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Community Tree: Talk About Your Community

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Alejandra Okie No Comments

How healthy is your community?: There are a lot of great programs and organizations out there that help the community get active and healthy. What resources have you found in your community that promote health and wellness? If there aren’t any, what would you like to see in your community? Tell us what you think.

Networking in your community: For those of us who are new to networking, what are some useful tips for job hunting in the community? Share your thoughts.

The Community Tree

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Mohammed Bilal No Comments

Community Tree

Community Tree - Smiling Parade

“In our hectic, fast-paced, consumer-driven society, it’s common to feel overwhelmed, isolated and alone. Many are re-discovering the healing and empowering role that community can bring to our lives. The sense of belonging we feel when we make the time to take an active role in our communities can give us a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.” ~ Robert Alan

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, community is defined as : “A body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic or political interest.” Historically, people defined community based on their physical location, but as this definition of community suggests, the word community has been redefined and now sometimes includes family and loved ones across borders and continents.

Fresh People,

For Love + Community, we have decided to take a look at Community: What does it mean? Who’s in it? Is community defined by location or position? And, how do we create a healthier, more vibrant community? Please read the producer’s stories of community, and then tell us what seeds you’ve planted in your community to make it blossom?

Wellness– Mohammed

photo credit: sfmission.com

Cupcakes, Carpools and Community

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Alejandra Okie No Comments

My friend calls me to tell me that she’s making my daughter’s favorite cupcakes for the birthday party. I thank her profusely.

For most people, this would not be a big deal. However, my daughter has severe food allergies. So the special cupcakes my friend was making were egg, nut and dairy-free. If they had even a tiny drop of butter my daughter could have a reaction and stop breathing. But I knew that my little girl would be just fine eating the cupcakes and spending the afternoon in my friend’s care.

This friend is one of several that form part of the community that I’m fortunate to have. Like many other immigrants who move to the U.S. from another country, I don’t have an extended family living nearby. My friends are my community and my support system.

As a single mom, my community takes on an even greater importance. I may not have someone who will help pick up the kitchen when I’m exhausted after a long day. But I can count on my carpool buddies to be there at 7:45 am to take my daughter to school and back in the afternoon. Having this carpool allows me to fit in some exercise before work a few times each week. We use an online calendar to organize the carpool shifts to fit the ever changing schedules of the three families. I can proudly say that for three years none of us has forgotten our turn and left the kids stranded at school! Now, if I could say the same about not misplacing my keys.

Learn more about children and food allergies.

Find allergy-friendly recipes.

Find a local carpool by using the Carticipate App.

– Alejandra Okie is a Managing Producer at One Economy. She lives in Florida with her 8-year old daughter.

Virtually Connected

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Katia Murillo-Valdez No Comments

I am an immigrant from South America. I have belonged to a few communities since I came to the United States. But if community means a group of people living in a certain area who share common interests and goals, and feel they are members of a group, right now I find it difficult to say that I have a community. These days, the closest thing to a community I belong to exists in cyberspace, where I communicate with friends and family electronically.

When I was getting my master’s degree back in Arizona I belonged to a community of graduate students who came mostly from Latin America and Spain. We did everything together, from attending classes to having fun. We were young, lived nearby, and shared the same interests and lifestyle. As foreign graduate students we were penniless and far away from home, so we helped each other in many ways. Unfortunately, you can’t belong to a community of students for more than a few years.

Later, when I moved to a town in Western Colorado, my then husband and I joined a community of people from many places around the world. The fact that we were all outsiders from different cultures who were settling in a somewhat isolated but very American city brought us together and gave us as a sense of solidarity. We had a great time, too.

Then I became a mother in a new place: Denver. I found a great community of Spanish-speaking families that met regularly for fun family activities. Most of the parents were highly educated. The kids would interact with other Spanish speaking children and families, so they would learn that keeping our language and traditions alive is really cool and fun.

Now I live in Northwest Washington, DC, and I find it difficult to join a community. Thousands of people from all over the world move in and out this area all the time! Everybody lives a very fast-paced life here. Working mothers such as me are always very busy. People from other countries join communities from their own place of origin, but in my case there are not many Peruvians around to have one. The building where I live has more than 620 apartments. It is run by seniors, who happen to be the people who have lived here the longest. They have formed a strong senior-oriented community that I’m not really a part of. Most of the rest are people from all over the world or young college students. My closest neighbors are from Egypt, Thailand, Turkey and Poland. But everybody here is too busy to have more interaction, including myself!

Right now my best option is to have a virtual community. It is not the ideal situation, but it is better than nothing. Through Facebook I can stay in touch with people from my old, real communities, who live far away, like my friends from high school, who are still a very close and active little community in my hometown. A virtual community allows me and my friends to meet and share our experiences, feelings, opinions and projects. Still, I will keep on trying to find a real community in this town.

Find out how to stay in touch with family abroad with technology tools.

Katia Murillo-Valdez is a Producer at One Economy. She lives in D.C. with her daughter and husband.

Do I Have a Community?

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Stacy Gilliam No Comments
Walking in Southeast Washington, DC

Walking in Southeast DC

It is no secret in my social circle that I’ve grown weary of living on my street in my neighborhood. Southeast Washington, D.C. is one of the last quadrants of the city ripe for revitalization. I bought my first house here nearly 7 years ago for that reason. Without jumping completely on a soapbox, I’ll just say that some change is evident, but it’s slow.

There are new condos and single-family homes nearby. One condo building sits atop an organic food market that sticks out like a sore thumb. But in an area crowded with fast food restaurants, the option to choose healthy, organic fare over the artery-clogging stuff is a huge deal!

Still, Southeast has the highest crime rates in the city. Less than a month ago, there was a shooting in the alley behind my house. And I’m consistently reminded of how little respect some have for the properties of others. Suffice it to say, I’ve never felt at home here. I’ve never felt a sense of community, either.

Home for me is Philadelphia, where I spent the first 10 years of my life, and subsequently moved back to for college. When I think of “community,” I think of my old neighborhood, a village, really. We all looked out for each other. We all knew each other. I was blessed to grow up in a loving, two-parent household. But when Jackie and Steve Gilliam weren’t watching me, a host of other unofficial guardians around me were. And we young folks respected them for it. Annual block parties in the summer were a love fest where neighbors grilled burgers and hotdogs for anyone who stopped by, music blared, people danced, and kids played freely. It was the kind of community I wanted to be an adult in one day.

So what happened? Did I grow up and became a grumpy homeowner? Or have communities like the ones I knew disappeared? Do I have a community in Southeast, DC and not realize it? Writing this forced me to put aside the housing section of The Washington Post, and simmer on that idea.

I closed my eyes to think positive thoughts. Who can count on me and who can I count on? There are my immediate neighbors – on one side Miss Barbara, a dog lover like me who travels often for work, and on the other Miss Denise, a retiree who coincidentally grew up on this block and now happily keeps to herself. Both are awesome women who dish out good advice from time to time. When one of us is away, we keep an eye on each other’s property. There’s Cadillac Man, nicknamed for his ever-glistening Escalade, who seems to own every tool my husband and I don’t. When he sees us struggling with a task, he eagerly jumps in and helps. And Mr. Parrot. Without this sweet, old guy, the block would remain littered. He totes trash bags and sweeps it from top to bottom everyday. Now this community doesn’t quite resemble the one I long for. Not even close. Times have changed.

But maybe I need to be part of the solution. Perhaps it’s up to me to help create a more harmonious ‘hood. I can join local organizations to connect myself. I can get to know and extend myself to more of my neighbors. I can come up with a reason for a group of us neighbors to kick back and chew the fat like my parents did back in the day. I can be a part of the revitalization!

Before I move to seemingly greener pastures, I resolve to try. If you’re not happy with the community you live in, you should, too.

Stacy Gilliam is a part-time producer at One Economy Corp. She lives in D.C. with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Mylo.

Ten Dollar Plan

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Mohammed Bilal No Comments

On the first day of my freshman year at high school, my mom, a divorced, poor, single mother of three, gave me $10 to spend, for the whole school year! She had budgeted the little she made at work against the expenses of school, our bus passes, rent, food and other needs, and came to the low number by necessity.

With $10 burning a hole in my pocket, I made the 45-minute commute to my private, mostly-white high school, where I was a rare scholarship kid, one of four low-income African American students. Walking down the long hallway, as kids talked about their new clothes and summer vacations in faraway places, I just knew their x-ray vision could spot the lowly “ten dollas” hanging its sad head in my pocket.

I was extremely uncomfortable, with no real knowledge of how these wealthy kids and this wealthy school worked. But I used my lack of knowledge, to observe. I watched them—their manners, words, clothes and movement. Within a week, I made an important discovery: these kids like unique things, things that other people would have a hard time finding and/or couldn’t afford.

So I made a ten dollars plan; I went to the store and spent all my money on ingredients to make cookies. But not just any cookies, I made big, huge, unique cinnamon oatmeal butterscotch cookies.

At school the next day, I charged $1 for each cookie and, by lunch, I was sold out! I put the profits back into making more cookies and by the end of the year I had turned $10 into $300. More importantly, I created a community. From selling my wares, I came to know freshman, sophomores, and even seniors; students came to depend on me for their cookie fix.

This New Year, it is critical for those of us looking to find jobs, education, and a collective sense of wellness, to grow community beyond its normal boundaries. If we don’t walk into uncomfortable places, take chances, and meet unfamiliar faces, how do we expect to find the opportunities that are out there waiting for us?

Mohammed Soriano-Bilal is Executive Producer of Content for One Economy. He works in the San Francisco office and now appreciates the education he got from his mostly white, private high school.

Coast to Coast

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Makebra Bridges No Comments

Since I walked across the stage for my high school graduation, I’ve been on the move! I left the sunshine and blue skies of California and walked into the politically-charged, grit and grime of Washington, DC. Leaving California to attend college on the East Coast wasn’t a hard choice, but I didn’t realize how important my close-knit family and ever-faithful friends were until they weren’t a part of my daily routine.

Surprisingly, finding new friends and developing new bonds was easy. There were thousands of people just like me. Recent high school graduates, away from home for the first time, looking for someone and something to connect to. Whether it was the California Club, the student newspaper team, people interested in volunteering, or people that loved making jewelry, the campus offered dozens of “communities” to help people feel connected and comfortable. It was my first lesson in understanding that your community is more than your neighborhood—it is whatever or whoever you feel connected to—the thing that brings you security.

I spent six years in the DC area, only to make a huge move to Buffalo, NY in 2006. Not only was I moving further from home, I was also getting married and preparing to start a family. After arriving in Buffalo, I had a difficult time adjusting. I didn’t have any family, didn’t have any friends, and there weren’t any established “communities” for people like me. Buffalo is a small town. Most of the people living here were born and raised in the area. They have friends that they’ve known since grammar school and they spend a lot of time with immediate and extended family.

I was officially an outsider. Not only am I not from Buffalo, I am from the other end of the country. A place that is as foreign to them, as Buffalo was to me. I struggled to find people that I connected to—struggled to find activities that interested me. All while adapting to being a wife and new mother.

It took some time, and a lot of effort, but just like in DC, I now have a community in Buffalo. Whether it’s my new extended family, a mommy group, or people that are interested in the same things that interest me, I have found a comfort zone. I have found a connection. In only a few years I have extended my kinship beyond my immediate kin. My community is made of people from the West Coast, the East Coast and everyone in between!

Makebra is a producer at One Economy Corporation. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Community on the Move

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Alexis Cala No Comments

I’ve spent most of my life in Oregon, moving around a bit, but never venturing too far from home. And up until recently, I always considered my community to be in and around the Portland area. Then, a few months ago I took a pretty big step, or leap, and moved to the Midwest to be with the love of my life. We also got married and I became an Army wife almost overnight. My life, community, my whole world has quickly changed in a very short time. Of course, it’s all worth it.

But just as I was beginning to feel like I was fitting in to my new community, my husband received orders and we’re on the move again..

The most difficult thing so far, is that I keep finding myself in new communities, with folks who have very different interests, beliefs, etc. And meeting new people in a completely new state isn’t exactly easy. Fortunately, our latest move has proved me wrong and I have already met most of my neighbors. They were eager to find out where we came from, what rank my husband was and what I did with my time – nosy, but sweet.

It hasn’t taken too long to notice that in each community we live – because we’re close to post – there are a lot of people in the same situation. A good majority are military families who have watched their community, neighborhood, etc. change time and time again. A common question around here is where are you coming from and where are you headed? They almost expect you to be moving one way or the other.

Now, as I start to meet people in my new neighborhood I can only wonder how long it will last. It’s hard to get too involved or become too attached to a new community because you never know when you’re going to have to pack up and leave. So, while I have a growing community of military wives and new neighbors, I still consider my family and friends in Oregon and around the U.S. an important part of my community. My friends and family may not be my neighbors any longer, but just because we aren’t living next door, doesn’t mean we can’t use the web and phone, and visit to keep our community intact.

I think it’s sort of like that saying: home is where the heart is. The location itself may change, but the people who make up your community, or home, don’t necessarily have to.

– Alexis is a Producer at One Economy. She lives with her husband in Texas.