule, we also delve into the theme of place. In a cultural climate that values multi-tasking, movement and efficiency, we experience what it might look like to focus instead on rootedness, rest and listening. In the midst of divided attention and impulsive purchasing, we practice stillness and intentionality.
The “canvas” for much of our exploration was in the form of field trips throughout the community. Here are the themes that we addressed in our afternoons:

  • Agriculture: We visited five local farms between the two trips, including Bluebird Farm, White Yarrow Farm, Sustainable Greens, Bair Lane Farm and Corey Lake Orchards.
  • Journalism: Elena Hines, editor of the Three Rivers Commercial News, and Bruce Snook, founding editor of River Country Journal, discussed the importance of recording our community’s stories.
  • Aging: Tracy Kiel and her colleague Kristin hosted us at Riverview Manor, a skilled nursing facility, and engaged in conversation with Janell Hart and Renee Welch from the county’s Commission on Aging about issues facing the older members of our community.
  • Youth: We brought together Stephanie Morgan (young adult librarian), Stephanie Schoon (director of Three Rivers Area Mentoring) and Chief of Police Tom Bringman, who were able to talk about their work with youth and some of the needs of the community related to children and young adults.
  • Arts: We toured the lovely Carnegie Center for the Arts, along with local public art and outlets for local artists, including the Pink Paisley Poppy Emporium and UniQ Jewelry. The Calvin group met with local artist couple Larry-Michael and Becky Hackenberg at their home on the St. Joseph River, while the Geneva group heard from local artists Emily Ulmer, Gail Walters and Michael Northrop. The Calvin group also had the opportunity to enjoy a house show by David Bazan.
  • Local Business: In addition to informal time wandering around the historic downtown district, we visited with the owners/managers of World Fare, Love Your Mother, the Riviera Theatre and Lowry’s Books.
  • Intentional Communities: Both groups stayed at least a portion of their time with the *culture is not optional intentional community at Trinity Episcopal Church and visited St. Gregory’s Abbey to talk with Brother Abraham and participated in vespers and meditation. Both groups also practiced an hour of silence every afternoon. The Calvin group stayed a portion of the week at the Hermitage Community, where we participated in morning prayers.

Each group of students had its own unique character, and we enjoyed the times of laughter and teasing, as well as the times of serious reflection and conversation. Our hope is that the experience of the week nourished the soil of each heart in some way for the future. One question we discussed around the table at our closing potluck for the Calvin trip was, “If you had to plan a trip like this in the place where you grew up, what would you do, who would you meet with, where would you go?” I think if our student friends can begin to answer this question and see the places where they are with new eyes–the eyes of love, of intentionality–then our work has been productive. I think another marker of success is if each of us can find a little bit more space in our lives to surrender, whether that surrender is in the form of rest or silence or worship or giving up our self-centeredness for the sake of community. To steal a quote that our friend Jeff stole from Wendell Berry for his blog recently, from a poem called “Healing”:

The teachings of unsuspected teachers belong to the task, and are its hope.

The love and the work of friends and lovers belong to the task, and are its health.

Rest and rejoicing belong to the task, and are its grace.

Let tomorrow come tomorrow. Not by your will is the house carried through the night.

Order is the only possibility of rest.

We ended each trip with a potluck dinner and several of the folks who met with our groups throughout the week joined us. I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of people who didn’t know each other just days earlier enjoying one another’s company. For all of the ambitious learning outcomes we might seek to achieve with such trips, perhaps the simple ability to combine chatting and eating should be at the top of the list. It’s around the table, after all, that we are made fully known in the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine.
For more photos, see our Geneva and Calvin Spring Break photo sets on Flickr.

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Uncategorized

Culture Make Sale coming soon!

The Culture Make Sale held a wonderful preview event at the Huss Future Festival on July 30, featuring jewelry, stationery, framed photographs, *cino mugs and more. There will be so many great items to choose from when the online store launches on September 1 to help fund the development of a community center and off-campus program! Supporters from all around the world can participate in this project by donating and purchasing a wide array of handmade goods and services. On the list of items so far: a web site, a customized love letter, a customized icon, a handmade jewelry box and college application consultation sessions. What can you contribute? Please get in touch if you have something to give…and watch the Culture Make Sale web site for more details!

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Event

Report from ^camping 2011 in Ohio

Feeding the chickens
Steve and Mel Montgomery’s wonderful hospitality began the moment we pulled in the driveway of their lovely 65-acre farm and only grew over the three days of ^camping is not optional. A beautifully restored, three-story white house stands guard at the top of the hill over acres of pastures and woods. As an educational space overseen by the Montgomery family, along with a board of directors and a group of core partners, Lamppost Farm is a place of teaching and conversation around faith as an everyday way of life — a perfect dovetail for a co-sponsored event with *culture is not optional.
Highlights of the weekend included:

  • Talking and relaxing around the campfire.
  • Learning how to slaughter and process grass-fed Lamppost Farm chickens and having good discussions about life, death, meat and normative behavior.
  • Watching Drew Montgomery’s baseball team win their Friday night game.
  • Playing corn hole with minimal scoring and maximum coach-talk cliches.
  • Reuniting with old friends and meeting some new ones.
  • Cooking and eating fantastic meals with meat and produce raised (and even butchered) right at the farm.
  • Playing with farm pets, including Misty and her new kitten.
  • Sharing the joys and struggles of running small, start-up non-profit organizations and wrestling with issues like health insurance and retirement savings in the context of a life of faith and risk-taking.

For a visual account, check out our photos of the event. We hope for the best as the Montgomery’s and their partners continue to cultivate the mission of the farm and look forward to our next visit. Our time there really whet our appetites for this summer’s second ^camping event at Maple Tree Meadows in Three Rivers — registration is open now!

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Event

^camping is not optional 2011

When we started camping–way back in 2001 when *cino was just an asterisk-shaped glimmer in our eyes–the idea was to camp every year in various locations. We camped in Pennsylvania that first year, and then in Michigan, West Virginia and Illinois. Finally, we landed in a very comfy spot at Russet House Farm in Cameron, Ontario, in conjunction with the biennial Practicing Resurrection conference. The conference will go on (watch for future info about the August 2012 event on the theme of the 100-Mile Imagination), but on this off year for Practicing Resurrection, we’re going to spread out once again, with ^camping events in Columbiana, Ohio and Three Rivers, Michigan.
Camping in Columbiana will take place July 7-9 at a lovely little spot called Lamppost Farm. Our friends Steve and Mel and their kids, whom we met through the first Practicing Resurrection conference in 2006, have cultivated a small homestead there. They’re looking forward to welcoming campers for conversation, exploration, camp fires and, for the stout-hearted who really want to know more about where their food comes from, chicken processing.
Camping in Three Rivers will take place July 28-30 at Maple Tree Meadows. With the help of many neighbors, our friend Karla has been prayerfully and contemplatively rescuing this historic farm from neglect. The dates for this opportunity just happen to coincide with the 2011 Huss Future Festival, a day-long event on July 30 full of art, live music, food, recycled goods for sale and imagining possibilities for *culture is not optional’s space at Huss School.
Facilities at both locations will be rustic, so come prepared to rough it. You can register now at the ^camping is not optional web site, for just $10 per night per adult (kids camp free with their parents). Space is limited, so register soon! We look forward to seeing you there.

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Building, Event, Workshops

*cino hosts 9 from Calvin for spring break

Our group
Our *cino spring break trip that was born last year with a small group of five Calvin College students grew to nine this year, plus our two resident volunteers, Stephanie and Emily. We really enjoyed getting to know the students who participated and getting to know our work and community better through their participation. Here’s a day-by-day synopsis to give you a glimpse of what we experienced together, in addition to our collection of photos
FRIDAY
The students arrived in downtown Three Rivers after the 80-mile trip from Grand Rapids. We got to know each other a bit better (namely: spirit animals…whatever that means!) over tea and coffee at World Fare. Rob and I also gave an overview of the geography and character of Three Rivers before we split up to spend the night at the rectory and our apartment above World Fare.
SATURDAY
After breakfast at our apartment, we headed over to tour Huss School and learn more about the work we’d be doing during the week–both the immediate tasks and how they fit into the long term vision for the school. Next, we toured the historic Silliman House and got a Three Rivers history lesson from DAR member and fountain of local history knowledge, Becky Shank. Over a delicious homemade pizza lunch at the rectory, we planned our meals for the week and made our grocery list of items that we then procured from local farmers, an Amish grocery store and, lastly, one of the local big boxes. We arrived at The Hermitage Community, our home for six nights, and were greeted with a dinner of chili and cornbread prepared by David and Naomi Wenger. The Wengers, who are co-directors of The Hermitage, led us in discussion over dinner about the qualities and purposes of a rule of life, as well as how to approach our daily period of silence during the week.
SUNDAY
The group dispersed on Sunday morning for Eucharist at St. Gregory’s Abbey, worship at Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite and quiet time at The Hermitage. We reconvened for a lunch of various incredible soups and breads shared with Tim Raakman, a friend and *cino board member, and some of his weekend guests. Sunday afternoon was spent conversing, napping and reading and, once we were finally hungry again, we closed the day with a Middle Eastern meal.
MONDAY
Our first weekday began with breakfast and morning prayer at The Hermitage, led by the Wengers. After prayer, we packed up our lunch and headed to work at Huss School until 12:30. Our activities on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the school included raking, removing drop ceiling tiles and framing, re-mulching around the community garden, creating some new flower beds and paths, removing flooring and doing some general clean-up around the building. In the afternoon, we visited two farming families who live within walking distance of each other just northwest of Three Rivers. An unexpected adventure was chasing and catching the laying hens who escaped from their pen. We observed an hour of silence when we returned to The Hermitage, followed by a dinner of deliciously fresh burritos.
TUESDAY
Tuesday was similar in structure to Monday, but a few of us spent the morning at World Fare cleaning and entering data for new inventory. Our afternoon explorations included visiting three local businesses (Lowry’s Books, Love Your Mother and the Riviera Theatre) and meeting with Brenda McGowan about race and education in Three Rivers. Our hour of silence was followed by a meal of fresh bread and a roasted eggplant soup topped with yogurt, cilantro and sweet peppers.
WEDNESDAY
On Wednesday morning, we were back at the school after morning prayers and the weekly Eucharist at The Hermitage. It was a cold, rainy day, but we did manage to get some outdoor work done, including tackling the brush pile out back. In the afternoon, we talked with Pastor Bennett at New Jerusalem Baptist Church about the qualities of the neighborhood surrounding his church and Huss School. We also met with Bruce Snook of River Country Journal in the Michigan room at the Three Rivers library. Dinner was a delicious red lentil curry over rice, topped with yogurt and cilantro.
THURSDAY
After morning prayer on Thursday, we headed to the rectory where our resident community lives to do a different sort of work for the school: making items to sell in our Culture Make Sale fundraiser in July. We made soap (oatmeal almond and lemon lavender), garlands and stationery sets. In the afternoon, we continued our arts theme by visiting the wetland property of a local artist couple (founders of the Three Rivers Artist Guild), checking out the Carnegie Center for the Arts, and watching a film at the Riviera. We broke our rule a bit on Thursday to accommodate the Riviera’s “rule,” and headed back to The Hermitage later to enjoy a dinner of cabbage and noodles with freshly baked rolls and apple sauce–wonderful comfort food during a week that just got colder and colder!
FRIDAY
Friday was our day to clean up at The Hermitage and move over to St. Gregory’s Abbey. After morning prayer, we scrubbed the barn from top to bottom and also spent some time serving the retreat center in some other ways: picking up the debris from February’s ice storm, raking gravel back into the parking lot and pulling nails from old barn boards that will be recycled as picture frames. A rest time after a leisurely lunch refreshed us to finish our tasks and visit the quirky Long Lake Food and Book Shop before heading to the Abbey in time for afternoon tea. Vespers and meditation at 5:00 pm was our first glimpse of the monks’ practice of chanting the Psalms and we continued our quiet time until 6:00, as we’d done most of the week. Dinner was a stir fried amalgamation of leftover vegetables, tofu and egg in a sauce of cilantro, coconut milk, tomatoes, tamari and garlic. Because of the Feast of the Annunciation, there was no compline on Friday, but there was a baking extravaganza in the St. Denys kitchen: chocolate cake, apple crisp and raisin bread.
SATURDAY
Several participants got up for 4:00 am prayers, but only one faithful soul made it to 6:00 am. We were all up and out of the house by 8:15 am, however, for the daily Eucharist service. Afterward, most of us hopped in the van and headed out to the small country crossroads of Volinia for the annual maple festival, including an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. During a ride on the horse drawn wagon, we got to hear one of the students talk about his experiences helping run the maple project at the alternative school. Back at the monastery, we continued participating in the day’s prayers and writing thank you notes to those we’d visited during the week. Br. Abraham visited with us in the afternoon to talk about the Benedictine vow of stability and tell a bit of his story. Afterward, we piled all of ourselves and our stuff into the van for our last stop together: dinner at the home of our friends JD and Barb. Taking into account our vegetarians and lactose intolerant eaters, Barb created a phenomenal Middle Eastern feast with an astounding array of fresh vegetables, cheeses, dips, pastries, tarts and more. The meal, topped off by vegan chocolate cake with chocolate almond ganache and toasted coconut, was excellent and a great way to celebrate our time together.
Throughout the week, we had wonderful conversations about topics big and small, as we practiced accepting each other wherever we were in our lives and also sought to grow in our understanding of what it means to be human in this world, embedded in particular vocations and places. We spent lots of time laughing, eating, reflecting, praying, reading, working, creating and listening. And we even spent some time cutting hair.

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Online, People, Publishing

catapult editor contributes to Comment integrity symposium

Check out the Integrity and the Entrepreneur symposium over at Comment Magazine, which features stories from people throughout the U.S. and Canada. I contributed an account of how we dealt with a theft situation from our fair trade store World Fare in 2009.

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