We are badly in need of some signs of hope in America.
It’s been one heck of a week in our country (again). It feels like we’re stuck in the middle of a very badly written play.
We need stories about regular people who are changing their communities for the better in order to counteract the news about our current political circus that feeds on division, fear, and hate.
I know those stories, those people are out there.
I’m know there are small groups of folks who may not agree on everything but they’re working together, proving that when we find common ground we can solve problems.
We need signs of hope that we can do better as individuals.
Signs of hope that we can do better as a country.
I know America has problems that aren’t going away soon.
Trade wars are increasing prices and costing jobs.
We’re dealing with racial injustice and climate change and people losing their health care.
And for those not blessed with a big savings account and access to those in power there’s a lot of worry about what the future holds.
Which is precisely why I went looking for signs of hope.
Signs of hope are cropping up everywhere.
In twelve cities across the country, Back on My Feet is helping the homeless do just that — get back on their feet. By running. That’s right. Running. Sounds like an unlikely way to end homelessness and help people find employment but it works.
Here’s the model: “Running is the catalyst. Community is the missing link. Employment and housing are the endgame.”
Back on My Feet reaches out to people in homeless shelters and residential facilities. Those who sign up become “members” and commit to an early morning run three days a week. Members with a 90% attendance rate after a month earn a chance to enter Next Steps, phase two of Back on My Feet. Next Steps offers job training programs, educational support, housing resources, and employment referrals. Marriott, AT & T, Macy’s, and CVS are corporate partners along with many other businesses.
This program marries hope, accountability, and opportunity to produce solid results. Within six months of becoming a Back on My Feet Alumnus, 90% of members maintain their employment, 60% receive a wage increase and 20% achieve a promotion. How’s that for a sign of hope?
Coffee Cart is Another Sign of Hope
And then there’s Shelby Winder, a first year special education teacher at Grand Oaks High School in Texas. Winder teaches a Life Skills class specifically for students with significant cognitive impairment and adaptive disabilities. She came up with the idea for a traveling coffee cart business at her school and bought all the needed supplies out of her salary. Impressed with her efforts her school reimbursed her when they heard about the project.
“The Grizzly Bean” coffee cart gives students a chance to practice their communication and social skills by taking coffee orders from each staff member. Each Friday the kids deliver the coffee and in the process are learning how to calculate their expenses and profits. By learning to run a simple business they’re gaining skills that will help them long after they leave school.
It just takes one person to put a great idea into action and Winder wants to see the coffee cart business spread to other schools. She plans to use some of the profits from her classroom’s coffee cart to fund same project for another school. The idea is that each school with a coffee cart business would then pay it forward to another school. Result: An out-of-the-box educational idea, life skills, and signs of hope for kids with cognitive disabilities.
More Signs of Hope
In Minneapolis the Heritage Park neighborhood has the city’s lowest average income and highest unemployment rate. This neighborhood is a food desert where access to affordable fresh, nutritious food is a big problem.
Here’s where the Green Garden Bakery, a small business run by teenagers, comes in. A few years ago a small group of kids got together to raise $500 for a friend injured in a car accident. They baked green tomato cakes and sold them at a local fair. And made $1,500! They donated $500 to their friend and used the rest to start Green Garden Bakery.
The teens sell vegetable-based baked goods like jalapeño chocolate chip cookies and gluten-free lemon zucchini muffins at farmers markets, pop-up events, and run an online store to market their products. Instead of set prices, they use a “pay-what-you-can” business model.
Green Garden Bakery does more than bake and sell delicious goodies. They teach educational classes, grow many of the vegetables used in their recipes, have a workforce training program to give other young people a chance to learn all aspects of the business.
But there’s more. . . a third of Green Garden Bakery’s profits are put right back into Heritage Park. They donate to community organizations. Sponsor an adult exercise class. Provide camp scholarships for local students. Green Garden Bakery’s donations have also purchased groceries for families in need.
Talk about signs of hope!
What gives you hope? Join the conversation and leave a comment.
We are all stronger and better when we work together.
10,000 Butterflies is dedicated to planting hope and growing change. Every one of us has the power to create positive change — in our own lives and in the lives of others. Together we can solve problems and build stronger communities. 10,000 Butterflies is a place to connect with others making good things happen, to find resources, to be inspired and to celebrate what connects us instead of what divides us.
Please join us.
Bonnie Pond is the founder of the 10,000 Butterflies Project and author of The Power of Three: How to be Happy and Get What You Want in Life (Without Doing Anything Illegal, Immoral, or Unethical) and Unlock Your Creativity: 30 Days to a More Creative YOU!