*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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Education, Organization, Three Rivers

Celebrating Tikkun Olam

Last week, counselors and campers from Camp Tavor joined the *culture is not optional community to help practice Tikkun Olam at The Huss Project. Tikkun Olam is a traditional practice of service and healing to the world that Camp Tavor practices with each camping session, and The Huss Project is one of various sites they volunteer with during the summer.

To begin the day, the Tavor and *cino folks got to know each other with a couple ice breakers, including learning where home is for each person and what each person is currently reading (answers included Florida, Israel, and England, and Harry Potter, The Hate U Give, and Instagram!). Afterwards, they began working with *cino staff on many interesting tasks, including getting their hands dirty to help pot 100 trees for an event at the Huss Future Fest,  laying compost on the site’s tomato patch, and ridding the garden of pests. To finish out their time at Huss, the Tavor and *cino folks joined the summer lunch crew in the front of the building to help distribute lunches to attendees.

We’re very thankful for Camp Tavor’s service and can’t wait to work with them again in the future!

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Welcoming *cino staff: Annelie

We’re excited to have Annelie on board as a year long VISTA member for *cino! Annelie has been a part of our community for a few seasons now, contributing greatly to The Huss Project Farm, Future Festival and the Three River’s Farmers Market. We have greatly appreciated her presence, joy, and work these past few years.

We’re continuing with a series of bios this week, questioning how the places we’re from inform our collective work in Three Rivers. Annelie was born in Corvallis, Oregon and has lived most of her life there. Corvallis is a “hippie” hub for environmental activism, Annelie said, laughing. “Growing up around agriculture and nature as well as seeing this very intentional way of viewing the earth and we interact with it were very influential.”

After moving from Corvallis, Annelie’s perspective on environmentalism has shifted. While the Corvallis community offers alternative ways in which to care for the world, such as implementing solar panels and growing organic foods, not all of their practices are economically accessible. “Moving [to Three Rivers], I realized that the environmentalist movement is not made for rich people even though a lot of wealthier white people have kind of dominated the conversation,” she said. She has found many examples here of folks using their resources, imagination and time to expand the definitions of environmental work.

Similar to Sugan, Annelie has found the social model for permaculture appealing, drawing particularly on activist Pandora Thomas’ work. Thomas’ model focuses on how to address the felt needs of people who find it most difficult to get their needs met, Annelie noted.

Annelie has recently been asking herself the question of how and where to invest her energy. “I used to think I wanted to invest most of my energy in farm work,” she said. “Recently I’ve wanted to invest my energy in education…and getting people connected to resources for their own benefit.”

More bios to come!

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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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Now accepting apps for year-long AmeriCorps VISTA positions!

We have some great news! Starting in May, we’ll have three full-time AmeriCorps VISTA positions for people who will help us take our work to the next level in the areas of food systems, education, and economic development through the Huss Project, World Fare, and other partners in Three Rivers.

Experience with activities like social research, community development, event planning, education, program development, volunteer coordination, permaculture design, food systems, non-profits … these are the types of things we’re looking for in people who will thrive collaborating at a high level with a grassroots org in a funky, small, Midwest city. We’re looking for people with solid enough experience to function as peer collaborators in creative design toward significant community outcomes, in a spirit of curiosity, joy, and accountability. Here are four words that are floating around for us at the moment as we search:

  • Compassion
  • Collaboration
  • Innovation
  • Detail-orientation

Visit our listing on the AmeriCorps site to submit your application. Applications are open until April 15, but we’re looking to fill these positions as soon as possible to allow our VISTAs to plan for the mid-May start date. The compensation package includes:

  • A living allowance (just over $12,000/year)
  • An educational award (or end-of-service stipend)
  • Health insurance
  • Reduced-cost housing

Thank you for your help in spreading the word and please let us know if you have any questions! We’re really looking forward to this next phase of our community’s work in Three Rivers.

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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, Leadership, Organization

2017 *cino community retreat coming up this weekend

Each fall for the past several years, the *cino core community members have gathered at a cozy house outside of town to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next. In the past, we’ve invited in a friendly facilitator to help us explore our personality types and how they work together, and engage good questions about the interaction between our work and our selves.

This year, we’re keeping it simple with a self-guided retreat. As we’ve noted on the *cino web site and Topology Magazine, 2018 is going to be a year of slowing down, for Rob and Kirstin specifically, but that will have ripple effects for our entire group and the organization’s work as a whole. We’ll be discerning what to maintain in 2018 and what to let lie fallow, including what kind of community we need to build for the year to sustain the things we are committed to with a sense of healthy balance and wholeness.

Surrounding the discussion times will be plentiful amounts of hanging out, reading, eating, walking, and playing together. We always look forward to this time of renewal for our work and our relationships, and greatly value your prayers for discernment, wisdom, and joy as we head into some important conversations this weekend.

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