*culture is not optional (*cino)/The Huss Project is looking for four compassionate, creative, hard-working people to join us full-time for 10 weeks this summer as Americorps VISTA Summer Associates! Applicants should be 18 years of age or older, with a passion for serving our Three Rivers community through urban farming, event planning, and youth engagement. The term runs from June 1 – August 9, with a living stipend of $2,395.40 and choice at the end of the term of an education award of $1,311 or a cash stipend of $345. Housing is not available for Summer Associates. Applications are being accepted until May 1 or until all four positions or filled, so apply today through the AmeriCorps web site!
We are now accepting applications for three full-time AmeriCorps VISTA positions. 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.
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:
Visit our listing on the AmeriCorps site to submit your application. Applications are open until April 1, but we’re looking to fill these positions as soon as possible to allow our VISTAs to plan for a May 11 start date. The compensation package includes:
- A living allowance (just over $12,000/year)
- An educational award (or end-of-service stipend)
- Health insurance
- Reduced-cost housing ($250/mo. including utilities)
- Other benefits
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.
May 11 – *culture is not optional finishes up remodeling of 208 with the help of Florence Church members and other volunteers.
May 25 – Ale and Annelie begin AmeriCorps VISTA training. *cino is working to partner with AmeriCorps over the next three years to better build capacity for the organization as a whole. A few weeks later, the summer associates join for ten weeks.
June 10 – Summer lunches begin. The Huss Project has partnered seven summers so far with the Three Rivers Public Schools through their lunch program, Meet Up and Eat Up.
June 13 – The Huss Project joins the Three Rivers Water Fest Parade for to promote our work. This event gave AmeriCorps VISTA members a feel of the neighborhood and chance to meet the neighbors.
June 14 – *cino convenes with Camp Tavor over dinner at the camp. This year, Camp Tavor counselors stayed on rotation at 208 each week night.
June 15 – Summer work days begin at The Huss Project. For six weeks, we worked with volunteers from the neighborhood in preparation for Huss Future Festival and several other projects including the renovation of the Imaginarium and the pavilion.
June 20 –The Huss Project has its first Farmer’s Market of the season. Snap peas, strawberries and smiles!
June 21 –Malachi Carter comes all the way from Indianapolis to teach a photography class for kids at summer lunches. We had 12 kids participate and learn grow their visual art skills through practicing photography.
July 2 – Camp Tavor kids come out to volunteer with us at The Huss Project Gardens for Tikkun Olam. We had over 20 volunteers from the camp help weed the garden and plant tree saplings.
July 15 – Aundrea Syrie and Great Dane teach a creative workshop for kids in the neighborhood so that they can develop their love for words. We had 5 kids participate and stretch their confidence in making art with words.
July 23 – Anna teaches summer lunch kids the magic of compost. We had 8 kids participate and gain knowledge about the cycles of food from the soil to our plates and back into dirt through compost.
July 25 –In thanks to all of those who participated in the Big Steps Campaign, *cino hosts a soiree at the renovated Imaginarium.
July 27 – HUSS FUTURE FESTIVAL 2019 ARRIVES. We raised over $7,000 dollars with the help of volunteers and community members. Over 1,000 people from the community came to the festival to make art, get free school supplies for kids, eat delicious food, listen to local musicians perform, and connect with over 15 community resource organizations in our
July 30 – Tikkun Olam round two!
August 8 – Our summer associates’ last day on the job.
August 9 – Storytelling night commences with our wonderful host, Emily, prompting us to wonder about inheritance and legacy.
August 24 – Longtime community members, Alek and Deborah celebrate their love at the Imaginarium. First wedding ever hosted at Huss!
– At Huss Future Festival, we raised over $7,000 dollars this summer in support of the Huss Project.
– We built the pavilion and the Imaginarum.
– Our partnership with AmeriCorps began in efforts to keep this organization sustainable and joy-filled.
– We produced and distributed 2,353 pounds of vegetables this summer to the local food bank and the Three Rivers Farmers Market.
– Summer lunches were a success as we served and enjoyed food with a total of 1,454 children.
-*cino’s 100 Friends of Huss Campaign, launched this summer, partnering with long-term, dedicated lovers of food, art and play.
– Over 74 volunteers dedicated a total of 1,104 hours to Saturday Work Day projects, Summer Lunches, special education events, The Huss Project Farm, the Imaginarium and The Huss Future Festival.
Many thanks to our volunteers for contributing the time, financial support, gifts and love. This summer was filled with so much business, and your presence made all of the difference.
A late post and goodbye to our dear summer associate, Jacob Miller. Jacob is one of three staff who have completed an AmeriCorps service this summer.
Jacob has lived many years in Centreville, a few miles away from Three Rivers. He worked with Kirstin and Ale on our storytelling work and research of Huss School. Among his many talents, Jacob is a professional insect watcher, talented musician, and quote quipper. In a few days, he’ll be heading to University of Michigan for his first year of college. We’ll really miss his insightful knowledge of butterflies and goofy humor at The Huss Project.
Over the past ten years, we’ve enjoyed our partnership with Trinity Episcopal Church through the use of their rectory for our community house. We’ve hosted 43 interns and resident communities members, dozens of volunteers, and countless dinners at the house. Now, we enter a time of transition, rejoicing with Trinity as they welcome a new pastor who will live in the rectory with his partner who is also a pastor. Together, they will serve three churches in our region, including Trinity, and we hope to count them as our neighbors for many years to come.
While the timing of a major housing transition on top of our Imaginarium work, starting a new AmeriCorps program, and the farm season ramping up has seemed curious, we can’t deny that an amazing opportunity has presented itself. As of April 1, *cino is the owner of a beautiful Victorian-era home on Main Street, just north of downtown Three Rivers!
As you can see from the photo, this five-bedroom house needs a lot of work, but it has solid infrastructure, abundant space, and lovingly preserved historic features. We are honored to become caretakers of such an iconic home in our community.
Rob has been coordinating a number of generous volunteers over the past few weeks to get the space ready for our current rectory residents and our AmeriCorps partners who will begin in May. We’re making excellent progress, but we could use your help. This transition represents a significant unexpected expense for *cino at a time when almost all of our resources are dedicated to the big Imaginarium project. Even so, we’re trying to do things right and make choices that will last for a long time. Would you be willing to pitch in with a donation toward supplies? To give you some idea of the scope of needs for this project and what your donation would provide:
- $20: case of tile (40 needed)
- $30: grab bar for accessible bathroom (6 needed)
- $50: gallon of paint (30 needed)
- $100: smoke/carbon monoxide detector (8 needed)
- $150: toilet (3 needed)
- $500: remove termite-infested trees (2 needed)
- $5,400: emergency roof & soffit work (only 1 section needed so far—thankfully!)
Beyond these immediate needs, we’ll be looking toward further interior improvements to the second floor within the year, as well as restoring and painting the exterior—no small task! With your help, we look forward to fostering deep, long-lasting community in this new space and we hope we can give you a tour in person before too long. Thank you for your partnership, in whatever form it takes!
$50,000 goal to win matching grant through MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places initiative
Three Rivers will soon be home to a whimsical year-round public space that will transform part of the historic Huss School into the Huss Project Imaginariumthrough a new crowdfunding campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation andnonprofit *culture is not optional (*cino) announced today. The campaign is being offered through Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity.
If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by December 15, the project will win a matching grant with funds made possible by MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program. For project details and to donate, please visit: patronicity.com/hussproject. *cino will be hosting a kick-off event at the Huss Project on Thursday, November 1, from 5:00 to 7:00pm with presentations and tours at 5:30pm and 6:30pm.
“The Huss Project Imaginarium is a creative take on a community space,” said MEDC Senior Vice President of Community Development Katharine Czarnecki. “The varied uses and beautiful design of the space are what makes it welcoming and unique. We are pleased to provide resources for this effort through our Public Spaces Community Places program.”
The campaign will complete the redevelopment of the original library and kindergarten room of the historic building, transforming them into a multi-use indoor courtyard and meeting space. When completed, thetwo-story space will featurefloor-to-ceiling bookshelves on both levels,seating and tables, refinished 100-year-old wood floors, upgraded bathrooms,an upgraded and expanded kitchenette,energy-efficient windows styled after the original 1919 windows, high-efficiency HVAC system, and an outdoor front porch pavilion constructed from reclaimed barn wood.
Once it’s up and running year-round, the Imaginarium will support the Huss Project’s existing programming and allow them to expand from summer lunches to community events, after-school programs, potlucks, and more. The Imaginarium will also be available to other community organizations for their programming, dramatically transforming this under-utilized space in an underserved neighborhood into a vital community asset.
“Our organization has had success using crowdfunding before, so we were excited when Patronicity announced its partnership with MEDC for the Public Spaces Community Places program. We’ve been waiting for the right project to come along that would allow us to utilize this collaboration to turn a corner at the Huss Project and the Imaginarium is perfect,” said Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma, Executive Director of *culture is not optional. “The matching grant from MEDC will allow us to complete a beautiful, whimsical, year-round public space that will build our city’s capacity for friendship and imagination.”
Public Spaces Community Places is a collaborative effort of the MEDC, the Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity, in which local residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of strategic projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC. Communities, nonprofits and other business entities can apply at https://patronicity.com/puremichigan.
“Inviting public spaces are key to great placemaking,” said Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League. “The distinct character of the Huss Project Imaginarium will make it a go-to destination for residents and visitors alike.”
The Public Spaces Community Places initiative started in 2014 with MEDC providing matched funding of up to $50,000 for community improvement projects throughout Michigan. As of October 2018, MEDC has provided $5,559,166 in matching grants. Since the launch of the program, 182 projects have been successful in reaching their goal, with nearly $6.6 million raised from 33,069 individual donors.
Join us for our 10-week summer internship program in Three Rivers, Michigan! We’re looking for folks who are self-motivated and interested in the cross-section of social justice, local food, community, and deep-rooted faith values to join *culture is not optional (*cino) in Three Rivers as we work toward the flourishing of our rural city.
The 2017 summer internship runs from June 1 to August 12. Interns live together in our community house, work alongside our core community on our community development work, and learn together through an embodied curriculum. Interns are expected to contribute an average of 20 hours of work per week for *cino. Interns can also work up to 20 hours per week at local partner farms in the area to earn additional income. Here are the practical benefits of the internship:
- Living stipend (up to $1,000)
- Up to $2,000 at partner farms
If you have an interest in farming and gardening, planning special events, communications and promotion, or small business, read more about the intern positions we’re looking to fill this summer. Do you have a different set of skills that you think would benefit *cino and Three Rivers? Apply! Want to know more about what *cino interns actually do? Read reflections from last year’s interns: Chelsea, Lauren O., Lauren A., Tess, and Aubrey.
We’re also excited to announce our Yearlong Residency Program! Start as a Summer Intern and then continue as a member of the *cino community until the following summer. This program is a unique opportunity to experience the rhythm of intentional community throughout the year, allowing for deeper engagement with our neighbors and with the work. See our Residency FAQ for more information.
On October 7, those of us who currently comprise the core *cino community gathered at a retreat house near Three Rivers to spend time growing in friendship, sharing good food, and reflecting on the year past and the year to come. Like our past retreats, we enjoyed times of intense, meaningful conversation interspersed with rest and play.
This year, our time together helped us get organized around some specific priorities for 2017 and some new ways of working together to achieve our tasks and goals within those priorities. The four things that rose to the surface that we want to work on in 2017 are:
- Grow *cino’s food efforts.
- Grow our core community in both quantity and quality.
- Cultivate relationships—with our neighbors, city, downtown, donors, partner organizations…
- Make tangible facility improvements.
We’ve identified a number of measurable goals within these overlapping categories, including existing programs and new efforts, as well as discerning some things we’ll leave behind for now in order to make space to grow in other areas and be open to the gifts and interests of new core community members. We’ll continue to organize our work through weekly meetings on Mondays, and also to grow in relationship with one another and our neighbors through things like Monday nights at the Riviera Theatre Bar and Friday night potlucks. We’re also looking to support each other more as a community through collaboratively developing and sharing our own personal care plans for the coming year.
Forming the foundation for our work conversations during the retreat was a time of reflection on several readings that touch on the theme of work: how we do what we are called to do with deep joy and gratitude. The readings included a couple of essays from our online publications (one by Brother Abraham and one by Gary Guthrie), a poem by Marge Piercey, and a quote from Thomas Merton that I find to be particularly cautionary for our busy, committed group:
There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist…most easily succumbs: activism and over-work. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work… It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her)…work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
We also considered a quote from Kahlil Gibran that echoes Merton’s warning:
Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is
better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the
temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter
bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you drudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge
distills a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing,
you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of
With this balance in mind, we reviewed a first draft of a design for the Huss Project property, sharing questions and feedback. We know it will take a lot of work to move forward with this design, but we’re excited about the prospect of seeing some major progress happening in the coming year. To learn more about the design, visit a more detailed post with an image of the first draft over on the Huss Project web site.
If this all sounds like something you’d like to get involved in in some way, please let us know! We are very open to the participation of more volunteers and new core community members as we head into a new year full of good work alongside our neighbors in Three Rivers.
Every year, we look forward to a visit from Calvin College students who are ready to serve and learn about Three Rivers over their spring break. We had to cancel our plans last year on account of low registration, but this year we are grateful for a very enjoyable and productive week with five eager and passionate students!
Calvin College’s Service-Learning Center coordinates groups for a week of service and learning with organizations around the country. Along with the *culture is not optional staff, the five students followed a rhythm of life together: beginning each day with morning prayer, working for several hours at the Huss Project in the morning, eating lunch at the Rectory, visiting local community members around Three Rivers in the afternoon, and cooking and lingering at the dinner table in the evening over conversations both weighty and light-hearted. The group stayed at The Hermitage and St. Gregory’s Abbey, which offered an environment of rest and contemplation during a busy week.
At the Huss Project, the main focus of the work was preparing the gym to be converted into space for a woodshop. Willing hands took down the drop ceiling to make way for new lighting, installed pallet racking for storage, and hauled away metal for recycling. Removing the ceiling revealed that we might be able to collect rainwater from the gym roof for the garden! The Huss Project garden is nearly ready for planting, thanks to the students who pulled out last year’s plants and harvested over-wintered carrots. Some much-needed organizing also took place in the office and supplies areas of the building.
In the afternoons, we visited neighbors and community members to listen to their stories and to learn how they make Three Rivers a unique place. We visited with farmers (and harvested more carrots!), artists, business owners, civic and church leaders, and monks and spiritual leaders. We had excellent conversations about the challenges and the life-giving aspects of living intentionally in a place.
It was wonderful to spend a rich, full week with curious, engaged, hardworking students who are asking good questions about the world we live in. At the end of the week, instead of “Goodbye,” we said, “See you soon!”
Find pictures of the week on our Flickr album.
In 2010, the seed of an idea began to sprout when Three Rivers citizen Julie Keefer asked a simple question: what would it look like to organize a summer fundraiser for the Huss Project, which is an effort to turn an old elementary school into a community center and residential space? In the years since, Keefer’s idea has blossomed into one of the area’s most lively community events, growing bigger and better each year. The sixth annual Huss Future Festival will take place on Saturday, July 18 at 1008 8th Street in Three Rivers.
“We are thrilled to be partnering for the second year in a row with the Three Rivers Area Faith Community to host the annual Back to School Celebration,” said Keefer, who has served as the Festival chairperson for six years running. All school-aged children who attend the celebration with a guardian will receive a backpack full of school supplies and the first 300 kids to register will also receive a slice of pizza from Hovey’s Pizza. The Back to School Celebration will run from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. alongside a Coin Carnival, with a variety of activities and crafts provided by local organizations.
Beyond the Coin Carnival and Back to School Celebration, the Festival will feature a wide variety of activities from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Local musicians will provide live music all day long, and a rummage sale with gently used items donated by the community will benefit the Huss Project. Those looking for something to eat and drink can enjoy the coffeehouse, bake sale and farmers market. The farmers market will offer prepared salads for lunch, with Ambassadors for Christ Church bringing their famous BBQ.
The Huss Project is currently raising funds to build an outdoor pavilion that will benefit ongoing summer programming at the site, including a community garden, summer lunches for kids and educational workshops. Tax-deductible contributions are welcome and can be sent to P.O. Box 1, Three Rivers, MI 49093. Three Rivers Area Faith Community also welcomes contributions toward the Back to School Celebration, which can be mailed to P.O. Box 273, Three Rivers, MI 49093.