*culture is not optional (*cino)/The Huss Project is looking for three 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 3 – August 11, with a living stipend of $2,361.10 and choice at the end of the term of an education award of $1,289.95 or a cash stipend of $346.80. Housing is not available for Summer Associates. Applications are being accepted until noon on May 13 or until all three positions or filled, so apply today through the AmeriCorps web site!
Each fall for the past three years, the core *cino community has taken a weekend retreat to examine the past year, look at the year ahead and create space for sharing. This year, we stayed in a retreat house at GilChrist Retreat Center, where I work. Based on last year’s debrief, we expanded our time frame from one night to two, which meant we got to wake up on Saturday morning to one of the most beautiful first snows I’ve ever seen.
As the snow continued to fall, we began with journaling and sharing about where we are personally–what our significant experiences have been in the past year and what our questions are for the coming year. The space we created led to an important conversation about how at least two of our six members gathered at the retreat would be departing their work with *cino within the next six months, which was a critical realization for moving into planning *cino work realistically and with a clear view of impending change. Adapting on the fly, our Sunday morning conversation was an exploration of personnel, roles and responsibilities, and what kinds of people we need to keep moving toward the vision we have for *cino and the Huss Project. We also talked about an article on the disease of being busy, which is something we all wrestle with in various ways, both individually and organizationally.
These times of intense conversation were punctuated by shared cooking and meals, games, rest and plenty of walks in the winter wonderland. At our debrief of this year’s retreat, several of us shared a sense of feeling lighter and more hopeful when we left the retreat than when we arrived, which is a good sign that we’re on the right track in some way, and that we’ll look forward to gathering again next fall for a time of reflection and renewal.
Each Labor Day weekend for the past 22 years, citizens of Three Rivers have been coming together across all sorts of boundaries to enjoy Harmony Fest, a day of live music in the historic downtown district. For many years, World Fare, a fair trade store that *cino collaborates on, has been celebrating its anniversary during Harmony Fest. This year was no exception, with the store celebrating 12 years in business.
But this year, we entered a new collaborative venture by helping launch Harmony Fest’s first ever beer garden. For weeks leading up to the festival, *cino staff scavenged and hauled and strategized and painted to craft a beautiful environment that would encourage good conversation and responsible enjoyment of a great variety of Michigan microbrews. We wanted to create a fun space that would honor the incredible legacy of Harmony Fest in bringing community-building art to our great city. The result was a 5,600 square foot garden featuring locally grown mums, handmade picnic tables, reclaimed pallets and fair trade planters. Catch a glimpse by checking out our photos. Our participation in designing and building the environment and recruiting volunteers earned a portion of the proceeds for the Huss Project.
Congratulations to the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority and the Harmony Fest committee on another great event, and thanks for letting us be a part of it!
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.
As spring emerges here in Three Rivers, we are very excited to announce a few opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy each other’s company while we work the land together.
Coming up in May, join us any or all of three Saturdays to help get the community garden at the Huss Project rolling for the season. Produce from the garden goes to local families in need directly and through partner agencies. We also sell our veggies at the Three Rivers Farmers Market to help raise money to sustain the garden, and we’re thrilled that the farmers market will be participating in Double Up Food Bucks this coming season! Join us to help kick things off for 2015:
- May 2: Potato planting (2-5 p.m.)
- May 9: Garden clean-up (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
- May 16: Garden planting (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Whether or not you can make it one of these dates, we would love to have your help on an ongoing basis throughout the growing season as we water and tend our plants, and harvest good food for our community. Please get in touch about helping out through our online citizen interest form.
In case you’re looking for a weekend opportunity, *cino is also partnering to host a weekend gardening retreat just west of Three Rivers at GilChrist Retreat Center. Part of the Contemplative Ecology series, the weekend will feature both time to work together and time to rest apart. Participants can enjoy free camping or discounted stays in GilChrist cabins in exchange for doing some work on the center’s 67 acres. Other features of the weekend will include a shared meal, campfires and silent and guided meditation times. It’s sure to be a wonderful, restful, reinvigorating weekend and we’d love to have you join us! There are more details here and on the Facebook page for the event.
With hearts full of gratitude, we say goodbye to another year and anticipate 2015 with hope and discernment. Please enjoy this review, written by the members of our core community here in Three Rivers. Thank you for the many ways you’ve supported *culture is not optional in the past year! Our work is sustained by generous donations of all kinds and we thankfully receive your gifts of time, money, prayer and encouragement. Please be in touch about how you’d like to be involved in the coming year, and if you’d like to make a financial contribution, you can do so here. Peace be with you in the coming year!
- COMMUNITY: Volunteer partners come and go, while friendships remain
- SHARING: Telling tales and tasting treats
- PLAY: Growing friendships with our neighbors at Huss
- CELEBRATION: Creative connectivity at Huss Future Festival
- FLAVOR: Sharing fresh, local food with our community
- REFLECTION: Pausing to consider with catapult and the daily asterisk
- CONVERSATION: Discussing our core values, our community, and our future
by Jay Howard
The Rectory, *cino’s community house, was full of good food and laughter in 2014. Jay, Liesje and Deborah endured an exceptionally snowy, cold winter, looking forward to summer when four amazing interns joined the household: Seth, Alexandra, Kate and Nate. They were a wonderful addition to our group, bringing many gifts to the work of a prosperous community garden, exciting and creative Community Fun Nights, a glowing Future Festival and lovely Friday night potlucks. In addition, we hosted visitors from Project Neighborhood, a Calvin College spring break group and a service group from Palmerston, Ontario, who all helped out at the Huss Project and explored the Three Rivers community. Now as we make our way toward the end of the year, the Rectory will be losing one its inhabitants as Jay is heads to Grand Rapids to pursue new adventures. Deborah and Liesje, along with Rob, Kirstin, Julie and David, continue to gather regularly as a core group, sharing and discerning the focus of our work for the coming year.
by David Stewart
Preparing and eating food and telling stories has become central to what *cino does. This year we hosted Underground Supper Clubs on monastery grounds at St. Gregory’s Abbey and in the heart of downtown Three Rivers in one of the beautiful storefronts along Main Street. We told stories about our origins, local haunts, our favorite books, and about our love of food during storytelling events at the Huss Project. We want everyone to experience these sacred acts as fully as we do, something that has become clearer to us over the past year. There are stories in food, and stories in turn are food for the soul. It is our hope in 2015 to make more stories and to find more amazing ways to serve excellent food to the people who love it.
by Liesje Brouwer
Once again in 2014, Huss served as a site for a summer lunch program in partnership with Three Rivers Community Schools. School-aged kids in our neighborhood enjoyed over 700 lunches throughout the summer, gathered around the new picnic tables we built in June. In addition, the Huss Project hosted weekly Community Fun Nights where friends of *cino gathered for baked goods, garden goodies, games and crafts. 40-60 kids, parents and other neighbors attended each week—more than ever before! *cino invested in flag football gear, which was put to good use every week as we worked together with our young neighbors on building respectful relationships. We cranked up our jammin’ play list and ran around with kids and had conversations with adults and basked in the sun and learned a little bit more about one another. On the final fun night, all the kids gathered around and held a string attached to a homemade piñata, then collectively pulled their strings to break it open. The most popular piñata find: bouncy balls! Community Fun Night and summer lunches help us to stay connected to the neighborhood, and our neighbors. A big thank you to everyone who participated!
by Julie Keefer
The fifth annual Huss Future Fest on July 19 was a day full of activities that brought in over 600 visitors, community partners and volunteers — that’s nearly double the attendance in 2013 and it’s encouraging to see the festival grow as a fun, creative and safe place for neighbors to gather. Future Fest is the pinnacle of our summer for *cino staff, interns and volunteers who put in countless hours full of blood, sweat and, yes, even sometimes tears to clean, plan, paint, fold, mow, imagine, and clean some more. A highlight this year was partnering with TRAFC (Three Rivers Area Faith Community) to host their annual Back-to-School Celebration. We saw lots of families coming to the festival to join in the fun and get backpacks full of school supplies. In addition, volunteers from the Huss Project’s community garden sold quinoa salad and grilled veggies and brats, while the locally-famous Weenie King added his hotdog stand to our food options. This year we hosted our second Coin Carnival partnering with local organizations: Three Rivers Public Library, Red Cross, Save the Frogs, River Country Resilience Circle, Congo Cloth Connection/Florence Church, St. Joseph County Department of Human Services, Pregnancy Helpline, St. Joseph County ISD/Great Start, Animal Rescue Fund and Flowerfield Enterprises. Many local farmers also donated generous amounts of produce for our mini farmers market: Triple Ripple Community Garden, White Yarrow Farm, Bair Lane Farm, Corey Lake Orchard and Butternut Sustainable Farm. Dozens of volunteers also helped coordinate many activities for kids, a rummage sale, art vendors, workshops, art installations, a bake sale and live music. It was a joy to witness such incredible collaboration, which is a primary value we hope to cultivate at the Huss property. At the end of the festival, our *cino community, friends and festival attendees took the opportunity to celebrate in gratitude for the Huss Project’s fifth anniversary with a five-song dance party!
by Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma
Working alongside our neighbors, we continued to produce food at the Huss Project this year in our wild and wooly community garden. In June, we hosted a compost tea workshop where several of us learned how to create organic, nutrient-rich fertilizer for our gardens. Even as we struggled with a streak of vandalism, we distributed the garden produce to individuals and families in need through several agencies in our county. Beyond just our own garden, *cino helped publish a local food and recycling guide for our region. We also partnered with several local farms this summer to sell their produce alongside our own at the Three Rivers Farmers Market. After the market closed for the season, we gathered additional farm partners and opened the Downtown Harvest Market in a downtown storefront on Saturdays in September and October. Through these efforts, we shared and sold fresh, local food to a wide variety of people in our community, raising over $3,300 for continued food production at the Huss Project in the future.
by Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma
The question has come up with increasing frequency: what happened to catapult? With many changes in the lives of *cino community members over the past year, 2014 seemed like a good time to pause for a little while and re-imagine the function, look and structure of this longstanding online publication. We initiated a survey that gleaned rich feedback from both new and veteran readers and contributors and we look forward to digging into those ideas in 2015 to see what seeds show promise of germination in the spring. In the meantime, the daily asterisk has continued to be a provocative resource, drawing from many voices past and present, who speak insightfully to the pressing issues of our time with celebration and lament, encouragement and repentance, joy and critique. If you’re not receiving the daily asterisk already, you can sign up for the e-mail list here and dig into the archives here.
by Deborah Haak
For all of the hustle and bustle of the year, the *cino staff also made concerted efforts to sit, read, discuss, and dream. We gathered each week over the summer with interns to explore *cino’s core values, and that conversation has continued this fall and winter with a discussion of Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging. At the staff retreat this fall, we reflected on 2014, discussing *cino’s successes and shortcomings, evaluating roles and duties in light of staffing changes, and brainstorming where to focus our energy in 2015 and beyond — all while sharing delicious food and enjoying each others’ company!
Thanksgiving Day, Buy Nothing Day, Cyber Monday … we’re approaching a feast of “days” this coming weekend! Giving Tuesday is the newest one of them, designed as a way to encourage generosity for causes that serve the common good.
This year, the Riviera Theatre in downtown Three Rivers will be hosting a huge event on December 2 featuring local organizations, including *culture is not optional. The night will be chock full of live music, food, drink specials and opportunities to contribute dollars, as well as canned goods, toys and winter clothing. Our very own David will be bar tending for tips that will go to *cino, plus we’ll have an information table staffed by Rob and Liesje AND you can look for Jay in the bar wearing his Huss Project t-shirt and enjoying a drink for his birthday!
So come on out 6:00-8:00 p.m. to join us in celebrating good work in our community. And if you can’t stop by in person, you can certainly give online. Thank you for your support!
The next few weeks will be busy for the *cino gang, with lots of good learning, sharing, eating, field tripping and film-festing! Here’s what we’re looking forward to…
March 15: Project Neighborhood Retreat
45 students and mentors from the Calvin College intentional living communities will join us for a day-long retreat to explore community life after college and experience some of the things that make Three Rivers a unique place to live and serve.
March 22-29: Spring Break Service-Learning Trip
For the fifth year in a row, we’ll host a group of Calvin College students here in Three Rivers to explore themes like rule of life, place, contemplation, activism, agriculture, art, government, local business and more. We’ll stay at the Hermitage Community, and serve throughout the week at the Huss Project, wrapping up our time together with a night at St. Gregory’s Abbey.
April 4-5: Rivers of Justice Film Festival
This annual event, organized by World Fare and a committee of volunteers, is expanding this year to feature three films over the course of two nights (plus a potluck and a reception with complimentary appetizers, of course!). For a complete schedule and trailers, visit the film festival web site.
As the days in October wound down, the folks at *cino made a decision. We’d been through some transitory times this past summer, and we were feeling a pressing need to regroup. In sports terminology, we needed a rousing halftime speech after a first half full of ups and downs. This need manifested itself in a 24-hour retreat to St. Gregory’s Abbey on the outskirts of Three Rivers. The Abbey has long been a fixture in spring break trips and intern tours, and it’s a place where we all seem to feel a sense of peace. With all that has happened over the past year in our minds, and ideas for the future spilling from our mouths, we packed our sleeping bags and trouped off to the monastery.
So the simple question is: did we find our halftime speech? The easy answer is yes. We came away from the retreat with a clear vision of some things that need to be done, even if other things are perhaps still up in the air. We spent time together thinking about *cino’s vision, our roles within the organization, and what we need to communicate to the many people who aren’t directly involved in the week-to-week business.
In the 24-hour period that we spent at the Abbey, we were able to talk about some of the things that have occurred within *cino over the past few years. We’ve lost and gained people. We’ve raised a heck of a lot of money. We’ve brought ownership to the Huss Project, a building that serves as a foundation for *cino. We’ve brought members of the community into our fold, and made connections with people that are proving strong and enduring.
And so this retreat became more than just a getaway or a (very) short vacation. It was a much-needed break from the business of every day life, a chance for us to sit down and focus on one aspect of that life and try to see it for what it is. We hope in the coming year to continue to invite our many supporters and hopefuls into that vision. So stick with us, and see the best things that are yet to come!
Summers are a busy time for *cino folks. We tend to cram as much as we can into the good weather, and this summer was no exception (or perhaps it was as we crammed in more than usual!).This is a short list of what we did during the hottest months of the year:
- Paid off the mortgage on Huss, making it official *cino property!
- Planned and executed Future Fest, our biggest summer event, designed to demonstrate what’s possible at Huss and build community through creativity and food.
- Hosted Family Fun Nights every Tuesday from 6:00-8:00 p.m. to enjoy snacks, games and crafts with our neighbors.
- Continued our series of Underground Supper Clubs, a brand new fundraising effort in Three Rivers that is definitely making waves.
- Hosted storytelling nights for potential storytellers to come out to Huss and share their tales.
- Added to our Huss Stories series, with pieces on Gail Walters, Carol Boulette and Luther Channey.
- Worked on the school every Friday during the afternoon because there’s always something to be done.
- Hosted school lunches four days a week in partnership with the local schools because kids need food!
- Attempted to raise more money for the Huss Project through various grants and activities.
- Hosted the Calvin College Service-Learning Center staff for a day of training.
- And, of course, we continued to publish catapult magazine and the daily asterisk this summer before taking our traditional August publishing break.
With the end of summer upon us, we enter into a different phase of *cino’s work, one that is perhaps less stressful, but every bit as important. However, this particular year it is a bittersweet respite we face, as the end of this summer of 2013 has brought with it a host of goodbyes. The farewells began in the early summer with our first interns, Jonathan and Ginna, a pair from Costa Rica who came into the *cino community and infected us all with their enthusiasm and creativity. We then saw the arrival and departure of the other interns, Ainsley, Chelsea, and Jonathan (affectionately dubbed Jonathan #2), who brought with them new ideas and a willingness to explore the values and work of *cino. Interns coming and going is something we’ve grown used to at *cino, though we never relish the idea of their departure (and will often persuade them to stick around, if only for just a little while).
We also said goodbye to two longstanding *cino members in Stephanie and Chad, friends who have been integral to *cino’s development both as individuals and then as newlyweds. We know they will do great things in their new location, and their presence will positively impact all those they come across. Our final goodbye came recently, and it was with heavy hearts that the *cino moving crew packed up the belongings of one Emily “Battleship” Ulmer and docked her in her new home, where she will seek the degree she so richly deserves.
These are bittersweet farewells, certainly, but they are also hopeful ones because the connections we find and cultivate at *cino are the kind that last lifetimes, and we know that these goodbyes are temporary things. So we say ‘so long,’ though it may be with heavy hearts, and we take heart from a great human who once wrote, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”