Reaping the Harvest of IMPACT

Lanita Whitehurst on Wednesday, 25 November 2015.

A Reflection by Tia Taylor

Tia T Impact BlogAs I reflect on the meaning of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I have gratitude for the many seeds of IMPACT that I have harvested over the last eight months.  IMPACT seeds are sown all over Silver Spring, all year round.  As diverse as our community is, the harvest comes in many colors, forms and sizes. Like the leaves that are currently falling from the trees in our wonderful community.

HOW IT STARTED

I became a member of the East County Community Circle in February of this year.  It really happened by chance.  I was new to this area and wanted to get involved in the community and meet people.  While volunteering at Greencastle Elementary school's Family Market Day in February, I met the first IMPACT seed.  Lanita Whitehurst, East County Organizer, was there helping to distribute food to families also.  When I asked a school staff member more about the program and the community, she suggested that Lanita was the woman I should speak with about community activities.  Lanita invited me to the next Circle meeting the last Tuesday of that month (and every month if you are interested).

At the Circle meeting, I met a roomful of positive, friendly, active people who clearly cared about this community and each other.  Lanita keeps the meetings on track with a calming zen-like demeanor and providing healthy snacks.  We start with a check-in and end with a check-out.  How cool, calming and peaceful is that after a hectic day?  All meetings should be like this!

SEEDS OF ACTION

There are so many project seeds planted in the East County Community Circle that I cannot name them all!  A member volunteers their time and energy to lead each project.  The Circle provides a supportive environment and information.

Community organizations and leaders are invited to speak at each meeting so that we can learn about our resources.

Guests have included: Commander Marcus Jones from the 3rd District Montgomery County Police Station, Song Hutchins from Asian American Homeownership Counseling, Beverly Coleman from Montgomery College, and many more. The Circle has also undertaken several community action projects, such as:

The Bluhill Circle

Lanita Whitehurst on Thursday, 12 November 2015.

Reaching Out and Cleaning Up

imagejpeg950The annual community clean-up organized by the Connecticut Avenue Estates Civic Association in Wheaton had an important difference this year:  there was broader outreach and more diverse participation.  Thanks to collaboration between the Civic Association and IMPACT’s Bluhill Circle, neighbors were able to cross lines of difference, find some common ground, and enlist greater resident involvement in the community project.   

Wheaton’s neighborhoods are quickly becoming more and more racially and culturally diverse.  A 2014 Washington Post article mentioned that Wheaton has, “the greatest Hispanic concentration in Montgomery County.”  But, there are also immigrants from other parts of the world as well as the white residents who bought homes there in the 1960s and African Americans who began to move to the area in the 1980s.

The Connecticut Avenue Estates neighborhood reflects this new diversity and all of the opportunities and challenges of multi-cultural communities.  The recent community clean-up demonstrated the power of collaboration to help residents overcome barriers and find ways to work together for good.

The clean-up was held on October 24th as a part of Montgomery County Volunteer Center’s Community Service Week 2015. 

Carolyn Gupta, president of the Connecticut Avenue Estates Civic Association and one of the lead organizers for the clean-up, worked with members of the Bluhill Circle—which is largely Hispanic—to do deeper outreach in the community.  “Members of the Bluhill Circle have helped us connect with our Spanish-speaking neighbors. Circle members come to Civic Association meetings and I attend their Circle meetings,” Ms. Gupta explained. 

IMG 0981Bluhill Circle members promoted the clean-up within their own group, spearheaded a door-knocking campaign that had volunteers going from house to house to spread the word about the event, and texted neighbors to remind them to participate. 

Ultimately, more than 12 containers of trash, recyclables, and yard trim were collected.  And some 15 residents and students volunteered. 

When asked about working with the Civic Association, Bluhill Circle member Edelmira Orellana said, “It’s one of the best decisions that we’ve made because it’s only by working together that we can get a better community.”  

And while everyone was pleased with the deeper outreach and more diverse participation, Edelmira did voice some disappointment that not more community members participated. But, she quickly added, “I plan to help out with the next clean-up.” 

Carolyn Gupta is looking ahead as well.  The next clean-up is on the Civic Association’s November agenda. 

NETWORK VOICES

Lanita Whitehurst on Thursday, 29 October 2015.

Misrak Zeleke

Network Voices is a new periodic Q&A series spotlighting members of the IMPACT Network.   

Misrak Zeleke is originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but has lived in Takoma Park, Maryland since 1988.  She is married and has a teen-aged son.  Misrak spends her days working as an events coordinator in Washington, DC.  Her introduction to IMPACT Silver Spring was as a participant in an early program called the Parent Training Institute. 

 What was your first experience with IMPACT?  

One of your organizers, Winta, stopped me on the street and invited me to the Parent Training Institute at Piney Branch Elementary School.  My son was in 3rd grade and new to the school.  I was scared and wondered who I would go to if I had problems.  The Parent Training Institute gave me a platform for connecting to the principal, the teachers, and other parents.  I met so many people through the training.  I didn’t have to wonder anymore about who I would go to if I had problems.   

How have you been able to utilize the people and resources of the IMPACT Network? 

IMPACT has been great for networking.  If feels like just about anyone or anything I can think of, I can get connected to through the Network.  It’s unbelievable.  I’ve met people who have become long-time friends.   

Recently, I started attending IMPACT’s Network Nights and the Activating Micro-Entrepreneurs workshops.  I’ve met so many diverse and inspirational people at both.  Network Nights give me the chance to meet and learn from immigrants whose home countries are different from mine.  And the Micro-Entrepreneurs workshops have been just the boost I need. I’ve been inspired by meeting people just like me who have started their own businesses.  I’ve realized, “If they can do it, I can do it.”

What are your dreams for your life? 

I want to be my own boss. My one vision has been starting my own childcare business. I know that it will be hard work, but I’m ready for the challenge.  I’ve completed my certification.  Now I’m anxious to get my license and see what I can do.

What thoughts would you share with others about the value of connection in community? 

Connection enriches your life, whether it’s volunteering to help the homeless or attending an election forum.  I’m still friends with the parents I connected with at the Parent Training Institute years ago and on occasion we support each other with advice and ideas.  I’ve even stayed connected with a parent I met who moved back home to Germany.

My wish is for everybody to feel the sense of connection that I’ve come to feel.  It’s great!  

Introducing the "Activating Micro-Entrepreneurs" Initiative

Jayne Park on Wednesday, 30 September 2015. Posted in Inside Impact

An Opportunity for Entrepreneurs to Build their Networks

FullSizeRender 1“Activating Micro-Entrepreneurs” is an initiative that IMPACT recently launched in the Long Branch/Langley Park neighborhood. This new, bi-weekly gathering enables aspiring entrepreneurs to build their networks, and to access reliable technical support so that they can make progress toward their business development goals. We are grateful to our partners CentroNía for providing a comfortable gathering space in the heart of the Long Branch/Langley Park neighborhood, and Life Asset for providing technical support around two important first steps in establishing a business – building personal savings, and establishing a strong credit history.

Fifteen micro-entrepreneurs attended the first session (Thursday, September 24th), and their diverse backgrounds and experiences made for a rich and energetic first gathering! Some have recently established businesses while others are in the early stages of exploring a business idea. The skills, interest, and experiences of participants ranged from construction, home remodeling, house painting, valet parking, and home-based child care to starting a driving school and a family cleaning business. Others shared their dreams of turning personal passions and interests into income-generating opportunities – in areas such as yoga, hand-made clothing and accessories, and hand-made artisanal soaps.

Support the Girls Running Club!

Kie McCrae on Friday, 18 September 2015. Posted in Circle Community

Mothers and Daughters Race Together in the Shape Diva Dash

diva dash 2The 12 passenger van handled well, although it was a bit like driving a bus. But for our needs, it was perfect. Together that morning, we laughed and had breakfast but you could tell nerves were a bit high. No one had ever participated in anything like this. One of the mothers told me that she didn’t feel well and probably would not run fast today. She just had a baby a few months ago, but I was thinking all along that it was nervousness.

I never told them that the course would have obstacles. I was saving that as a surprise, so I told them about it in the van for the first time and showed them the video. Everyone got really excited about it! It added something special to the event and became more of a personal challenge. Do it for you.

Once the race started, Jazmin, our team leader, began darting through the crowd immediately. I started pushing our faster kids and moms to go with her and they took off too. I was excited about our youngest runner because she is the one child whose mom didn’t run, but the fact that she was fast enough and strong enough to keep up with Jazmin made me (and her mom) extremely proud!

We had the hardest rain of the day! Entire sections of the course were un-walkable and definitely not runnable. One of the runners fell a thousand times while walking, so jogging wasn’t really an option for her. Her mother and I would never leave her behind, so we stayed together.

From stories exchanged later, I learned that one of the mothers, a very strong runner, decided then that she couldn’t wait for her daughter. She said, “I’m sorry baby, but I gotta go,” and left her with some of the other mothers. Their children were ahead with Jazmin. Somewhere around 1.5 miles, there was a lake to run through (I didn’t like that! Everyone else says that was there favorite part! Go figure).

The mud was glorious! It was so thick in places that shoes got stuck and came off. There was an area that I have affectionately nicknamed Bunker Hill because runner souls died there. People came up behind us, tried to just run over it, and found themselves chest deep in mud. I almost fell 4 times, 3 of those times were in the same stride! That’s probably what I loved about the run more than anything. Staying alive!

The ride back in the van was the best thing ever. I don’t know if you have ever played on a team, but travelling together is one of the strongest memories. You get to talk about the game. Relive the moments with people who were with you. Talk strategy. Laugh. Cry. Laugh more.

In the van, we were soaked! Dirty! Exhausted. Happy. We talked about every minute of it, the rain, the mud, the obstacles. Phones came out and everyone had different pictures and different angles of each other completing obstacles. Phone numbers were exchanged, text messages sent, stories compared. There was so much happiness in the van. Parents and kids shared stories and everyone laughed. At that moment, they weren’t strangers running in a club. That wasn’t so-and-so’s daughter. They were a team. They were equals. I had a very proud, quiet moment while we talked.

After the race, I was thinking long and hard about how to make sure that this group could continue to participate in races together. Most of these women love running and before this club, they ran alone or not at all. Some of them even hate running. Yet, there they were in the front and smiling and enjoying it as they pushed each other and patiently waited for one another over obstacles. When we are talking about building networks, that’s what a network looks like to me- teams of people pushing each other to be better, to get where they are going and helping each other to grow.