*cino Work, Hospitality, Leadership, People, Uncategorized

Welcoming new *cino staff: Ale Crevier

We’re glad to have Ale onboard with us this year at The Huss Project! Ale recently graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids with degrees in Literature and Linguistics, and is currently putting her love for writing to use at *culture is not optional with the storytelling team.

Ale grew up in the big city of Chicago with a big family of eight. Known as the “circus” to some, her family has fostered much of the craziness, joy and growth in her life. She and neighborhood friends would constantly be hanging out at the house in the summer, telling stories, building forts and playing frisbee. That the doors were always unlocked communicated a simple, but important message, (aside from a reminder to find the lost key) : belonging belongs in and outside of our homes and ourselves – with community. Hospitality isn’t really a choice we give ourselves, but an opportunity that lives in us and is required of us.

*culture is not optional’s commitment to hospitality – grounded in a vision toward play, food and art – was one aspect that attracted Ale to come to Three Rivers. She hopes to put her language skills to use as an AmeriCorps volunteer this year, researching the history of Huss, sharing community members’ stories and updating social media with The Huss Project’s programming.

Among other questions that she is asking herself, Ale is wondering how she might develop consistent, daily habits that contribute to her mental health and social life in positive ways.

 

 

 

 

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*cino Work, People, Three Rivers

Welcoming new *cino staff!: Anna McClurkan

While the summer is halfway over, we have a few more wonderful folks to introduce to you at *culture is not optional. We’re really happy to have Anna McClurkan with us this summer! Her expertise in education, agriculture, and environmental studies has benefited our staff greatly at The Huss Project. Anna grew up in Kalamazoo and is currently a senior at Michigan State University, having worked in community gardens in East Lansing.

Anna’s current projects at The Huss Project Farm have allowed her space to do more on the ground work. “Being in Three Rivers lets you take a step back while also diving right into a small project like this where you can focus on one plot or one garden and be able to make a bigger impact than if you were doing the same kind of thing in a larger city,” she said. “It makes it a little less overwhelming.”

With environmental crises occurring and looming, practiced-based knowledge is a key component toward educating future generations, Anna noted. She’s excited to be working on the field at The Huss Project Farm where kids at summer lunches get the chance to see what vegetables we’re growing and the practices we’re implementing.

Anna noted that, going into the future, sustainable efforts toward environmental action will prove challenging, due to constant changes. “We’re probably going to have to make changes to keep up with what’s been happening around climate change so that we can continue to grow food sustainably even in uncharted and unpredictable areas,” she said.

On July 23rd, Anna will be teaching a class for kids interested in how compost works and what solutions it enables for our soil. Check out our event on Facebook!

 

 

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*cino Work, People, Three Rivers

Renewed partnership with Camp Tavor

The *culture is not optional community is very excited to partner with Habonim Dror Camp Tavor again this summer! We will house their madrichimot (camp counselors) at our community house so that they can enjoy a time of respite on their days off. Campers and counselors-in-training will also be working with us for a few days at the Huss Project Farm.

Camp Tavor is a Jewish youth-development cultural camp near Three Rivers that is affiliated with the Habonim Dror Youth Movement. Their mission is “empowering young people to dream of and build a more just and peaceful future.” Located on Lake Kaiser, Camp Tavor seeks to engage their campers through games, creative adventures, storytelling, and lively conversation.

To begin bonding the two communities, *cino joined the Camp Tavor staff on June 14th for a tour of the facilities, followed by a Shabbat dinner that included good music, wonderful food, and great conversation.

We are very grateful and excited for this partnership and can’t wait to see what we accomplish together with Camp Tavor during the summer of 2019.

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*cino Work, Leadership, Organization, People, SUSTAIN *cino

Welcoming new *cino staff: Sugan

As the rhythm of summer has already begun, *culture is not optional is excited to welcome our new AmeriCorps members – Sugan, Jacob, Ale, Anna and Annelie! Our projects include food systems work at The Huss Project Farm, storytelling and promotions for *cino and Future Fest and construction for the Imaginarium.

This week we’ve asked the new staff to share how previous places they’ve inhabited inform their current perspectives and role in the world.

Sugan is a recent graduate from Western Michigan University and a summer associate here. They were born in Bundu Tuhan, Malaysia and have lived most of their life in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “The lesson I learned from Kalamazoo is that it’s important to invest in your community,” they noted. “What I’ve learned from spending time in Bundu Tuhan is that you have to draw upon preexisting knowledge. A lot of that knowledge comes from elders. So if you are going to take that model and apply it to non-indigenous and non-tribal settings, it would be talking to people who have been here for a long time.”

Sugan pointed out their appreciation for already having such interactions in Three Rivers. At the Water Parade in town, Sugan met Richard Price, a longtime resident of Three Rivers. He walked AmeriCorps members through several old sites on the walk, such as an old gas station where the Ridgeway Floral & Gifts now stands.

Getting to know folks in Three Rivers like Richard is an essential social value that, for Sugan, applies directly to *cino’s approach regarding other things like permaculture. In order to understand permaculture, we must understand its roots in indigenous cultures, where social and environmental aspects of agriculture are tied, Sugan noted.

Sugan’s involvement in Three Rivers – particularly working at the summer lunch program and Huss Project Farm – has allowed them to combine their interests in permaculture, community sustainability and education. “There is a certain type of empowerment, being able to grow your own food. That creates better connectedness between yourself and what sustains you,” they said.

One question Sugan has been asking themself is how to integrate self-healing work in the context of a systems thinking model. “It is ironic to be doing healing work—whether you’re healing the environment or community—and not healing yourself,” said Sugan. “My biggest question is how do I channel healing energy to myself as well?”

Stay tuned for future bios this week.

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*cino Work, Event, Organization, People

Accepting applications for three AmeriCorps summer positions

*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!

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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, People

A season of rest

Online and print publishing, annual camping conferences, intentional community, speaking engagements, a daily quote, summer festivals, storytelling nights, internship programs, service learning groups, an urban farm, maintaining an old elementary school building … The work of *cino has taken many forms over the past 16 years. In the past several months, it’s become clear that a prominent form for the next little while needs to be: Sabbath rest.

Kirstin and Rob, co-founders of *culture is not optional, will be observing 2018 as a sabbatical year—not a stopping, but a significant slowing down, and the *cino community is in discernment about what would bring joy to maintain through the coming year. Some initiatives will be put on hold for the year, including Topology Magazine, the daily asterisk, the summer internship program, and service-learning groups. Others, like the urban farm at the Huss Project, will get more focused attention.

Throughout the sabbatical year, we will still maintain our community house with space for long- and short-term volunteers. If you’d be interested in spending some time in Three Rivers in the coming year, please get in touch. From all of our faithful friends and supporters, we ask for prayers as we pay attention to the call to make space in our personal and organizational lives.

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*cino Work, Education, People

Living intentionally: Danielle Rendulic’s reflection

As is tradition at *cino, we asked each of our 2017 summer interns to share a reflection on their time in Three Rivers. Below is Danielle’s reflection; above: Danielle organizing books in our rummage sale for Future Fest.


Danielle Rendulic

A time to plant and a time to uproot

I first heard about *cino at a time when I was contemplating how it would be possible for me to live the way I had dreamed of living. Rob and Kirstin came to speak at a class I was in and I thought to myself, “that’s it, that how I want to be living.” It started because I wanted to evaluate what I had done with my life and where I saw myself going. Up to that point, I was riding mostly on track with the the typical road laid out for your average 21-year-old. I had just finished my first semester as a junior in college, had a part time job, and was looking into the career paths my major would undoubtedly hurl me towards. I was living in complete accordance with the mundane and standard, and no part of me wanted to be there. Thus, my resolution was to start living with intent; find the things I wanted to do, and do them. My summer in Three Rivers working with *cino taught me the craft of intentional living; how to eat, play, work, and speak as if we if we actually meant to.

At the beginning of the summer we planted. Digging holes in the ground to place new seeds, eventually to become our sauce, roasted roots, and spiced everything. Each Friday night at the Rectory, we could expect to see *cino friends and neighbors gathered together to share stores and food creations, usually along some unspoken theme of whatever had been harvested that week. There is something about knowing the soil, from planting to watching the dirt run off your hands in the sink that connects you to your plate. During this internship, I spent a long time becoming connected to my plate. I prepared food with my roommates over long ambitious worldview conversations, road my bike to the Huss Project to snip herbs for our meal, and cooked with the knowledge that our food would soon be bringing people to our table. With *cino, I learned how to love my plate, the food that was on it, and the people that were around the table with me.

Growing up, having people over for dinner was rare. In fact having a dinner with my whole family was rare. In my pursuit of intentional living, I wanted to be in a place where it was common to know the faces walking on the street. In Three Rivers, people do. Not just because it’s a small town, but because the community is deeply rooted through generations of interconnected stories of this place. Working at Huss, I would meet neighbors frequently who would stroll up to the building and say, “You know, I actually went to Huss.” They were excited to explain their past and, for many of them, share why Huss is the reason they stayed in Three Rivers. In the months I stayed here, I learned what it was like to be late because you were stopped on the street by someone who wanted to say hello. I’ve always wanted to live in a place like that, and in Three Rivers it took less than two months to get there.

I started out in this internship thinking that the people in *cino were actively living the way I had dreamed of and I wasn’t wrong. I have had so many conversations about the way we ought to live and work and being here was like getting first hand experience into that life. For all of my three months here, I lived the way I had fantastically imagined only to be possible in a very distant future. I planted food that would feed our neighbors, started intentional conversations, shared stories, and purposely explored avenues of art and culture. At *cino I learned how to work, eat, and play as if I had intentionally meant to do so.

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*cino Work, Education, People

Becoming rooted: Mariana Perez’ reflection

As is tradition at *cino, we asked each of our 2017 summer interns to share a reflection on their time in Three Rivers. Below is Mariana’s reflection; above: Mariana working the coffee shop at Huss Future Festival.


Mariana Perez

A time to plant and a time to uproot

My time at *cino has come to an end. On Sunday (August 13), I will travel back to my other homes in Grand Rapids and Wisconsin with a familiarity I greatly cherish.

This summer has been a unique 10 weeks for me. I graduated from college in May, and I will start my job as a nurse in October. I did my best to keep my mind from wondering into the future of October—I didn’t want to be preoccupied with the excitement and anxiety and whirlwind of starting, officially, the post-grad life. I also did my best to keep my mind from lingering into the past—it was, is, bittersweet to remember my old house, my housemates, my neighbors, the familiar sounds outside my window that would lull me to sleep.

I wanted this summer to root me to the past and to orient me to the future. Over the past four years, there are values and things (that aren’t actually things) that have become especially important to me: community, faithfulness, sustainability, kindness, hospitality, inclusiveness, family, friends. I was kind of scared that I would lose sight of, or forget, those values moving into this new phase of life, that I wouldn’t be surrounded by (or that I would stray from, and/or that I wouldn’t seek) a community that would foster those values. As I’ve ashamedly sang many mornings in church, “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.” Well, after this summer, after being in this place and being surrounded by the people I’ve been surrounded by, I’m less afraid of straying. I’ve become rooted enough, for now.

As for the oriented-to-the-future thing, well, I think I’ve come to a satisfying place with that, too. I think that I am sufficiently armed with the weapons I need to combat and not fall into the false ideas of what it means to live the good life. I’m still a pacifist; it’s just that it feels like a battle sometimes.

I’ve enjoyed my time in Three Rivers—strawberry milkshakes; the backroad to Huss; black cherry tomatoes; floating down the St. Joseph river; Thursday Farmers Market; blueberries; the light of the setting sun, eerie and beautiful, over the garden. I imagine that when I return to visit Three Rivers, I’ll return with a familiarity similar to the one I leave with.

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