What services will the resource center offer?

So, now you have a better idea of what’s available tangibly at the resource center. You can visually get a cup of coffee downstairs, hang out a little, check out some local artwork, listen to a little music, wander upstairs, and see better what’s inside. We’ve looked at the interior… now, let’s look at what the resource center offers.

First off, I think it’s easy to think that this will be a place that will offer emergency services. So, let’s clear up any misconceptions early on. The purpose of the resource center is not to provide emergency services (food pantry, emergency shelter services, etc). I do not feel equipped to focus my efforts on emergency services. If emergency services are needed, we will have information and contacts – real people we can connect folks to, who can intercept people with these needs.

common_ground_logo1The resource center is a “middle ground” for people. They may be in varying degrees of poverty: including the working poor – people making $7 and $8 an hour trying to survive, folks on unemployment, etc. Our focus will be to bridge the separation between the working poor… the just-making-ends-meet middle class… and the middle class. We’ve got a lot of programs and emergency services targeting homelessness and the indigent working poor – services that help people become self sufficient. Which is awesome! But, what happens next? We’ve gotten folks self sufficient, now what?

How do folks know how to make healthy choices? What do those choices look like? What is a healthy decision? Do you always know what is healthy for you? I don’t. I think many times, we think that once people are self sufficient… that’s it. That’s all they need… they’re fine now. They’re on their own. We’re on our own – you and me… we’re self sufficient.

But, it doesn’t stop there. Is it better being left alone with no guidance? I don’t like that for myself… and I don’t think that’s good for other people. So, let’s continue guiding, teaching, and empowering. Let’s continue to take an interest… and not just with the people we consider less fortunate. If you think about it, everyone at some time in their lives, go through some type or varying degrees of difficulties.

Let’s take a look at what’s being offered at the resource center…

active-spokes-736015I want to create an information hub… a place where people can access needed information, get answers to questions or be directed to a real person who can answer their questions. Information will be available related to neighborhood happenings and concerns, social justice issues that affect daily lives, and resources for job, housing, and food.

We will offer hands-on training classes (the heart of the matter) focusing on job and housing resources: GED classes, job training, how-to classes for do-it-yourselfers, the realities of homeownership and renting, and gardening. There will be a one-on-one mentoring program in place and classes to teach life skills.

Community space will be available for special speakers, non-profit organizations, churches, job networking groups, city meetings, neighborhood planning meetings, and garden groups.

There will be a reward program for using the resource center. More on this later.

Want to know more? In the next few posts, I’ll be pulling apart each one of these services in more depth.


Introduction: The Community Resource Center

So, why a resource center?

Well, just like the coffee house, it was a natural selection. A resource center is another way of building community and strengthening the neighborhood. An information hub. Local happenings. A place where people can come to learn, be trained, and be equipped. See a familiar face. Ask questions. Receive one-on-one mentoring/guidance. A place where they can learn to fish.

fishingYou know the saying… give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day… teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. The goal of making information accessible, resources available, mentoring, and training classes is to teach the man to fish for his lifetime.

You’ve already realized I have a passion to build community. Well, I also have a passion to see people succeed in their lives. My heart is wired for outreach. Equipping. To serve. Empowerment. Compassion. And… to model mercy.

I am a connector. I am internally wired to help people, to foster connection. Connecting people to each other, to what is around them, and to healthy solutions that fit their lives. And… I love doing it.

This resource center is about connection. Sustainable living. Collaboration with existing organizations. Partnering. Creating good clear communication. Creating strong healthy programs that fit the needs of the people/population group. Creating classes that provide hands-on training. Not duplicating what is already out there. But, finding the gaps and filling in. If the resources already exist, we will make the information accessible and direct people to the appropriate contacts. Contacting our partnering organizations and introducing the person. Taking an interest.

Building Community with a Coffee House… The Pièce De Ré⋅sis⋅tance

I’ve saved the best for last!

What I’m most excited for… are the dinners. The special dinner events that bring people of the community together.

Now… this is partly why I’ve envisioned a coffee house instead of a cafe. The simplicity of the vehicle… for the events that we offer to stand out. And most of all, I want this to stand out.

Can you think of a meal that was one of your most cherished or most favorite?

What were the smells, the tastes, the sounds… who were the people? What made it so special?

jarsIn my previous church we had a congregation wide dinner ministry (dinner for eight). With the concept that eight people would bring a dish to share (potluck style) to an assigned host’s home. I love being involved in these kind of meals. They give people the opportunity to get to know other people. By a simple meal. Breaking bread together.

Some of my most favorite meals were when I rented a big three bedroom house in New Jersey, when I was working in Interior Design. Friends and new DSC06068connections would come and gather at my newly acquired residence for any holiday from Thanksgiving to Arbor Day. I had this big house & I wanted to share it. We converted two ordinary tables to fit 12-14 people — by using a 4×8 piece of particle board. Draping it with bed sheets (table clothes) and center pieces. Dishes were mismatched… no one cared. Everyone brought a dish to share… there were music, games, laughter, and wonderful memories.

210007307I want to host special dinners for people in the community with a similar bent to what I hosted in New Jersey. Serving family style… delicious food… a long dinner table set… with mis-matched colorful china and dishes… vintage cotton table clothes. Glasses… mason jars for flowers… dish towels for napkins (an idea recently seen at Foodheads during a catering event). Place settings a-symetrical… with very few… if none at all the same. Symbolizing diversity.

Food would be brought in via local catering companies.

This is where community is… around the table… breaking bread together.8b22432r

How does this work… we knock on doors… meet our neighbors… and personally invite. This is where I hope some of the barriers come down. We invite those who cannot afford next month’s rent and those who can. We serve. We offer a meal, a safe place, a comfortable environment. True hospitality. Authentic connection for real people living real lives.

Can you see it?

I can!

Building Community… Through Art and Music

So, we’ve been talking about a community space where people frequent… the nucleus of a neighborhood. A gathering place.

Breaking down the components of using art and music to build community…

You’ve seen it… you’ve gone into a local eatery or coffee shop and there is a local artist (from the city or area) exhibiting their works. What I want to do looks somewhat similar, but the purpose is not to generate exposure to a local artist to help promote their works… to generate income for them. But, to build community. Build conversation. Build connection. If the exhibit generates exposure and they get income… that’s a bonus.

Who’s works would you envision on the walls that would accomplish this?

child-painted-handsIt’s time to think outside the box. We have artists everywhere! What about the sixth grade class at the local elementary… just down the street, or the elderly gentleman who’s been creating toilet seat mailbox 029sculptures (Barney Smith – San Antonio), or the autistic man who communicates through paintings. Maybe it’s the woman who creates the funky mailboxes, or the sixteen year old who is dreaming of creating custom shoes… maybe there are independent film makers trying their hand at documentaries. Who are the local artists? Not the up & coming artists that want to sell their wares. But, who do we have who live in our zip code who create, paint, photograph, collage, draw, sculpt and film?

Let’s use the same concept for music.

3372483487_d83a994034Who are the local musicians? Is it the guitar instructor who’s been giving lessons, is it the worship band or church choir, is it the 4th grade class recital, maybe it’s the teenage garage band… or a local saxophonist. Who are the people who reside in the community that sing, tap, jam, rock-out, and lift up a joyful noise… via instrument or voice? These are the “local musicians”.

Make sense?

Some events we would have to showcase the local artists and musicians in the community may include a local independent film festival, reggae night, folk night, praise night, perhaps a local recital. Maybe we rock it out with the teenage or college garage band.  Maybe we showcase the paintings from an organization that helps emotionally troubled people communicate… or vision board collages from job seekers. Maybe we have a talent show… or a coloring contest and exhibit the contenders.holding-hands

I want to showcase the talents from the people who live in our zip-code… who may not be up & coming, but, are people that love what they dabble in or communicate through the arts. Our not so average neighbors. How would we know about their talent unless we give them an opportunity to share? Or, give them a voice?

So simple, it doesn’t have to be complex. And, how do we do this? We knock on doors.

It all fits together.

In the poll I presented a few weeks ago, I was surprised that no one put down entertainment as a reason to revisit a favorite coffee house or eating establishment. Some of my favorite coffee houses included the entertainment.

The coffee house… getting to know the neighbors.

So, how does this coffee house stand out from all the other ones?

The goal is not to merely exist just to make a profit. Or, as an establishment you drive by, walk in, sit down with your laptop and have a cup of coffee… shop. The differences are in the connections with the people who live and work in the surrounding area and how those connections are established and nurtured. And, why. The goal is to strengthen the community. To partner businesses. To connect people to each other and to what is around them.

Nwe-Screen-DoorIt’s all in how we do things.

To be a nucleus of a neighborhood… ties must be formed. Otherwise, there is no nucleus. So, to build or form relationships, we first must know who people are. Who is the neighborhood? Who are the people that make up the community? Who are the businesses? Who are our city officials? Who are the law officers? Who represents our community/the region in which we live.

The same is true for learning the demographics… for learning who the customer is.Homeless cuddling dog by Kirsten Bole 100 dpi

Who is the woman who lives two houses down in the blue and white house, with the funky mailbox? Who is the man who stands on the street corner with a sign saying “will work for food”? Who is family with four kids, where the the dad lost his job? Who is the woman who was just promoted to management, she lives down the street… you know the one… the one with the big dog? To build community, we first must know who people are. What is their story?

So, how will we do this?

Outreach. By knocking on doors, taking time to canvass and get to know our neighbors. Learning their stories. It’s not done by handing out surveys. We’ll take a proactive approach… listen to concerns, understand individual needs, and connect. Building trust. Offering hospitality and invitation.

In the next few posts, I will be pulling apart how art, music, and local events (tied to outreach and hospitality) will play an intregal part in building community within the coffee house.

Revealing Community — Gaps and Insights

Jumping right in… gaps.

So, my gaps… wow, heavily gaping in the area of health.

I think I am going to focus my insights solely in this one area. I didn’t have to do much drawing to see how visually barren my illustration was in the quadrant of “health” which could be a sub-title under the quadrant of “self”.

What I’ve learned is, I don’t feel as though I can openly discuss my health woes with many people. Maybe it has to do with the desire to keep private things… private. I’m fairly outgoing and I love people. But, I like to keep my private affairs… just that, private. After all who really wants to know about what kind of pain I’m having? (This is what I tell myself.) I don’t want to burden friends or have people feel sorry for me or worse… have my concerns be excused. I want to be able to express my concerns and anxieties…. and be validated.


What I’ve learned through the years is that I have to speak up to let people in, be heard, validated, and to find a solution to take place. Not so easy for the tight lipped. As it seems, my gaps in the “health” realm cover everyone from very personal contacts (I do have a couple close connections I can call on)… to physicians. More in the realm of health care providers. What makes it worse for me, I don’t like feeling that I have to rely on a random doctor I’ve seen only once… for a referral to go to one that I’ve never met. Which sometimes keeps me from actively seeking any out.

So OK, you can see some holes.

Going back to… speaking up and letting people in. This is key. I could ask my local friends (give them a little information about what’s concerning me) for health care providers they trust. And, then I’m benefiting three fold, I’ve let people in, built some community, and hopefully received a good contact for the future. Win…win… win.

More insights…

A question was asked at group on Monday… “how do you feel as you see your personal network unfold visually? How does it feel inside your body right now… knowing you can ask these people for help?” Most people responded with: “relief, I feel good knowing I don’t have to do it myself, cooperative, empowered, can learn a new perspective”… all very good.

My response was… I feel connected, secure, supported, capable, warm & fuzzy… like there is a solution somewhere. And, then I started feeling in my body… uncertainty and vulnerable.  Uncertain to how my network would respond to my needs.superchick_megaphone_logo_hi

So… then I have to tell myself again… open your mouth & let people in… speak up “Garner Girl”! I can’t assume what people’s reactions are going to be.  I can’t build true authentic community if I am not first transparent myself. It hurts me the most, if I isolate myself. I lose out, am disconnected… and no one really knows what’s going on. Relationships aren’t built. No solution can be acheived that way. So, what I’ve learned… grin… grit your teeth if you have to… let people in… and ask for help. It’s a good thing.

Revealing Community — The Exercise

As promised, I wanted to share with you the exercise we did in my networking group. Thanks to Laura leaving a comment on Monday’s post, you can access this and many other useful exercises via the book ” The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life” by Renee Peterson Trudeau (2006, Balanced Living Press). Check out her website.

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Renee, I think when I can scrape together some funds, I might look into some sessions with her myself. She and others in her firm do work/life coaching, trainings, and work shops. I’ve always been passionate about teaching others life skills… so, shoot I think I could benefit from a little life coaching myself. Plus, I like that she is a career strategist (great for changing careers). I like strategy. Strategy is good.

OK, let’s get to it…

pen-and-blank-paper-300x225First things first. Grab a blank sheet of paper (colored, printer, college ruled… they all work). Next, draw a smallish circle in the middle of the page and write your name in it. Next, on your blank page with a circle in the center, draw a large circle around the perimeter of the page. It should be near the edges of your paper. It should look sort of like an Avocado with a pit in the center. Now, divide your large circle/oval into four quadrants (do not draw lines through your smaller circle containing your name). On the outside of the large circle, in each quadrant, write these catagories: self (or: close connections), family/friends (or: new connections, the secondary and/or tertiary layers), household, and work community. And lastly, from the smaller circle containing your name, draw 2-3 smaller lines shooting out like sun rays in each quadrant. Make sense?

Now… the object of this exercise is to identify who you already have in your personal network. And, the visual illustration will help you see that… wow… look at the reality of how you are connected. It will also help you determine where your gaps are.image2

From here, make a list of ALL the people you have in your life. Include in this list: doctors, financial advisors, repairmen/repair friends, mechanics, hair stylists, therapists, life coaches, mentors, meet-up friends… advisors in whatever you need advice in. And, also include your work community, co-workers, advisors in resume writing, job coaches, networking groups, etc. Include close friends you can call on when you have a crappy day or need help with an errand…. or you need a vacation… friends you go away with.  Include family and other supports.

OK, hopefully now you’ve got a good sized list made.

connected1_id145844_jpg_Start plugging in all these folks into your drawing. It’s from there, you’ll start to see how well you are connected. You aren’t alone. You don’t have to do all this by yourself. You’ll also see what areas are missing support. The gaps.

I know I promised insights I’d received and where my gaps were being revealed… let’s save that for the next post. Otherwise, you’ll want to get a cup O’Joe to read a long-winded post. So, instead, use this time to see what was revealed to you in this exercise and determine in what areas you need more connection or you’d like to build up more support.

Revealing Community – On the Coat Tails of Worry


This last week has been filled with worry. If you read my last post, you know I’ve been a little concerned about health coverage. Last week, I came down with some sort of respiratory thing that seems to have gotten everyone down from New Jersey to Texas. What it is… I don’t know. It seems to be a mix of different things. Sinuses, chest cold, sore throat… Jeff thinks possibly a strain of the Swine Flu.women_in_kidney_stones_pain

My cough seems to be getting better, but with more gunk coming up. I haven’t slept much. What’s made me the most concerned lately is pain flanking my kidneys and the symptoms that have been keeping me up most nights recently.  As you could imagine, worry, worry… worry. Note: I have an appointment with a Urologist tomorrow morning.

P1050273If that isn’t enough, today has been a bah humbug sort of day. The sink backed up due to a leak in our garbage disposal. It’s been that way for a week. There are dishes piled up everywhere, the trash smells… and when I open the refrigerator door… all the food crammed on my shelves (my room-mate’s shelves are well organized) falls out. Hrumph! To top it all off my toilet has backed up. I pray it doesn’t over-flow… it looks disgusting! I think it’s time to call somebody!!

Sound familiar? What do you do… and, who do you call? Something tells me the Ghostbusters aren’t gonna help in this scenario.

Well, it’s Laura to the rescue at New Creations. What a good group session today! On the coat tails of worry and stinky (literally) days. I went to my networking group. And, wouldn’t you know it… guess what we talked about!  Building your personal community (people you call onrotary-cell-phone) and where you feel like you have gaps (when you feel you don’t have anyone to support you in specific areas).

debriefer maytag repairman richmondWe talked about the difference between personal and professional networking groups… and the importance of both. Today was mainly about how to build and maintain your personal network. Identify who they are. Are you connected in the important areas of finding support for work challenges, household dilemas (the water closet backing up), healthcare (doctors, dentists, chiropractors), do you have people to call on when your having a crappy day, when there are things that are out of your control (life coaches, counselors, mentors), when the bills are piling up and you have no idea how to pay them (financial advisors)…and the list goes on.

Also included was how you feel asking for help (getting in tune with your emotions) and how it feels to have people to call on to help you out with all the stuff building up in your life.6a00e54ef6fd3b883400e551c5adcd8834-800wi

The question for peer support today… where are the gaps in your personal network?

After a week of worrying about health concerns, financial woes, wondering when I would have time to study my GRE book, and dealing with the sink backing up… I could answer that question.

In my next post, I’ll share with you the exercise we did – identifying our personal network (We made a visual illustration. I thought that helped put it in a bigger perspective.) And, maybe share with you some of my gaps… as well as some of the insights I picked up.

Building Community with Local Food Movements

A friend of mine, Steven Hebbard, spoke at a presentation Tuesday night at Monkey Wrench Books. He’d sent me an email about this through a Meet-Up: Austin Community Living… started by a friend of his (Rigil Thurston).

His presentation (“Scaling Our Communities to the Size of Our Diets”) was primarily about building community (neighbors knowing neighbors) with the local food movements (growing and buying food locally).

Included in the conversation was actually defining what the local food movements are, what is the scale of the area being served (local, city, state, national), how to reclaim your city to be a part of your local community, and how populated an area affects the food markets.

Some ways we can be intentional include:

Buy, eat, and grow local.

Buy, eat, and grow local.

1) Actively supporting local food vendors — encourage stores/restaurants to buy/grow food locally. We can encourage or help put into effect a reward system for businesses who do.

2) Change our lifestyle — get linked up into local food cooperative networks, become inter-connected with food providers (CSAs, neighborhood organizations, Sustainable

Building intentional relationships with those who are different from us.

Building intentional relationships with those who are different from us.

Food Center, farmer’s markets, and by supporting mid-size farms).

3) The heart change — be intentional about practicing hospitality for neighborliness for families, friends neighbors, and for those who are alone. (This was my confirmation! My aha moment! Showing me, I’m on the right path.)

The world will be changed by us opening our homes and loving our neighbors. (Yes, yes, yes!!)

Reach out to the weak ties of our community, people who are different from us, and take time to have real, ordinary, relationships with them. Everyone will be blessed.

Another important note to take away: community can’t be defined by electronics or social media. Though, very helpful in this day and age. What we are talking about is the inter-personal connection (in the flesh) which is important, needed, and special.