*cino Work, Education, Fundraising, Organization, People

Support two orgs with one gift this #GivingTuesday!

One of the things we’re all learning from the pandemic is how much we need each other

In 2020, seeing the increased need for food in our community and limited in what we could offer for special events, *culture is not optional / The Huss Project pivoted to focus primarily on fresh food production and distribution. Through our community partners and directly to local households, we distributed more than TWO TONS of free fresh fruits and vegetables.

While the Huss Project worked on food access, one of our neighbors, Geraldine Jaramillo, was continuing her work through Geri’s Resource Center to address barriers to success through advocacy, training, education, and support services.

As an expression of connection and mutual support, the Huss Project will donate 25% of any #GivingTuesday contributions we receive to Geri’s Resource Center. You can give through our Facebook campaign or web site. Facebook will match $7 million in qualifying donations to eligible US-based nonprofits starting at 8 am ET (5 am PT) on December 1, and continue matching until the $7 million match runs out. We also encourage those with enough to share to consider making a contribution directly to Geri’s Giving Tuesday campaign on Facebook.


We look forward to partnering more closely with Geri’s Resource Center once it’s safe to open the new Huss Project Imaginarium to the public, hopefully sometime in 2021. In the meantime, the Huss Project crew is expanding our food access partnerships, participating in trainings, researching, planning, and working on other projects—all of which you can learn more about the Huss web site.

While we hope for an end to the pandemic, let’s all continue to be creative and alert to both the needs and the potential in our communities. Pandemic or not, we need one another to imagine and realize flourishing for all people in our neighborhoods, and we’re grateful for both your good work and your support!

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*cino Work, Building, Education, Event, Fundraising, Hospitality, Leadership, People, Rectory Stories, SUSTAIN *cino

Summer snapshots at a glance

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!

To summarize:

– 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.





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*cino Work, Building, Fundraising, People

*cino purchases a new community house!

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!

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Building, Fundraising, People, Three Rivers

Crowdfunding campaign launched for the Huss Project Imaginarium

$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.

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*cino Work, Fundraising, People

Donate to *cino once…or monthly!

People often ask us how we fund all of the projects that *cino is involved in: publishing Topology, running a summer intern program, developing the Huss Project, running the community garden…  Well, we try to follow the good rule about having diversified funding sources, including fundraising events like our popular Underground Supper Clubs, produce sales at the Three Rivers Farmers Market, speaking fees and program fees for things like our college spring break trips.

But since the beginning over 13 years ago, we have always had a foundation of individual donors like you who have chipped in as they’re able to support the overall work of the organization. These periodic and monthly donors represent far more than dollars to us, providing a resource that is perhaps even more critical than money: encouragement. As you might imagine, there are many moments when we feel overwhelmed at the helm of a small non-profit seeking to do good work in a small town. Seeing a check in the mail or an online donation notification warms our hearts because we know that someone near or far has *cino in their thoughts and prayers, and decided to extend a tangible gesture of their care.

If you value *cino’s work, please consider giving a gift of support on Giving Tuesday (December 1) or anytime before the end of the year. You can give one time or monthly through our secure online donation page, or if you’d rather do things offline, please send us a message with your phone number and we’ll be glad to get in touch. Thank you for considering a gift to *cino amid all of the other wonderful, creative work in the world that needs your encouragement!

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Event, Fundraising, Hospitality, People, Three Rivers

Creative collaboration at Harmony Fest

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!

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*cino Work, Fundraising

Finishing 2013 and moving into the new year!

To request a 2014 *cino sharing calendar, which is being assembled in the above photo, please contact us!

As we deepen into the season of Advent and anticipate the celebration of God’s great gift to humanity, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months of work with *culture is not optional, which has taken the form of publishing, community development, events and intentional community.

2013 has been a wild, wonderful year in which the members of our volunteer staff have pushed ourselves to grow individually and collectively.  Our community of supporters has responded graciously and enthusiastically, reinforcing our commitment to serve joyfully alongside our neighbors in Three Rivers, while reaching out beyond our small town through publishing and education.  We’ve said hello and goodbye to new and old friends, and closed out the year with a huge party.  In addition to hours and hours of volunteer time in the form of writing, organizing, playing, creating, welcoming, gardening, cooking and more, the Huss Project Brick Campaign has raised $77,100 to date to pay off our mortgage and begin funding renovations on our building.  What abundance!  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed feeding our friends delicious food at Underground Supper Clubs, Friday night dinners and storytelling potlucks.

Through a fall retreat, weekly staff meetings and monthly virtual board meetings, we’ve begun the process of setting goals for the coming year, which include:

  • Sustaining and growing our programming in Three Rivers: the community garden, Future Festival, summer internships, Family Fun Nights, service-learning trips, summer lunches, storytelling nights and art installations.
  • Continuing on the path of organizing, problem-solving and resourcing around occupancy for the old kindergarten room at the Huss Project.
  • Strengthening institutional partnerships with local organizations and regional colleges.
  • Cultivating supportive relationships with local businesses.
  • Growing our structure for leadership within our organization and with the greater community.
  • Increasing our monthly donations from the current level of $1,240 to $2,000.

Toward the goal of increasing monthly donations as well as continuing to foster a sense of sharing among our community of supporters, we’ve created a special sharing calendar for 2014.  Please get in touch if you’d like us to send you one.  Calendars feature *cino-ish quotes for each month, along with a short description of what our work consists of at that time of year.  You can use it however you like — as a reminder for a monthly gift, as a suggestion of what to hold in prayer, as a source of ideas for offering skills or resources, as encouragement for your daily life.  We would also welcome a special end-of-year donation for 2013 if you are able, which always goes a long way in helping sustain our work from one year into the next.

Thank you for continuing to hold *cino’s multi-faceted work in the light with your prayers and generosity.  May you be surprised by joy in this season of expectation and wonder!

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Building, Fundraising, Organization, Three Rivers

The Huss Project wins $1,000 grant

Wow!  We were so encouraged by all those who voted for the Huss Project in the recent Facebook contest run by the Three Rivers Area Community Foundation.  Over 100 of our friends voiced their support on the TRACF page!  We’re looking forward to dreaming with our board and volunteer staff about how to direct these special funds in a wise and creative way that supports our current strategy to get a room at the Huss Project up and running by December 31.  Thank you to all who voted and spread the word, as well as to TRACF for the generous gift toward *culture is not optional’s community development work in Three Rivers!

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Building, Fundraising

One month … and less than $10,000 to go!

Thanks to the amazing generosity of supporters near and far, we are less than $10,000 away from our big $50,000 goal with just under one month left until June 15 when our mortgage is due.  We know we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are so proud of the progress we’ve made so far through your support.  Notable accomplishments have included:

As we continue to raise funds toward our goal, we’ll also be busy preparing for loads of summer programming around the Huss Project, including Family Fun Nights, the community garden, summer interns and lunches for local kids.  Rest assured, we’ll keep you posted on all fronts!

Please consider buying a $100 brick to help us meet our $50,000 goal.  If you can’t purchase a brick, please consider donating a smaller amountevery contribution helps!  

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*cino Work, Building, Fundraising

Will we lose our building June 15?

Last week, we announced a change in the goals for our Brick Campaign, which is an effort to raise $100,000 for *cino’s Huss Project through the sale of 1,000 bricks for $100 each.  Essentially, we’ve extended the timeline to reflect our actual progress and prioritize a critical deadline: we need to raise $50,000 by June 15 to cover the balloon payment on our mortgage.  Many generous donors have helped us reach our current status of $35,800 — amazing!  We’re well on our way, but certainly not out of the woods yet.

While the Huss Project is just part of *culture is not optional’s work, it’s a project that’s really been growing and thriving in interesting ways over since we purchased the historic Huss School in 2009.  The Huss Project sprouted out of a desire to practice — on the ground, in a place — the ideas *cino has been talking about through conferences, an online magazine and other publishing efforts since 2001.  As such, the Huss property and the surrounding community of Three Rivers, Michigan have provided fertile soil for exploring what deeply rooted values of love, compassion, justice, hospitality, imagination and peace might look like, lived out in a specific time and place.

There have been abundant joys and challenges in this journey of the past few years, and the looming June 15 mortgage deadline is certainly the challenge we are most conscious of at the moment.  But the joy is present there as well: if we reach this deadline, we will own the building outright, freeing up $500 a month to begin investing directly into infrastructure improvement and even more programming.  We hope you will join us at this critical moment in our efforts to practice resurrection in Three Rivers and beyond!

How you can pitch in:

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