I am on an incredibly steep learning curve during the process of bringing the vision of the Community House Network into reality. There are many pieces and moving parts. All of these serve our goal of helping people become empowered to share their gifts, be self-determined, and live their best life.
I have often spoken about the Shop-Co-op as a shining point in the project, and yet it has also been the part where I have encountered the most false starts. I have hired two professional carpenters, but neither of them could devote the time necessary. If I were to hire them for their typical fee, it would be prohibitive. We have made do, and it worked well for a bit, but now we are on an entirely volunteer staff, and I am just not equipped to handle the demands of working with power tools.
So, things need to change. Is this change of direction the right move? Am I losing focus of our mission? Bottom line, is this a pivot responsive to the needs of our community, or is it mission creep, taking the easy way out? What is the difference between a pivot and mission creep?
In our first conversation for entrepreneurs in the lecture series "If I Knew Then" I talked with my brother, Jim Larrison, founder of Dynamic Signal about how you start a business and his tip for entrepreneurs. He talked a little about pivoting in his plans as new information was made available. If you cannot adapt you will die.
In an interview with Manny Rodriguez who directs the start-up Revolution Workshop, he talks about Mission Creep, where we get away from the mission because of other opportunities that crop up and in fact we head off in a completely different direction without even wanting to do so.
In fact there has been mission creep going on for the past few months. Right now, the garage has been filled up with donations of clothing since our failed rummage sale. We didn't want to get rid of everything so we decided to use the lure of free stuff to try to build our connections in the neighborhood. It didn't work. Now the space is just cluttered and useless. Clearly, the giving away of clothes is also not aligned with our mission of empowering people be direct their own lives.
Then the idea came to turn it into a little stage space. There were several ideas that led to this.
First, over the past two years, I have been dabbling in song writing, and this past month I started a Free Music Collaborative as a way of sharing songs I had written and creating a space for other musicians and song writers to also share their work. The details are still being fleshed out. But, the idea of performing and sharing them with an audience, and also encouraging others to share their works is living in me. A stage space would be amazing to do this, and since the garage is not being used...you get the idea.
Then, for those who have been following our monthly theme here, it is all about writing. Two weeks ago, Marissa led us using a prompt and that stimulated a long lost interest in creative writing, instead of just academic or non-fiction. From this I started working on a play, a musical in fact.
When I let Chevy know we had to go to an all volunteer staff he took it well, and immediately started helping in the garage. Then the kids came by and they started enacting some scenes from a story they were developing. They had characters, and started writing a rap. None of them have shown as much interest in doing carpentry as they have shown in doing some sort of performance.
So I had to ask myself, is this in alignment with our mission? The answer is yes. More on this later.
It has been several months since I last posted in our journal. Due to our lack of fundraising success, we have had to move to an all volunteer staff. This is probably how I should have started in the beginning, but I was excited to have a staff at all. We now have several people who have been regular participants in our programming who are willing to do more.
Marissa Fandel has been an incredible help, providing both hands-on support, as well as networking. She has also helped with bringing more clarity towards our vision. We have asked her to become a member of our board of directors, and so I am excited to have her bring her genius to the table.
We also have long time participants in our programming. One such member is DJuana Lucas, who has seen clearly how to create supports for our recovery community through developing resource pages. She has also joined our board and so be prepared to see more information for those who want to join us on this amazing path of recovery.
Progress doesn't look like what I thought it would, and yet, it feels good to be at this point in our development. Stay tuned for more news from the frontlines.
I know with all of my heart that this project is good. I know that it will succeed. Even if what I am seeing before me doesn't always seem to be showing me success, I know that it is just the process.
If there is anyone out there reading this who believes that we can create loving community in our neighborhood, keep the faith alive in your hearts. Envision the world you want to see.
Believing is seeing.
We are struggling with our fundraising here at the Community House, and so we invite you to donate if you feel the goodness in what we are doing here.
But we are not trying to rely only on public support. We have been seeking grants. This tripped us up when we tried to submit a grant to the Community Foundation a group here in central Illinois. They stated they would not grant to Foundations. Not even operating foundations. So what do we do?
I have signed up for the "Assurance Program" at the Foundations Group, the organization that helped me start this project, and they have hopped on board to help me through the process of what we call "A Walk Out." Here I am transitioning from a private operating foundation to a public charity. In case you are wondering, the paperwork that needs to be filed with the IRS is an 8940.
Certainly, the first year I was obliged to be determined as a Foundation given that the entirety of our funding came from an individual endowment, funds that had been left to me as an inheritance from my step-mom Sue. But now that we are up and running, the goal is to become more of a publicly supported organization.
When I first asked about this, I was somewhat shocked to learn that the process takes 5 years. Five years of operating as a public charity before we will be formally designated as such. So, if that is the direction I want to go, now is the time to get started. Can we do it? That is the question of the day.
Here is a little piece of information, a total of 1/3 of the revenue stream needs to come from small donations (less than 5,000/ person), however, if a person donated 10,000, then 5,000 can still fall into the 1/3 bucket. Also, if you are charging fees for any of your offerings, those go into the publicly funded bucket as well. Finally, if the NFP is already holding assets, including cash, they are not included in the overall revenue stream. So, if I want to create one last endowment now, before the walk-out, those monies won't be held against our determination as a public charity.
Looking at the entire picture, I believe this goal of meeting the standard of public support shouldn't be too hard to accomplish.
We just completed our First Apprentice session coming up with the Qualities of Good Service, and if anyone embodies these, it is for certain that it is Griffin Heating and Cooling.
Owned and operated by Doug Ingersoll, this company has come to the rescue of the Community House Network on more than one occasion. Today he is installing a new furnace and AC unit. The old spider furnace, or body burner we liked to call it, is now gone and we have an efficient new furnace provided at cost.
Doug saw the good work we were doing and wanted to help out. His prices was nearly $10,000 less than the competitors. That is a lot, lot less. We are still figuring out our funding so this act of altruism has saved the day for us.
We are ever so grateful to him and his team.
This journal, besides sharing the progress of our emergence as an operating foundation, is also meant to be a useful reference or blueprint for anyone wanting to start their own NFP. The biggest challenge for me, has been a lot of the compliance elements of the program. It is almost tax time, and I am a bit freaked out. This year has been less complex for reporting than in the future I am sure because the funding has been entirely from a single endowment provided by myself to the foundation. Still, I am required to report all of the financials with regards to the use of our funds. I will create a breakdown that will be made visible soon.
I actually like data entry, and creating graphs, and all sorts of crunching numbers, but when it comes to filling out forms, that is a different story. Luckily the Foundations Group that has been instrumental to me starting this project has a program that will do this work for me. I will try to share all that I learn for those who cannot afford their services.
Stay tuned for more information!
What we have been waiting for has finally arrived. Our 501-3C status has been approved. There is no doubt in my mind that the Foundations Group was the critical factor. Also, finally filing the 990 with the IRS. Late, yes, but as is apparent by our success, better late than never.
It is interesting that I have been waiting on this status in order to begin formal fundraising, and I can tell you now, I think that was a mistake. All donations made from our original filing in October 2020 would have been approved for a tax write-off.
So many things are in full movement right now, I am not sure even how to begin this whole fundraising effort. Early in our start-up, we had made a decision to use a relationship approach to fundraising, based on the book, "The Generosity Network." I believe we have been working on our relationships, but so far we haven't had much success in raising funds.
Still, I have faith.
Keep your eyes open for our donate button as I make an attempt to navigate this process. And if you like what we are doing, please donate. You can even officially write it off.
I was looking at some notes I had written down when contemplating this project. One thing that is very important to me is to empower people to live their best lives. That really is the crux of the project. But the truth is, that even in being empowered, it doesn't mean I have to do it alone. I live my best life when I find the common purpose and share vision and my gifts in collaboration with others.
This project is attracting people who have good hearts, and want to give. Recently we had someone donate some food items that we couldn't immediately see us using in our after school programming. There was an initial thought that perhaps we could serve a role as a food dispensary. I was pretty tired at the moment, but it didn't feel right. It didn't feel as if it fit with our mission. I realized that we do not want to become simply a place to give things away. If we are not teaching someone something with our gifts, if we are not empowering them, we are creating dependence.
Once that part of the vision was clarified again, we came up with half a dozen things we could do with the food. All of these things inspired creativity, would bring the community together and also would feed our neighborhood while lifting people up. The point is that the vision is beginning to live not just within me, but within our team of amazing leaders.
Of course we don't want to create dependence. We want to empower people to be less dependent. But it is not about being completely independent either. We want loving community. We want connection with others. We want to share our gifts and realize our interdependence.
I have consistently struggled with how do I loosen the reigns. I don't want to be a dictator. I want to support the growth of others, and make it less about me and more about what the community members can bring to the table.
I can see that it is working. I am able to step back, and people can step in and shine their light. This was ever so apparent when during my time visiting my mother in Chicago, the team held a successful community event that even received media coverage. Thank you team!
In a project like this, it is so important that we allow others to contribute their own personal vision and mission to the energy of the project. No one has been more influential to bringing clarity to our vision that Kelly Beal and her personal mission to bring more kindness to the world through Keegan's Krew Anti-Bullying Campaign. It is only through allowing her own passion to come through that a clear direction for our shared vision is being realized at the Community House. Loving kindness really is the cornerstone for us all.
You can check out the story here.
The Community House Network is built on a philosophical framework that believes that in order to bring positive change you must focus on the positive. It doesn't mean you have to ignore the negative, but we can know the negative is there simply as a contrast to the beauty of all of the positive things we each hold within us.
There is a great deal of research around this. In fact their is an entire field of study devoted to it, called Positive Psychology. The pioneers of this field investigated the best of humanity throughout the world. They discovered that humanity has a lot in common when it comes to goodness.
The research showed 6 core themes to our strengths and virtues. Each month we focus on one of these themes at the Community House. This month it is Courage.
However, it is also the month of Thanksgiving, and that is most often associated with gratitude. Gratitude is such a powerful virtue. Gratitude opens the heart to receive. No wonder gratitude is associated with the theme of Transcendence.
Today I have so much to be grateful for. I am thankful for my family, for all of those who have joined me on this journey. I am grateful for a second chance at life through this beautiful process of recovery. I am thankful for all of the opportunities and even responsibilities that have been presented to me. I am thankful for true friendship!
Join us on Saturday, November 27th at 1PM for a Friendsgiving. Have some delicious food to celebrate and give thanks to all we have been given.
I can hear the people in our community crying tonight. A young boy was shot over at Cooper's gas station. That is not the first time, and probably won't be the last.
"Why isn't anyone doing anything?" I can hear them cry.
"Where are the police?" "How can this violence continue?"
I myself ask those questions too. I am angry too.
Last summer, I stopped a fight in the middle of the road in front of the Community House. Two gangs of boys had started jumping each other. I called out for them to stop. I told one boy that I knew and his brother to go home. I finally called the police. The police arrived and said they were told not to do anything when there was this type of fighting.
What is going on?
There is open drug sales and drug use down in front of the gas station. Just yesterday when I went to get gas, there were two men standing in front of the store, simply waiting. Waiting, I presume, for customers.
I have even seen people injecting drugs out in the open, just sitting on the curb facing the street. This kind of emboldened behavior is a signal that there is absolutely no fear of police. My neighbor with a developmental delay, had drugs given to her in a box of chicken. She was so afraid the police were going to get her, she came to me. Another neighbor informed me of the use of one of the abandoned stores on Sheridan being used as an illegal night-club. He said he informed the police, but they are actively ignoring it.
What is going on?
And now this. A young boy gunned down. The kids from the Art Garage knew this boy, and they are afraid. They asked me to walk them home from the Community House. They are angry and shocked and confused. What kind of world are we living in?
Our goal at the Community House is to help them to become Ambassadors of Kindness. To make a decision to help make this world a better place. To do what they can to spread peace, and stop the violence.
I think we need to stand up for peace! What do you think?
Join us on November 11th
at the Community House
2223 N. Sheridan Rd.
During our open hours from 3 to 6PM
An Idealist-Realist. Striving to Bring those Idealistic Dreams into Reality.