Businesses Empowering Communities Across the United States

Locate businesses with heart from a small town in upstate New York to an expansive, abundantly green city in Oregon, empowering communities across the United States. Passion for serving others and improving the life trajectory for either those living on the fringes of society or young impressionable minds who will determine the direction of the future is what fuels their momentum forward.

Hopewell,New York

Unshattered thrives in Hopewell,NY, where creative artisan skills produce economic independence as 100% of proceeds goes toward creating employment. Incorporated in 2016, Unshattered is a nonprofit retail shop specializing in creation of a diverse line of bags and accessories, handcrafted using repurposed material by women survivors of addiction.

Dee Dee, born in prison but now an accomplished seamstress who has spoken at the White House, sewing a label on a bag she made. Photo courtesy of Unshattered

Each bag keeps 3 secrets. One, on the inside liner, where it cannot be seen, is a message of good intention from it’s artist which could be a prayer for the future bag owner, a verse or possibly her number of days in sobriety. Two, each bag is named for someone who is still tethered to addiction, and whom is prayed for during the bag’s creation.  Secret number three, the use of gold thread in assent with Kintsugi, the Japanese art form that uses gold lacquer to repair breaks in an object, viewing breaks as part of the object’s history and more beautiful because of them, similar to the women of Unshattered.

The mission is received with open arms. Sewing new beginnings in the town of Hopewell, Kelly Lyndgaard, CEO and founder of Unshattered shares,”Our community has been incredible in supporting our women as they come out of recovery programs through shopping, donating, and helping the women economically so they can maintain their sobriety. In 3 1/2 years of providing full time employment for women in recovery, we have not had one relapse.”

Black Mountain,NC

The LEAF festival, a nonprofit organization is held amidst rejuvenating fresh air and the unyielding, calm of Black Mountain for a long weekend of cultural exchange, celebrating diversity and raising money for their community youth art and cultural awareness programs.

Inclusivity is priority, Marsha Almodavar, of LEAF Community Engagement shares “At LEAF we have a few signature programs that provide access to music and art education to underrepresented and under-resourced communities” including LEAF and Streets and ULEAF among others.

Community children become global citizens, learning more about their own heritage as well as “Through year-round programs and week-long residencies, LEAF offers the opportunity for students to explore different art forms from around the world” says Erinn Hartley, LEAF education Director.

Chicago,IL

Inspiration Kitchens dishes out delectable dining to it’s patrons, but also a free 12 week training program to earn certification as a food handler, and sanitation manager for applicants in need to address poverty and homelessness in Chicago.

Food service training program. Photo courtesy of Inspiration Kitchens

Life transformation sometimes comes in the form of Sticky Bread, Shrimp and Grits,Gumbo or even the Impossible Burger as employees enter what Colin Higgins, Grant Writer for Inspiration Corporation, parent organization to Inspiration Kitchens calls “a growing industry that has opportunity for advancement to really begin a sustainable career.”

In an effort to reduce the risk of recidivism and relapse, Inspiration Kitchens provide uniforms, cover costs of certifications and provide transportation assistance. Colin adds, “It tends to be a good fit for folks who have multiple barriers going against them”

Obliterating socioeconomic barriers with each meal prepared, Inspiration Kitchens has placed over 650 graduates in culinary jobs to date.

Nashville, TN

Nashville’s Thistle Farms is a local, national and global nonprofit social enterprise ardent in it’s mission to heal and create financial independence for women survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction.

Thistle Farms natural Bath and Body products. Photo by Nikia Knapp

Using essential oils and natural ingredients, bath and body products and soy candles are handmade by survivors to support themselves and bring more women off the streets.

Enjoy healthful eats or treats at The Cafe at Thistle Farms or meaningful spending in The Shop at Thistle Farms. Proceeds supply food,shelter,therapy, healthcare, job training and employment. Doris Walker-Taylor, survivor and now Director of Events at Thistle Farms shares “They give us everything we need to become whole again.”

Portland, Oregon

Central City Coffee, a nonprofit business warming bodies and hearts in Portland,Oregon with their high end, women’s empowerment branded coffee.

Central City Coffee bags Photo by Karen Lickteig

With each bag of coffee sold, Central City Coffee helps formerly homeless mothers gain soft and hard job skills that build self confidence as they become productive members of their community. It’s mother corporation, Central City Concern, supports women with housing and services as they transition to independent living.

Mother’s can gain experience in marketing, customer service, invoicing, office operations and everything there is to know about the coffee business. Sarah Porter, Business Director for Central City Coffee adds “They are amazing people working really hard to put their lives together and learn new skills.

Across the United States, businesses transcend obstacles,empower people and make impactful strides in their communities, one bag, one festival, one meal, one candle, and one cup of coffee at a time.

” At the core, we are manifestations of divinity.” ~ Herb K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Expect at the Spring LEAF Festival in Black Mountain, NC

Apache & I exploring LEAF Festival in Black Mountain, NC

 Let me feast my eyes on the evidence that there is a power so much greater than I.  Taking in the nature of never ending clear skies, immovable mountains kissed with ever giving forests made me feel whole. 

Enchant my soul with musical tunes from around the world, transporting me to another place. 

Feed my human need to be enriched with culture and I find a place in my heart sweetened.

I received all of these elements at the spring LEAF festival in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Apache and I saw LEAF festival welcomed  groups of young and old, friends, families and cuddling lovers.  Some people enjoyed the festivities for the weekend with intentions to camp and some there only for a day.  This is a family friendly affair with plenty of entertainment for all age groups.

Kids were having a ball everywhere! Including this one on the Super Bungee Jumping-Trampoline

A small shuttle bus escorted us past the LEAF camp grounds to the festival from the parking area. 

The first thing we noticed was lots of children and families.  This makes sense because LEAF’s non-profit efforts are all directed to LEAF schools and streets for their local and global youth programs that support cultural arts education.  With this knowledge, we were so happy to be contributing. Consequently, our attendance allows us to be a part of the positive change we would like to see in our future. 

The children covered songs by civil rights activist such as Nina Simone and others from whom we could all learn.  Watching the children share powerful quotes and history facts that complemented the tunes they proudly sang was very moving; I believe they gave every listener hope.

LEAF Schools & Streets performing a Jazz routine
Outside there was no shortage of things to do for the kids. We saw a Super Trampoline Bungee Jumping apparatus for the first time. There were large inflatable bouncers and even a children’s zip-line sending them right into the lake! Children dominated the mini man made beach along the lake, rode in Canoes and played on the floating Jungle gym which was equipped with a diving board. There was lots of space to run and opportunity to make new friends. 

 

We met one teenager who sat on the grass exercising her entrepreneurial and creative spirit selling necklaces that she made herself.  This young girl informed us that she had been selling her craft work at LEAF for several years now.  She mentioned that she loved coming to LEAF every year with her family.  What a great way to encourage goal setting, self esteem, creativity and self independence in a child!

We were in awe of these young entrepreneurs selling their own homemade arts & crafts at LEAF!

Some of the events made available for the children included Teenage Female Power Funk, OSO Kid Hop Dance Party, a Teen poetry slam, a Magic and Wonder show and LEAF International Tanzania to name a few options but all events are family friendly.


Let’s try to remember this!

There was something for everyone.  We decided to put our sheet down on the grass to relax, people watch, sun bathe and enjoy the the beautiful lake and mountain view.  After sunbathing the colorful Ignite and Inspire parade began and our inner hippy emerged! 

Make sure you don’t miss the Ignite & Inspire parade
We loved the variety of options for music venues! You could find anything ranging from Reggae to Bluegrass and Folk to Salsa dance parties. Listen to the Blues or even go to a Techno Contra dance party- yup, all that!

There was singing/ song writing workshops and also an exciting fire performance that evening.  Who turns down a chance to gaze at twirling fire on a pitch black evening in the mountains? Basically you could make your festival day as chill or as active as you like.  


We got to put our blanket out and relax by this lake when we got tired.

How to prepare for LEAF

1) Managing your time

My best advice for managing the LEAF festival’s elaborate itinerary would be to go to the website , review it and the map ahead of time. Note which events you definitely don’t want to miss.  Plan to factor in time to walk from one area to another. Planning ahead will also allow you time to get to your chosen events 15-30 min early for a good view of the show, dance space or seat but you can arrive to any gathering whenever you like-it’s very laid back here.

Factor in time to browse, there is a lot to see. If you want to vendor shop there are loads of clothing, art, jewelry and unique item vendors to explore. 

This kid was styling hardcore at LEAF!
Meeting fabulous people at LEAF!

2) Saving money on food

Food trucks and culinary booths at LEAF offer international, vegetarian, health conscious options as well as typical yummy junk food if you are so inclined. 

We chose to purchase the Culinary Passport available on the LEAF website because this offered us 5 full meals for the day for $50. This Spring, The Corner Kitchen catered in Eden Hall; we could pile as much food as we wanted onto our plate for each meal. Our Passport ticket got hole punched for each plate of food. I believe we saved money doing it this way.  If you don’t purchase the ticket but want to have one of these meals, your plate will be weighed for purchase price.

LEAF has the food hook-up!

The food is gourmet and prepared by local chefs.  If you choose this option I would say arrive 15min early to cut back on time standing in line, although the line did move quickly.  These special meals are served in a community dining style environment with entertainment.  

You can find loads of beautiful handcrafted jewelry


3) What to pack

For our day trip we packed a debit card, bed sheet, sun block, bug spray and a few bottles of water although bottles of water at LEAF were only $1. 

I started out very comfortable in my summer dress but by evening it felt like 40 degrees so definitely bring layers. In addition, it did rain that morning so basically there was large areas of mud. Keep in mind when planning what to wear that you could potentially get dirty which could be fun. So remember, layers and comfort is key.

 It’s also a good idea to bring a poncho and footwear you don’t mind getting muddy for possible Spring showers.  If you want to wear a costume feel free, this is a huge playground for children and adults alike.  If you decide that you want to stay more than one day but you are not a camper type, no problem, Airbnb is a great option!

Adult kids playing dress up at LEAF
Apache and I wish we could buy all of this amazing art work!
LEAF offers a Spring and Fall festival each year pulling artists from around the world to give attendees an opportunity to experience and learn about cultures internationally.  LEAF festivals have been in existence for the past 20+ years. This organization has enriched over 55,000 children with their programs in 10 countries worldwide. LEAF cultural arts education programs are local and global! 

 

If you are unsure about whether you can afford to attend LEAF remember that it is a non-profit organization for children and you may be able to use your tickets as a tax write off. 

LEAF was a very special occasion with great purpose and we agree with LEAF that the more we learn the more we grow!

The Poetry Slams at LEAF were incredible so make sure to go!

Watch our LEAF Vlog here!