Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sloup #2: March 2010

Your name or the title of your organization:
"Forrest Yoga at C.A.M.P."

What you will do with your Sloup Grant:
This Sloup grant would help us buy yoga equipment. We need more mats, and we also need blocks, straps, and yoga blankets. Community Yoga Classes have been going steady at the Community Arts and Media Project since early January. I teach an hour and a half Forrest Yoga class every Monday and Wednesday
morning at 10 AM. The classes are well attended. On Martin Luther King's B-day we had 9 yogis and raised and donated $100 to Haiti relief via Action Aid. We regularly have around 10 students. This morning we had 13. The money that we bring in is split between C.A.M.P. and me. It's a helpful little source of revenue for C.A.M.P.

A little about yourself and what led you to this project:
I am a musician and activist. I started practicing yoga seriously in 2004. I went through the Forrest Yoga Teacher Training program in 2005. Now I'm in the Mentorship program, working towards my certification. I've enjoyed helping C.A.M.P. with various youth and community oriented projects since I moved here last year . Lyndsey Scott told me about Sloup.

A previous project of yours, and some ways it both succeeded and failed (this can be entirely unrelated to your proposal)
When I lived in Chicago, I started Karaoke Against Racism. A good sized group of people would meet weekly to re-write pop songs with new subversive lyrics that spoke of political disdain, and anti-war sentiments, and the problems we have with racism throughout the world. We re-created 20 really funny karaoke videos that we performed at festivals and in bars, encouraging audience members to pick songs and sing as well. Eventually we hooked up with Red Moon Theater people and were able to borrow a bike that had a giant TV with DVD player and ran off a car battery - this way we were able to demonstrate in the street. The failure was recognized towards the presidential election in 2004 - people on the streets stopped participating - we couldn't figure out how to connect with people once the battle for president started to heat up. After the election, the project collapsed.

Your power animal and/or icon:
My power animal is the Hawk. My current power stone in Lapis Lazuli, and my current power scent is "Earth" :) My power flower is.... a crocus? Hoping to see one soon, anyways!


Your name or the title of your organization:

StudioSTL (community writing center for St. Louis youth)

What you will do with your Sloup Grant:

We have an afterschool program (in addition to our workshops, in-school programs, annual regional literary magazine and newspaper summer camp) where kids are here at our writing studio doing creative writing twice a week, and they would love to be creating products for us to have and sell as part of our social enterprise. We won the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition in 2008, what your recent recipient and our friend Urban Studio Cafe won this past year! Thus, we are working to sustain our nonprofit through enterprise activities and would love our kiddos to be involved in the process of design and production of writer's manuals, volunteer handbooks, journals, and anything else we (or they) dream up! We would love to get a coil binding machine so that our young writers can be binding their own publications here in our studio.

A little about yourself and what led you to this project:

During college, I visited a friend in NYC and she took me to the Superhero Supply Store in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Somewhere between the cape-trying-on-station (complete with a fan to check for flow) and the oath I had to recite to purchase my tote-bag and black hole in a jar, pledging to use what I had found for good and not evil, I was mesmerized. As I learned more about how this silly store funded a nonprofit writing studio, free to neighborhood kids, and then watched a bold 10-year-old saunter past, push a secret button on the wall, and enter into this magical land, I was hooked.

The Superhero Supply Company store is just one 826 project, a social enterprise started by author Dave Eggers in San Francisco. Raring to go in 2007 with a bachelor's in advertising and a desire to bring that background to the nonprofit sector, I contacted 826 and asked if there was such a magical land in St. Louis. Their response, "Not officially, but there's StudioSTL." Friends of theirs, based off of their model, but not an official chapter, this is now what I do. We've been around since 2005 and have grown faster than the Facebook group bashing Nickelback. Our goal is to make everything we do relevant and out-of-the-box, so that words and writing are fun. Third graders need to learn about writing to an audience? Skip the old letter to the parents trick, bring in a puppy. Another trivia night fundraiser? Ours is called WordFest, the Olympics of Word Games. Punctuate is our happy hour celebrating National Punctuation Day in September. Our studio has chalkboard walls and movie theater seats and a card catalog filled with ideas.

We have a myriad of FREE programs that empower kids to discover, develop and celebrate their individual voices through writing. As often as possible, we publish kids' work in books, magazines and newspapers and then celebrate that with a gigantic (300+ people) party, where the general public get to hear these young writers read their words and autograph their publications. A lover of kids and words alike, I am thrilled to be working alongside a huge, energized St. Louis community of volunteers and supporters that turn kids into writers.

A previous project of yours, and some ways it both succeeded and failed (this can be entirely unrelated to your proposal):

Although I wear many hats at my current job, the first I ever wore was that of a summer camp counselor. Having been a camper for 5 years, staff member for 6, and now on a committee of their board, Camp Ondessonk is near and dear to my heart. Frustrated by young, under-financed alumni like myself using camp's fundraising gala as a reunion site, I decided we needed an event to cultivate younger donors. My idea was based off of the concept that people in their 20s and 30s don't quite know the culture of writing a donation check to a nonprofit, especially when they see camp as just their former summer job, not a million-dollar organization serving thousands of kids every year. What culture DO they know? Weddings. Boy, do we know the culture of weddings. You bring a gift, you get a party.

So I got a committee together and planned the first birthday benefit for camp. Generously hosted by the Thaxton Speakeasy downtown just last month, we got people to come from as far as Nevada to see all their camp friends again and enjoy food and drink. Instead of tickets, we created registries at Target and Amazon, full of enticing items like backpacks, coolers, and other amenities that we never had while we were on staff. Camp is now $2,000 richer in donations and goods, with only the most minimal of costs for the event. Table tents with fun facts about the cost of electricity and water to run camp for a year educated our young group about the realities of the business. A quick, friendly speech encouraged folks to come volunteer and tell others to send their kids to camp. A themed drink list and matchbooks with our logo on them made the event a hit.

For the first year, we did pretty well. We kept our costs low, we galvanized a group of people who all loved the cause but don't always outwardly and monetarily support it. We made a great relationship with an amazing venue, and we had a killer party. But we also only had about 90 people out of ~250 e-vited. Ondessonk's database is full of 50 years of information, and the list we had was not only outdated, but incomplete. I personally was not able to rally my committee enough to truly stalk everyone, get their current information, and encourage them to attend. Although we did get some out-of-towners, the main bulk of the crowd were folks who already sort of "get it." So, while the event was a success, the challenge of building and maintaining a base of supporters is just beginning. It's a great start to a fun concept that could go a long way, but we have our work cut out for us to find and excite people about something they may not think about on a daily basis. However, one unanticipated positive outcome was that most people gave more than the suggested $25 in both cash and registry items. Perhaps my generation isn't as out-of-touch as I first thought...

Your power animal and/or icon:


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