*cino Work, Building, Education, Event, Hospitality, Organization, People, Publishing, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

2014: Year in review

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

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.

 

SHARING: Telling tales and tasting treats

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.

 

PLAY: Growing friendships with our neighbors at Huss

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!

 

CELEBRATION: Creative connectivity at Huss Future Festival

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!

 

FLAVOR: Sharing fresh, local food with our community

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.

 

REFLECTION: Pausing to consider with catapult and the daily asterisk

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.

 

CONVERSATION: Discussing our core values, our community, and our future

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!

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Event, Organization

*cino joins Giving Tuesday at the Riviera Theatre

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!

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*cino Work, Event, Three Rivers

Coming soon: student groups + justice films

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.

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Event, Organization, People

Retreating: Volunteer staff gathers to reflect

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!

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Building, Event, Hospitality, Organization, People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

The end of another *cino summer

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.”

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Event, Hospitality, People, Three Rivers

Final summer storytelling night

It’s been a week of closure for *cino and the Huss Project. Earlier last week we had our final Family Fun Night of the summer, this week saw a bittersweet farewell to our remaining summer interns, and last Friday we had our last Storytelling night. The final Storytelling in our series of nights at Huss drew quite a crowd. Some were there for the food, some for the stories, and all for the chance to be around others and engage in something unusual for Three Rivers.

One thing we pass along during each storytelling night is the reason why we do this: *cino is passionate about storytelling. “The stories we tell and hear teach us and shape us,” said Emily Ulmer, *cino’s staff coordinator for this storytelling series. “Stories can challenge us to empathize with people greatly different from ourselves and stories can give us comfort at the end of a hard day. We are so grateful for all those willing to listen to the stories of others and those who are willing to share.”

And we are grateful. People who we might never have expected to share have come out to Huss and allowed us to empathize with them. We’ve had poems and prose, tears and laughter, and plenty of food to absorb it all.

This last night of storytelling was a strange mix. We had long moments of pause, people deliberating on whether or not they wanted to brave the microphone. But we also had more stories than on any other night, to the point where it seemed like we might keep telling stories until the moon passed overhead. In some ways, that’s the best type of storytelling experience. Knowing that people want to keep telling stories and keep listening is magic in its own way. And it was a lovely send-off to a summer full of stories, both told and un-told, and we hope that we can do even better next year. There are always more stories to tell, and the story of *cino’s journey in Three Rivers, and that off The Huss Project, is only getting stronger. We hope to see you, whether or not you’ve joined us so far, at next year’s summer series of stories. Until then!

 

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Event, People

Summer storytelling: My neighborhood

The idea of a neighborhood can take many forms, from a dorm community to a country road to a typical suburban lane. We found all of these archetypes and more as we gathered on July 12 to tell stories at Huss, a building in its own neighborhood with its own neighbors and enough stories to fill even its cavernous halls. If you listen closely, preferably at night when the story ghosts are strong, you might even hear one or two. We heard nearly a dozen.

  • Our first story involved the vandalism of a street sign by a spelling-conscious young lady; a woman whose convictions to see words rightly displayed overcame any reluctance she might have felt at tearing down a piece of city property.
  • Next up was a visual story, a snaking map of overlapping roads depicting important neighborhoods in the artist’s life; a picture worth a thousand words and probably more.
  • The third story was about pranks, and how a good-natured prank can help build the bonds of community just as well as a meaningful conversation or a shared experience.
  • The fourth story was about a neighbor, an older man helping out a younger, less knowledgeable man with the vagaries of controlled burns; a cautionary tale that warned us to be wary when lighting fires because you might lose control and need to be saved.
  • Our fifth story took place in the past, or at least in a re-enacted past on the East coast where history can seem both richer and more cruel, a place where the history of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars is as every bit as relevant as it was in its own time.
  • The sixth story was about Three Rivers itself, and how important it is to come together and be neighbors, and tell stories and heal wounds. We learned through the storyteller’s eyes what it was like to grow up in Three Rivers, something the majority of us had never done.
  • The seventh story felt like something from a Murakami novel, a surreal look into the differences of people’s lives when viewed from the alleyways behind their homes. We saw the difference between neighbors in Tuscon, who are forced to remain sheltered in their air conditioned lives, and neighbors in Three Rivers, who can often be found strolling along sidewalks, enjoying the often moderate climate.
  • The eighth story told of a darker time in Detroit, when anger and heat came together to cause riots in the streets, fueled by racism and influential to a young man’s path to ministry.
  • Our ninth story related to days of youthful judgement, and how parental choices in where to live can often be confusing until later in life when we’ve seen more of the story and can find understanding.
  • The tenth story was one of loss, and how the absence of a parent can alter our lives and neighborhoods in incontrovertible ways. We saw in this story how even parents can be neighbors (particularly if they live in the apartment above your own).
  • The last and final story told of foreign neighborhoods, and how different neighbors are in Peru compared to neighbors in Three Rivers. We learned that sometimes it can take more than a freshly baked pie to crack the shell of American privacy.

We will soon tell more stories. Our next storytelling night will be on August 9, and our stories will revolve around the theme, “When I Grow Up.” Join us at 7:00 p.m., bring a dish to pass, and tell us what you want to be when you grow up. All answers are acceptable.

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*cino Work, Event, Hospitality, Uncategorized

First summer storytelling night focuses on decisions

The summer storytelling season kicked off down at the Huss Project on Friday, June 28 with the thought-provoking and (to some) deceptively intricate theme: The Best Decision I Ever Made.

A day of cleaning and decorating again transformed the old kindergarten room of Huss School into a place of hospitality and attentiveness. As will be the custom for each storytelling event, food came first — potluck style — to quiet our bellies, lift our spirits and ease us into a mode of comfortable conversation after a long week of work and responsibilities (or night travel and weddings). Potted centerpieces sat on softly patterned tablecloths, and the light from assorted chandeliers mixed with the warm summer sunbeams that slipped in through the open door. As a first time attendee, let me say: *cino staff knows how to set the mood, y’all.

After the meal, emcee Jonathan Huang (a summer intern) took the stage (a stool) and began by reminding us why we dare to let our guards down and share a few pages from our personal stories: to cross barriers and learn from our neighbors. With that, the microphone was left to wait for the first brave soul. Nudges and whispered “No, you go’s” continued until *cino staff member Jay Howard groaned, “Fine,” and jaywalked to the stool. He was the first of many to fill the room with the tale of a single, often casual, choice — a choice that continues rippling through one’s life, rich and transformative, years after it’s made.

I didn’t share a story that evening — I’m still exploring my history of stellar decisions — but I felt just as much a part of the occasion as those who were bold enough to sit exposed. There’s nothing like a living room full of thoughtful friends, and that’s exactly what we found in that half-renovated learning space. We lent our eyes and ears for as long as any speaker needed, opened our minds to memory, and even hung on during the inescapable pauses that followed each, “Oh, shoot … I’ve got to backtrack.”

Join us for the next summer storytelling night on Friday, June 12 at the Huss Project (1008 8th Street in Three Rivers).  Bring a dish to share for the potluck at 7:00 p.m. and a tale to share for storytelling time from 8:00-9:00 p.m.  Listeners are welcome, too!

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*cino Work, Building, Event

Summer full of art, play and gardening at the Huss Project

With the event calendar filling up for the Huss Project, spending summer days at school has never sounded so appealing! From June through August, the *cino staff and local volunteers are offering an assortment of community-building activities centered on creativity, eating well and growing together.

Through August 6, Family Fun Nights are taking place from 6:00- 8:00 p.m. every Tuesday evening, and feature summertime games, crafts, healthy snacks and plenty of space to chat and relax. “There’s a little something for everyone,” said *cino co-director, Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, “And all ages are welcome, not just families with kids. We think of ‘family’ in terms of the supportive connections we grow with all people—not just those we’re related to.”

Botanical growth is also abundant down at the Huss Project this sunny season. People of all gardening skill levels are invited to come get their hands dirty and cultivate good food with neighbors at the Triple Ripple Community Garden, located behind the school building. “We hope that the garden will not only grow healthy vegetables, but healthy community as well,” said Vander Giessen-Reitsma. Volunteer hours are Tuesdays from 6:00-8:00 p.m. (during Family Fun Night) and from 8:00-10:00 a.m. Thursday and Saturday mornings. All are welcome and no experience is necessary! Interested volunteers can check out the citizen interest form online.

Also taking place at the Huss Project this summer is “Meet Up and Eat Up,” a program organized by Three Rivers Community Schools for school-aged children and teenagers. From June 17-27 and July 8-August 8, lunches are being distributed Monday through Thursday between noon and 12:15 p.m. Adults are also welcome to bring a lunch and enjoy it with the kids in the beautiful, shady yard along Broadway.

Finally, the fourth annual Huss Future Festival is just around the corner! The celebration, which will take place on July 20 from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., will “offer a glimpse of the potential for the old Huss property and provide space for people to get to know their neighbors and enjoy good food, creative activities and each other,” according to Vander Giessen-Reitsma. Alongside a wide range of both indoor and outdoor activities, there will also be an art installation, a rummage sale, food, a bake sale and live music featuring local bands.

All of *cino’s neighbors near and far are invited to join in summer activities at the Huss Project, which is located at the historic Huss School property at 1008 8th Street in Three Rivers.

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Building, Event, Fundraising, Three Rivers

Spring Break 2013: Service and storytelling

Spring has come to Three Rivers (as indicated by the calendar, if not by the weather), and with spring came a group of students on their spring break! Last week, six students came from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, to spend a week with *culture is not optional through Calvin’s Service-Learning Center (which was just recognized for their good work!). As in past years, we followed a basic rule of life, which included a work period in the morning and community exploration in the afternoons, with an hour of silence before communal dinner. Throughout the week, we focused on the rhythm of work and rest, being active and being contemplative, contained within a particular place. Staying outside of town at the Hermitage and at St. Gregory’s Abbey provided a nice change of pace for all of us.

The group made great contributions at the Huss Project, putting their muscles to work by removing drop ceiling in the old kindergarten room, pulling up carpeting in two classrooms, prepping the community garden for planting, and hauling away metal for recycling. We also helped out a friend of *cino’s at his downtown building renovation.

Afternoons found us on field trips around the Three Rivers community, meeting local business owners, artists, farmers, journalists, historians, and church leaders. More informal conversations took place across the dinner table, in the car, and on the sidewalk. The stories that were shared this past week will continue to intrigue and inspire us, whether we heard them for the first or the fiftieth time. Here at *cino, we love storytelling, and when we listen well to the people around us, we all can learn just a little more about how to tell good, true stories.

For more photos of the week, visit our Spring Break 2013 – Calvin College photo set on Flickr.

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