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.


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.



















Things to do and places to eat off our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops

Our first day on the LYNX!

The light rail had me curious, but I never had a reason to ride because I have a car.  The Lynx Blue Line opened for business in 2007 and here we are in 2019 riding it for the first time. We moved to Charlotte in 2006.

Sleek design ,smooth ride on the LYNX Blue Line

This is a perfect example of how blogging and vlogging gets us doing things we might not normally do.  If we weren’t busy being content creator’s we probably would never have given it a try.  I’m really glad we did though because it turned out to be a really cool ride, a mini Charlotte exploration adventure.

Now we get to share places to go and things to do off our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops!

You can purchase your ticket from the vending machine at the station or use the CATS pass App

I actually rode the LYNX twice.  The first ride was with Apache for our vlog day date.  My second ride was during rush hour just to see what it was like.  I wanted to take in the experience of riding with the commuters.

There are currently 11 LYNX Blue Line Park & Ride locations. Which Park & Ride locations are free?  Two out of the eleven will charge a $10 fee if an all-day pass (which means you can ride the train back and forth as many times as you like for $6.60) or a pass of higher value is not purchased.

The two stations that currently charge are the JW Clay Station and University City Blvd. All of the other Park & Ride lots are free.  The stops that have a Park & Ride deck have a on the Lynx Blue Line map so they are easy to find.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops, I want to share about my commuter experience.

I was definitely feeling the free parking available at the I-485/South Blvd station, it made me feel so welcome!

The Commuter Experience

After parking in the outdoor lot, I followed a group of people moving with a steady intentional pace toward the train.

There were two long stairways leading up to the train. I wasn’t sure if it made any difference which I took so I asked this young girl in route (who looked like a high school student to me, but since she was catching the train I guessed, maybe college). She smiled and informed me that she was headed to work (so now I’m thinking it’s just because of my age that she looks like a baby to me). She told me it didn’t make a difference which flight of stairs I took, “they both lead to the same place.” I followed her to the indoor parking deck across the street to take the elevator up instead.

Apache looks like a LYNX commuter here.

During rush hour everyone seemed calm. The station was very clean and quiet. Surprisingly, there was enough seating for everyone that got on the train.  If I had the choice, I would choose this easy-going train ride over driving in Charlotte’s new nerve-racking traffic any day.

There were only two stops left before I had to get off, my bladder was beginning to make some serious demands on me. I’m sure if I was in my 20s this wouldn’t have been an issue- sigh.

During rush hour periods the LYNX arrives about every 10min

A entire one-way trip took 50 minutes. I simply got off, walked to the other side and rode back to my car. Easy-Peasy!

The temperature on the Blue Line was mild. It was a smooth ride with each stop announced before-hand. This ride would make a perfect time to catch up on some reading or writing.  If you are gonna be hanging out all night visiting different spots near the LYNX, take the light rail back and forth and skip the driving. Who wants to have to look for parking or pay for parking if they don’t have to? ugh.

Now on to the juicy part. Here are a few places we have visited or plan to visit off our favorite LYNX Blue Line stops. All locations listed are within walking distance from the light rail. Try them out for yourself. Let us know what you think about any of the locations mentioned.

Things To Do & Places To Eat


The Woodlawn and Scaleybark stations are in Mountclaire South/Lower South End.

To Do:

Sleepy Poet Antique Mall– We both appreciate antiques and love vintage clothing and this mall has both! This is a multi-level mall with over 80 dealers. I know we will be enchanted for hours wandering around this mall. We are currently planning a day date to go check it out.



To Do:

Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen– This cooking class sounds like it would make a fun date, girl’s night out or even a solo night out. Learn some new culinary skills. This is definitely on our To Do list!

East/West Blvd Station

This stop is in the South End neighborhood.


Pikes has some delicious American diner style food

Pikes Old Fashioned Soda Shop

Dining out at Pikes Old Fashioned Soda Shop

Superica Tex-Mex Cuisine at it’s best. Superica has become our favorite Mexican food spot. Just thinking about those in-house made chips, perfectly salted…their variety of chip dips that have me singing “oh my God” after each bite, the Margaritas (crying now), the Appetizers are crazy. We had appetizers for dinner and left completely satisfied and wishing we had more money and space in our bellies so we could continue. We enjoyed watching Lady and The Tramp on their xtra-large screen as we happily stuffed our faces. I have checked with others to see if they had the same experience and the feelings were mutual.

Hawkers Asian Street Fare

Hawkers comes highly recommended by friends for street vendor recipes from Asia .

Sunflower Baking Company

Dilworth Tasting Room

Stonewall Station

Stonewall through 9th is considered Uptown

To Do:

The Mint Museum

 The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts +Culture

 The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art 

 Knight Theatre

3rd Street Station/Convention Center


Chima steakhouse–  Brazilian cuisine here-it’s a whole experience!

Chima is expensive but I promise you won’t regret spending a penny. We have been here a couple of times for special occasions and never been disappointed.

The salad bar is super elaborate and the meat is unbelievably good. Expect great service with lots of class. It’s a good idea to starve yourself before going to Chima. You will likely eat a full days worth of calories. Enjoy and don’t forget to wear something loose around the waist!

Charlotte Transportation Center/Arena Station

To Do:

Discovery Place– This is a really colorful and interactive establishment for kids of all ages but also a lot of fun for the adults as well.  We actually went here to play with our family/friends that came to visit from NYC (no small kids at the time only us big ones).

Blumenthal Performing Arts

Spectrum Center


 Sea Level NC -Curious about this place. Apache and I both love seafood and the pics on the website have me salivating and hangry!

7th Street

To Do:

First Ward Park – Apache and I started off at the First Ward Park around 8am. It was abnormally clean first thing in the morning.

Some homeless were still sleeping or just rising from the benches. An older conservative looking male began a rigorous routine using his exercise band and the park equipment. A casual bike rider rode through the spray ground and everything seemed serene on this sun kissed morning.

We did a light workout in First Ward Park -yaay, it’s better than nothing!  First Ward Park has practical stationary equipment available for all your fat burning needs.

First Ward Park is great for walking, biking, chillaxing (made this word up) or exercising!

I love to climb whenever the opportunity arises. Lucky for me it did in the form of dome shaped monkey bars in First Ward Park.

You can climb these monkey ropes as part of your workout or just for fun- we did!

Relaxing after a light First Ward Park workout!

ImaginOn– This library/children’s theatre has something to engage every  adolescent. They have all kinds of programs, classes and theatre productions to inspire imagination and encourage enrichment. We have enjoyed their theatre productions on more than one occasion. Read more about the theatre  here.

Two big kids at ImaginOn in the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte
Levine Museum of the New South

 Levine Museum of the New South– Levine has educational and powerfully moving exhibits. Make sure to take your family.

McColl Center for Art + Innovation– Artist residency and contemporary art space housed in an antiquated church. We love art and it’s free admission!    

Apache and I were ready to see what’s at the next LYNX stop. We walked across the way to the 7th street station and caught the inbound train to 9th.

At the 9th Street Station.

9th Street

Checking out the 9th street station art work.


Walking to waterbean

Waterbean– The first place we visited on 9th street, a USDA certified organic coffee shop and roastery! Humidity was high outside, the air conditioning in Waterbean was such a relief! Waterbean is bright, and airy. Watch our vlog, you’ll see I tried my very first Mochi Ice Cream here. All I have to say is omgah! And our lives will never be the same again.

Having ice coffee with a passion fruit Mochi ice cream on a hot day in Charlotte! Mochi Ice cream is a soft, cool, sweet surprise.

Imagine your favorite ice cream wrapped in a thin powdery marshmallow! How could this exist? In my head I jumped up and down with excitement for the Passion Fruit flavor option-yaaay!

I wanted to try something new and that’s exactly what I got. The Waterbean coffee was great but the Mochi blew my mind. There are other treats too, like brightly colored macaroons. It was a good spot to wind down in.

Subsecreto We still have to visit this spot because I know they serve espresso in a chocolate-dipped shortbread cup… really that’s all I’m interested in- haha!

9th Street Station

After catching our breath at Waterbean we headed back to our light rail stop where a little hell was breaking loose. Some dude was screaming obscenities while smashing the glass covered booth at the station.

We watched the drama from afar with some cool people from Chicago that just arrived in Charlotte for the DuRag festival. They had been zipping around uptown on the motorized scooters everyone is using these days.

The police arrived quick, scooped up the poor disturbed soul and we proceeded with our vlog.

This happened during our LYNX day date.


Parkwood through Sugar Creek station enters the NODA/Optimist Park/Plaza-Shamrock neighborhoods.

Photo by Komadori Photography

Apache and I love old video games from the 80’s and 90’s so we were excited to play at Abari arcade. Bring on the Donkey Kong!

Don’t go here without your ID!  Photo by Komadori Photography

Entering Abari, a man sitting at a table, obviously unwelcoming us with no hello and no smile. He shared a bothered expression as he told us it was $1 to get in and that we also needed ID because it was a private business. I didn’t have ID so we never got in. I shall stop commentary there. Maybe you will have a better experience.

Photo by Komadori Photography
Beautiful graffiti around the corner from Abari. Possible IG photo spot?
More neighborhood artwork!


Birdsong Brewing– Since it was a no go at Abari, we shrugged and ran to enjoy some cold specialty beers at Birdsong Brewing!

Photo by Komadori Photography

Photo by Komadori Photography

Some people brought their dogs in with them which I thought was very cool.  I will take every opportunity to rub down and high-pitch baby talk to any dog!

At Birdsong Brewing Company with Komadori Photography

To Do:

Cordelia Park – This park is 24 acres. We took our family swimming here a couple years ago and had a great time. There is also a full basketball court, walking trails and picnic shelter.

Tompkins Hall-Soon to come will be a ginormous food and retail development in this restored textile mill nearby NODA.  There is expected to be multi-level outdoor patios with a view of the uptown skyline. I’m sure it will be interesting.

36th Street Station

The sun was about to hit its peak and we rode the LYNX to 36th street in NODA.

There used to be amazing art Gallery crawls on the first Friday of every month in NODA which we miss dearly. We still love to meet vendors in the street and art can also be found all around NODA giving the neighborhood lots of personality. Breweries, bars and variety in places to eat are plentiful. There are fun things to do and great people to meet here off the 36th street LYNX stop.

If you follow the bright red banisters downstairs you will find thin pastel colored geometric shapes coming up from the ground. In addition, see a large concrete wall sculpted into 3D shaped blooming flowers! All great spots to take IG photos or just admire.


Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub– This is a European Gastro Pub. The purpose of this day date was to try out some new places. My spicy Bloody Mary here was on point, no complaints there. One meal was enough to feed both of us. Our final consensus was “delish!” This meal is unique to us, a full gourmet meal wrapped in a thin pancake.

There was all kinds of goodness inside this crepe!

– Although very popular, we have not tried this restaurant yet. There was a line outside the door.

Cabo Fish Taco–  We love their tacos! Their lemon-grilled shrimp tacos are my favorite with a salted Margarita!

At Cabo Fish Taco

NODA Company Store

Smelly Cat Coffeehouse &Roastery– This place is a dope chill spot. It appeals to us for the laid-back ambiance and great coffee. Smelly Cat has seasonal comfort food, breakfast food and a fully stocked cocktail bar- say what?!

To Do:

After you finish your meal, roll yourself down the block to see a show!

The Evening Muse– Casual bar and live music in an intimate setting

The Neighborhood Theatre– Live music venue

Go boutique browsing….

Pura Vida– A cultural gifts store we were grateful to find when we first arrived to this city. This boutique is a breath of fresh air bringing in multi-ethnic merchandise and art from all around the world! I purchased my most favorite bracelet here!

ShopBartique– Enjoy a cocktail or beer while you shop Boho-chic designs for men and women! The owners Estelle and Steve have big hearts and fun personalities, tell them we sent you!

Shop Bartique
Shop Bartique top and cool Disco ring
Apache getting a creative angle in Shop Bartique.
Lovely boutique finds in Shop Bartique
Had to try this one on!

We love how Charlotte invited local artists to get in on making the LYNX Blue Line train stops beautiful.

Blooming flowers at the 36th street station

The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it. ~ Richard Bach

5 Reasons to vacation in Asheville, NC

We have been visiting the Downtown Asheville Art District at least once a year for the past 6 years. This trip never gets old for us.  

There are so many reasons to love this area! Some of which include the ambiance of an artful community, those beautiful rolling mountains, fresh air filling my lungs. And of course, the sweetness of personal touch found in so many of the small businesses.

Since this blog can’t go on forever, I’ll just elaborate on 5 reasons Asheville is so fabulous!

Double D’s Coffee and Desserts

Reason number 1- Lots of local entrepreneurs

Asheville strongly supports their local entrepreneurs. This support helps cultivate culture and diversity in the community which creates a self supporting system which I admire.

At the end of this trip we found a cool catalog called GO LOCAL with a drawing of a rocked out bee on the cover.  I am so glad I got to read this catalog to find yet another reason why I love Asheville! I can use the information found in Go LOCAL to shape our next trip to Asheville. 

Perceiving beauty in an Asheville art gallery!

How to save money in local businesses

GOLOCAL card can be purchased before you make your trip to Asheville or in various stores in Asheville for $16. You can make that money back in discounts around town.

The Go LOCAL card can be used for restaurants, boutiques, all types of entertainment venues. But wait,there’s more! Use the discount card on farms, at health and wellness salons, pet care, hotels, bed & breakfast or pretty much anything that you could possibly think of while you are there.  

Did you say discounts?! Yaaay!

Support community small business entrepreneurs, local artists and children all while SAVING MONEY! GO LOCAL donates $8 of every card purchased to Asheville city schools and last year donated $18,500!  

I found out after the fact that two of the businesses we patronized were on the GO LOCAL list of over 400 participating businesses. We could have gotten discounts with the GO LOCAL card. 

 Local entrepreneurs represent the underdog in our corporate, big business America and we always want to support the underdogs. We all deserve a chance to come up and live our dreams.

Boutique shopping Lost and Found in Asheville
Unique designs by Spiritex
You can find these whimsical designs at Royal Peasantry!

Reason number 2- Unique fashion finds

One of a kind Fashion!  Can I live for a minute? Check out this post apocalyptic looking dress and horned crown (pictured above) we found in Royal Peasantry! This city has personality and lots of personal expression.  

Creative style personality can be found here in Asheville’s boutiques- our favorite type of shopping.  Our favorite boutiques in downtown Asheville are RoyalPeasantry, Lost and Found AVLHip Replacements Clothing and Spiritex . There were many others we just enjoyed browsing through because of their artistic appeal. It’s gonna be hard not to whip out that debit card!

Shopping at Royal Peasantry boutique in Downtown Asheville
Street musician Joseph Williams in downtown Asheville
Street performer Jeremey Harp shares his art

Reason number 3- Music & Culture

Music and culture are vibrant and alive here in Asheville! There are people in the streets making music from the old timer right down to the young.  We met this incredible father who has educated his sons in folk/ classic rock. His children play their instruments doing cover songs on the streets of Downtown Asheville. Community members looks for these sibling performers known as The Buskits because they are frequently performing.  

Adolescent street performers, The Buskits!

Asheville is known for a strong heritage of blues, gospel, old-time, folk, early country and bluegrass music. You can also find night spots that play the latest radio tunes. 

Reason number 4- The food!

Salsas yummy dinner!
Anyone else love a good Dirty Mary?

The over indulgence of mouth watering food here is a special treat. We always find ourselves back at two popular spots in downtown Asheville. They have become traditions for us although there are countless reputable options in this area. The GO LOCAL catalog is an excellent resource for the many options available to you.

First we go to the Mexican & Caribbean restaurant Salsas for dinner every year. This restaurant is small with indoor and outdoor seating. There will probably be a wait time but the food is always full of flavor and the serving very generous.

If you are sit indoors, your eyes will scan large brightly colored murals on the walls. You will definitely project your voice as you speak with the waiter over fellow enthused patrons and music. Reasonably priced delicious entrees and great service has us returning every year!  

We both felt like a tight balloon about to pop by the time we left Salsas so waited until much later in the evening to go for desert at French Broad Chocolate lounge. Get a 10% disc off your order at French Broad Chocolate with the GO LOCAL card. 

 Can you believe that you can actually order a cup of hot melted chocolate to drink here?!!! My favorite is Liquid Truffle sipping chocolate with rose, cardamom + pistachio – Incredible experience! There are also traditional deserts like gourmet cakes, ice cream, cookies and all kinds of treats. 

Be prepared for an overwhelm of sugar options.  There is usually a line outside to enter this establishment when we have gone in the evening. I doubt you will be bored during the wait time though. There will most likely be entertainment. There was a great guitar player setting a calm mood for all of us sugar fiends in line.  

Still carrying a full belly from dinner, we decided to order cake slices and take them back to our Airbnb for a midnight snack!

Finding serenity in the mountains
Views at Dupont National Park!

Reason number 5-Nature

Hiking refreshes our spirits!  In everyday life we are bombarded with constant stimulation from our daily responsibilities to social media, noisy neighbors, current events ect.  Getting to Asheville is our break from everything and the element of nature takes this idea to the next level. 

Hiking at Dupont National Forest

This is why we make sure to include mountain hiking at Dupont National Forest during our stay. Dupont is a very relaxing 1 hour ride from Asheville. 

The Autumn is a very popular time of year to visit Asheville because of all the color.  Visually striking Fall leaves rustle in the breeze. These shades of red, yellow, orange, browns and some greens sporadically rain down gently upon our heads keeping us in a peaceful trance.  

We can be quiet. Listen for God’s good words filtering into our minds and hearts as we appreciate his grand masterpiece of creation.  Our ears take in the trees applause of life when a breeze flows through and they embrace the sound of the waterfalls.  This reminds us that nothing is more powerful than our creator and his divine plan. Although it may sometimes be a mystery to us- everything ultimately serves a purpose. 

Waterfalls are a great reason to visit Dupont
The Dome was a perfect back to basics experience booked through Airbnb

Our stay in the Airbnb dome pictured above is located in Weaverville, NC which is only a 10min drive from downtown Asheville. The view from this dome is immaculate mountains and trees that seem to go on forever. The evening sky is loaded with stars that seem so close you could touch them – for me, staying at the dome is magical.  There is also a wood burning stove inside! We enjoyed learning how to use that stove to heat our space. Sometimes simple can be so heartwarming. 

Check out the view from The Dome! I was on the verge of tears when we had to leave.
Peaceful moments in the mountains.

Overall this area of North Carolina has so much to offer.  Asheville is popping with street art, galleries, great food and musicians. With that being said, you may notice as the evening rolls in that, like everywhere, there are people living on the fringes of society due to addiction, homelessness and those given over to drunkenness.  Always be aware of your environment. I wouldn’t recommend walking around with lots of shopping bags after dark. We have never encountered trouble over the past 6 years but a friend of ours did have a dangerous encounter recently.

David A. Gildersleeve speaks to our generation through art!
We enjoyed admiring contemporary art at the Haen Gallery
Artful wood works by Chad Cardoza in PUSH SkateShop!
Fun exploring PUSH SkateShop
Various arts found in downtown Asheville

You will want to take your time in Asheville because there is lots to see and do. Make sure to try and stay for at least two days if you can! 

More Color Please! For more about my outfit click here

Written By Nikia Knapp/Edit by Craig Greshaw

Photography By Colorful Life Productions unless otherwise noted.

If you enjoyed this blog you may also like What to expect at the Spring LEAF festival in Black Mountain, North Carolina