Community Dollars | Organizing for Empowerment Part III

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Today is exactly 30 days from the meeting where Yesenia, Irma, Ana, Gustavo and many other negociantes ambulantes joined a discussion with regards to forming what is now known as BÉNC (roughly translated as “Making a way for success in our community “) – a committee to oversee all future Magnolia Place community yard sales. We have been following their story through words and video (occasionally aided by the promise of mom-made pupusas) since then and today will present you with thirty photos courtesy of an Android and a beautiful day.

The following images demonstrate un montón of hardwork, leadership, and collaboration on the part of these 40 or so vendors. So, with no further ado BÉNC presents you with their first organized and facilitated community yard sale!

And to see the remaining pictures please click here! And latest the video!

 

Community Dollars | Organizing for Empowerment Part II

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Meeting #2

Two weeks ago, BENC (Buscando Éxito en Nuestras Comunidades) met at The RightWay Foundation to continue the discussion of finalizing a committee to oversee the community yard sales that take place at the Magnolia Place Family Center. “BENC” took 30 minutes to make, literally. Yesenia, one of the committee members, and I came up with the name as we played with acronyms and words that started with “J” in the Magnolia Place lobby. MUJER was an option but after moments of deliberation it was eliminated. Next Yesenia suggested we try names that weren’t necessarily names themselves but stood for something. I posed the question of what words came to mind when she thought about the committee’s work.

Comunidad. Colaboración. Dinero. Familia

Yesenia prepares notes before the meeting.

Recalling that our first meeting appropriately started with an entire discussion about the definition of community, we both agreed that the word should anchor the name of the committee. “Éxito” means success. Whether interpreted as putting more money in the vendors’ pockets (financial success) or strengthening community relationships (community building) this group will have the opportunity to achieve both, as well as realize other great things that happen when people organize for a goal.

The elections were swift and democratic. One by one, committee members declared their running for the positions; community liaison, treasurer, facilitator, coordinator. And by unanimous vote each elected member suddenly took ownership in their committee, their BENC. Fully staffed, BENC was now ready to confront group issues, such as mitigating the cost of buying promotional materials and how to arrange a “clean up” system to address the trash and unsold items that are left behind after nearly every yard sale.

Meeting #3

It’s a Friday evening, 20 minutes have passed and members are still shuffling in. “Let’s start!”, Miriam the committee yard sale Treasurer announces. Members arrange chairs in a large circle while the Community Liaison prepares name tags. She arrived 30 minutes prior to type up an attendance list using the lone computer in the Magnolia lobby. Five minutes later Sandi Romero arrives. As the “Mama” behind Mama’s Hot Tamales, Sandi was invited to share her experiences organizing cooperatives and offer words of wisdom and inspiration for the group of aspiring, majority women entrepreneurs. Some had already been greeted by the aroma of her delicious tamales from her “pop up” stand parked at the Magnolia Place entrance during lunch time. Now they heard the incredible story first-hand of how Mama transformed a “hot” idea into a “hot” business and community development project. Her presence and her palabras we hope will add another branch of support for the committee who, with less than two weeks before they are on their own for their first yard sale, would bode well with the motherly advice.

We were a large group and I wanted to assure that the energy remained positive, focused, and fun. “Everyone stand up!” I commanded. Tonight we were going to do things a little different. Committee charlas past had taught me that everyone needs to feel that they can contribute to the conversation. Enter: Santiago. Santiago is a large, black and yellow spotted frog that was purchased some Valentine’s ago and had lived most of his life in the trunk of my car. That night Santiago was the microphone; anyone who held him had the “turn” to talk. Santiago made his way around the room while items on the agenda were crossed off, one by one.

7:30 PM

BENC came to a closing deciding on who was in charge to research the expense for trash cans, balloons, and other equipment that would be needed. Miriam collected and counted the membership fees, three times, before noting the total in her makeshift ledger. A separate list went around confirming the names and telephone numbers of all who had paid. Position-holders wrote their names, titles, and contact numbers on a white board while others recorded the information on recycled paper.

Gustavo, the Facilitator reminded me to give him the time of the committee’s first training. As a prerequisite and to their benefit, members will attend a small business training workshop this Friday in the evening led by Gerardo Martinez of CFRC. Workshops and regular meetings will be a staple of the committee’s activity.

By next check-in we should have a re-cap of the February 18th BENC community yard sale.

And as promised I present you with video from the second meeting. In the words of Chichi Peralta mire a ve…

Reunión BENC Parte I

Community Dollars | Organizing for Empowerment Part I

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“We use the word all the time, but what does ‘community’ really mean? This is something I think we should discuss first.” – Yesenia

Two or three years ago I was sitting with Rochelle Alley, Associate Director at Children’s Bureau, in her office going over an abused notebook of meeting notes, doodles and expired agendas. It was part of our ‘every so often’ idea-sharing sessions in which we would bounce ideas and get excited about projects to plug the community into Magnolia Place. In some ways it was an extension from conversations that started in the Center’s Economic Stability Workgroup meeting and then found its way on Rochelle’s desk, coffee-stained and all. I had a list of ideas that hoovered around ten items long – and covered the gamut from micro-enterprise to technology. One such idea that originated from this dialogue was the community yard sale and exchange.

With four weeks left before the 4th community yard sale will be hosted at Magnolia Place I admittedly did not anticipate the reaction this project would generate. When the notion first appeared scribbled on that wrinkled sheet of notebook paper, crammed in between other ideas, it was unassuming. In fact, I rallied for other projects before the yard sale. Now the originally treated “special event” is transitioning into a full-scale project.

Year after year the commentary continued; “we want to do this more often” (reaction to the yard sale occurring around twice a year). The sentiment of the vendors resonated with me. The profits they earned by selling their hand-made pupusas, used-clothing, and crafts was not just side income but a substantial piece of keeping their household stable. It was not until after the first yard sale when the anecdotes made their way back to our ears. One vendor remarked her earnings went to keep her cell phone from being deactivated, the very number I used to confirm her for the yard sale in the first place. More recently others have shared a loss of income. And in this climate where unemployment, especially among monolingual Spanish-speakers, is uncomfortable and commonplace the opportunity for a household to utilize community outlets and rethink human capital is worth exploring.

Taking a page from the concept of cooperatives, the community yard sale is working towards becoming a 100% community member-facilitated and managed business. In essence, community members (mostly made up of past participant vendors) will take on the full responsibility of hosting and organizing all future community yard sales at Magnolia Place. It is a significant undertaking but a necessary step in the grand scheme of making sure opportunities for community building, economic stability and community resources sharing is materialized. The after affects could be great and perhaps set a model for other communities in other ‘hoods to replicate.

10:45 am

It is Friday, January 20th on a sunny morning at the Magnolia Place Family Center and the first meeting to discuss the formation of a community yard sale committee should have been underway 45 minutes ago. A few women wait patiently, seated at long white tables. Franco Vega, Founder of The RightWay Foundation whom graciously donated the room for the meeting, attends to business on his Blackberry. Tina Mojarro of St. John’s clinic and Lilia Perez of Children’s Bureau/Magnolia Place wait in the lobby to catch any members that may have forgot what room the meeting was being hosted in while Linda Flores of Pan American Bank and I debate whether to cancel the meeting or move forward with the three women plus child in tow that arrived on time.

Just earlier that week we had confirmed 23 participants. 

Irma, one of the yard sale’s most vocal supporters, nominates herself to seek interested community members.  She returns 10 minutes later empty-handed.

10:50 am

A sudden influx of women and two men begin assembling just outside the doors. Irma welcomes them inside and assures them that this is the charla they are not to miss.

This may have been the first formal meeting discussing the idea of an organized group for the yard sale, but some members had already began operating as such. To my amusement one vendor had created her own flyer to promote the meeting while another elected herself to call and confirm past and interested participants of the upcoming orientation.

As everyone got settled I pulled out my agenda in English to review (the meeting was conducted entirely in Spanish) and thought about the conversation I had with Yesenia Castro. Yesenia had participated in all of the past community yard sales. Once word spread during the previous yard sale that there would be a possible committee forming to schedule the event many more times during the year Yesenia was one of the most anxious and excited to get started.

In fact, her consistency with her bi-weekly check-ins and texts kept the pulse  beating into the project. Because of her energy I gave her the position to keep contact with the community members and confirm their attendance for the upcoming meeting. During the months long gap in between the last yard sale and now, she was my most valuable asset to bridge community members to the project. Irma, likewise, took a lead when she collected names and numbers for the unnamed charla during the yard sale. One cannot negate those examples of initiative. It is precisely this type of ownership in one’s community and self-sufficiency that the community yard sale committee is meant to encourage.

Days before the meeting Yesenia and I held an informal meeting by the reception area at Magnolia Place to discuss the Friday meeting. I asked her for any suggestions and recommendations for talking points and that is when she mentioned ‘community’. At the helm of this collaboration, between community members and the organizations sponsoring the effort, was the concept of community and how its definition must be in the active consciousness of the committee members themselves. Understanding that we are all part of various communities and that within this cross-layering there is a level of obligation and ownership is important for the success of all.

Comunidad

I scrapped the agenda, wrote ‘communidad’ in green letters on the whiteboard, and for the next hour or so we had a round table discussion about ‘community’ and began hashing out the details for what a community yard sale committee would look like. Each member was given a two page document that outlined the structure of the committee along with positions, purpose and expectations.

Participants became animated and the energy in the room was high. As they talked, laughed and even disagreed we began to see the formation of something special brewing. The committee was coming alive. And despite some of the complexities the group remained polite, responsive and controlled. Word document abandoned participants began to brainstorm ideas to confront issues, such as cost and membership fees, among themselves. A separate conversation sprung up concerning members who were invited to the meeting but didn’t show. One woman suggested they move on without them. That’s when I stepped in and tapped the board, “Ah pero no se olviden de Comunidad!”

The room laughed but the message was understood; we are a community. And this committee is community-based, community-run and for the benefit of the community.

So, what is the first order of business for the committee? Ensure that all the other vendors who couldn’t show make it for this Friday’s meeting at 5:30 pm.

Get Part Two.

– Hassan Nicholás

Sexy Saving Accounts | Financial Resources Fair at Magnolia Place

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Occupying the 4th position in the Chinese Zodiac, the Rabbit symbolizes such character traits as creativity, compassion, and sensitivity.

As the Year of the Rabbit approaches its closing now is a great time to open your wallets and heart to new experiences and new ways of growing your

money. CFRC and Magnolia Place Partners are hosting an intimate financial resources fair at Magnolia Place to encourage a new year of savvy, sexy saving.
Participants will have the opportunity to sign up for accounts and classes on the spot!Come visit CFRC, Pan American Bank, and other friends of Magnolia Place to learn how you and your family can save and save more for 2011 and beyond.

This event is happening this Saturday so spread the word and corra la voz!

EVENT | Strategies to Help Working Families Thrive During Tough Economic Times – Informational Hearing and Community Fair

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Pretty Resourceful Links – Summer 2011 Edition

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We found these following links resourceful and fun. Perhaps you will too!

When it comes to CFRC there’s no shortage of Financial Education

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As the summer season is winding to its end CFRC is gearing up for a slew of financial education workshops and events to target communities in and around South Los Angeles. CFRC is collaborating with several organizations, some old and some new,  as well as continues  to spear-head the mayor’s Bank on Los Angeles campaign.

Since its inception Magnolia Place has been the hosting site for several of CFRC’s tailor-made bilingual money management-themed workshops. Through that relationship as well as a vouch from the site’s Economic Stability Workgroup, CFRC has enabled relationships with other community organizations associated and new to the Magnolia Place Network – taking financial education on the road throughout the Magnolia catchment area.

Now, CFRC is bringing the show back to its own backyard with scheduled money management workshop series at SCOPE, TRUST South LA (formerly Community Land Trust) and the Oakwood Family Center with the support of local community bank Broadway Federal.  And the buck (pun intended) doesn’t stop there.

For the month of October CFRC, along with the Magnolia Place Community Initiative, Broadway Federal Bank, Pan American Bank, and Operation Hope will bring a host of money and banking-themed workshops to seven schools, including their students and parents. The event will be anchored by at least two events, one of which will be the return of the popular community yard sale at Magnolia Place.

On top of it all this year will see part two of the Living Healthy & Wise series – a comprehensive  program that places workshops covering nutrition & health, parenting, government & community resources, and personal finance to at least three different sites in the City of Los Angeles. Not to mention CFRC regularly facilitates an FDIC money management course at 1736 Family Crisis Center and it’s own creation Money is Sexy.