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Saturday, July 22, 2017

#Artscape2017 The Loading Dock: Nonprofit Building Materials Reuse Center

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Made it to Artscape 2017!

I wanted to make sure to connect with a non profit organization while taking in everything else going on at Artscape and I found out about an interesting organization called The Loading Dock.Based here in Baltimore, this is an organization that ties together themes of environmental consciousness as well as social impact.

Beginning in 1984, they hold the distinction of, being, "the nation's first successful, self-suffiecient, non-profit building materials reuse center."

Their work keeps materials from being wasted and makes them available to those in the market for building materials.
You can click here to read about their workshops which earned the distinction of being named as one of, "The 15 Best Things To Do In Maryland."

Facebook The Loading Dock

Friday, July 7, 2017

Potter's Crackers- Potter's Crackers Wisconsin "Organic Artisan Crackers Delivering The Flavors of Wisconsin"

Today I am adding another entry for The 50 Co-Op Kitchen!

My interest in cooking and preparing snacks and meals as of late is based around the fact that I have quite a commute to work and by the time the day is over and even when I have an off day, I like to be able to prepare meals and snacks as quickly as possible.

Something as simple as going to your local grocer and picking up some pre-made chicken salad to be paired with a crisp or cracker is all you have to do to have a healthy and tasty snack.

Similar to any other type of snack food, crsips and crackers can be found in all types of flavors and textures. Potter's Cracker's offers the chance to have the flavors of Wisconsin right at your table!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Injinji Performance Wear

What keeps you motivated in reaching your fitness goal(s)? I define Fitness as a lifestyle rather than something temporary.

Having the best gear for your individual needs is a step in the right direction. Prior to running in Injinji performance toe socks, I was just wearing regular socks and not thinking too much about proper athletic gear.

I used to jog over the Brooklyn Bridge sometimes so my main focus as far as running gear had been to invest in a wind mask and running pants with wind panels on them.

Currently, I run in performance toe socks from California based Injinji (In-jin-jee). This company started in 1999. The name Injinji is a word of African origin which refers to the point at which a drumming circle reaches it peak.

The Injinji Blog features some interesting features including "Foot to the Floor: Why You Should Choose Toesocks."

Through July 31st, Injinji is running an Instagram contest in which they will be giving away a free pair of socks every day.

Injinji's affiliations include The Independent Running Retailer Association as well as The Conservation Alliance, whose mission is,"to engage businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values."

I like the Injinji, "Manifestoe". It is as follows, “Forever committed to innovation that allows your feet to live and perform at their peak. We are a better way.”



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Life of Trayvon Martin

I thought about not writing this post. Earlier today I had an exchange that brought to mind the concept as well as the power of perception.

My work day was over; as well, or so I thought, as my all day-every day-every time I leave the house effort, to field consistent slights based at least in part on being a visible minority.

Being as race is the death knell of casual conversation, it often makes good sense to think twice before bringing up the, "R," word.

However, given the topic of this post, race is most definitely a factor.

The life of Trayvon Martin was ruined in less than the space of a day because of perception.

When we talk about perception, are we speaking essentially about human nature? Human frailty?

So humanity, here we are in 2017.

The Adam Smith approach to nation building puts forward the idea that there is a direct relationship betwixt and between the overall well being of the individual and that of nations as a whole.

So what do we make of this if we extrapolate the following information to the scale of an entire country? I think the numbers say a whole heck of a lot all by themselves.

Age  17 to 20  
$10          x   25  Hours/Week  =   $250.00        per Week
$250        x   52  Weeks/Year   =   $13,000.00   per Year
$13,000   x   3    Years             =   $52,000.00   GROSS Earnings

The spaces below are intentionally blank.

Age  21 to 25   -
Age  26 to 30   -
Age  31 to 35   -
Age  36 to 65   -
Age  65 to ...

$52,000.00 is enough to fly around the world a few times and still have some left over.It is also enough to support local businesses, start looking into home ownership, pursue professional development and/or higher education and other such aspirations.

The ripple effect of destroying people goes beyond the life of one individual.

Must this be a painfully slow process...

Sunday, May 7, 2017

National Diaper Bank Network

I think it's fairly well known that there is such a thing as a food bank/pantry etc... When it comes to locating additional resources for families and/or individuals in need there is an organization called the National Diaper Bank Network which is based in New Haven Connecticut.Executive Director and Huffington Post contributor Diane Goldblum spoke with me about her work.

What are your thoughts on why food pantries that have clothing and various other products such as medicine and home goods may not carry much by way of baby products?
"I think there are a couple of reasons, often they're dealing with donated products and so there are a lot more clothes and home goods that people replace regularly. Baby goods are very closely monitored and changed frequently, even cribs we used when my son was a baby are no longer acceptable by modern safety standards so there a lot of legal issues."

How did you come to find out about the National Diaper Bank Network?
"I am the founder and Executive Director. About 10 years ago I started the New Haven Diaper Bank. In New Haven CT, I saw parents who had to keep their children in a diaper for more than a day.
I saw a level of poverty in my neighborhood that was really just untenable."

What kinds of factors do you feel should be taken into consideration while putting together ideas about creating assistance programs that are sustainable with or without grants?
"I think that there is a great deal you can do in a community without significant financial support. There are a lot of small organizations that take in used goods and redistribute them and that can be done in your house. When you get to a certain tipping point;then you need money. It's a matter of finding in your community individuals who have some money who want to support what your doing."

Any thoughts on patterns that are found in rural areas measured against urban areas?
It is, "harder for people in rural areas because transportation is such an issue; services are spread out."

This may seem like an obvious question.Why don't hospitals have some kind of public health mandate to provide such an essential item?
"Hospitals sort of generally speaking don't have mandates; they come from insurance regulations or public health regulations. Diapers are not included in any insurance formula.Food stamps for example is purely a nutritional program so they don't pay for hygenie products. Insurance, when you look at the basis for what it is supposed to be, it's for emergency situations;hospitals provide diapers if children are in patients."

What can people do to empower those in need of these services?
"I don't consider giving people diapers a band-aid or a handout, I think that parenting is incredibly difficult, it's incredibly difficult with resources and support.Without those things we take away from the child's potential. When you reach out to a child you are reaching out to two generations.The mother child bond is increased when a mother or parent is able to have that really positive interaction with their child.
I have a social worker background. I  have always felt like there is a huge disparity in income and in what's available to people and how much that really impacts this next generation. I grew up in a very left of liberal household."


On the National Diaper Bank Network website they have a feature on the left hand side of the home page called Find a Diaper Bank. There are listings on the site in various locations such as Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee,Michigan, Colorado, Washington, DC, New Jersey,Arizona, Florida etc...

I am always interested in learning more about public health, and now consider this to be a public health issue. Certainly, in order to have a thoughtful conversation about issues such as quality of life for young families overall and access to diapers and other hygiene products in particular, it makes sense to cultivate an awareness of how public health is tied to other social topics such as cost of living as well as access to gainful employment as well as being able to earn a living wage. I usually keep my posts centered around facts and the direct personal experiences of those I interview. That being said I welcome comments about the issue of fair wages.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Is Gun Violence a Public Health Issue?

How is public health defined, who decides what that definition is and on what information are they basing their decision? Who has a seat at the table while these topics are being discussed?

Recently, I found myself thinking; " How many people have to die before action is taken to decrease gun violence?" I suppose there is an argument for the fact that all societies are desensitized to their own failings.

Where then, must we go to gather together those that have the right thinking on the issues that hold us back from living up to the ideals of our society?

Although I don't recall the first time I thought about the idea of fostering discussion around gun violence as a public health issue, even a brief google search shows that this topic is already out there.

There's a lot to delve into here...

I do think that a civil society has an obligation to provide certain services to its citizens. Health care, being one of them. In order to move from talking about heady ideas and lofty goals to actually identifying what specific steps to take to create a better quality of life when it comes to access to health care, you have to get into economics.

An idea by itself is stagnant without the necessary resources and oversight to actually take action.

Rather than write this entire post from an editorial perspective, I think it will be more useful for me to give an overview of some of the voices that have chimed in to the discussion about whether or not gun violence is a public health issue.

No matter how you define it, public health only moves forward when facts are given pride of place over everything else.

If you google Public Health, the first entry that comes up is the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Other sources of information are the WHO (World Health Organization) and the APHA (American Public Health Association).

If you want to see a fact sheet on gun violence, the APHA has a resource titled, "Gun Violence has an article that reviews several different perspectives on the topic of whether or not gun violence is a public health issue.

Diversity of thought  is necessary to yield any kind of forward thinking approach to improving our society; thus community activists, students, think tanks and colleges and universities should all have a role in shaping the discourse around gun violence and how best we can understand it and prevent it.

I spoke with Professor Jon Vernick, Co-Director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research  at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health about the idea of framing gun violence as a public health issue.

"Guns claim more than 30,000 lives in the United States alone every year and another additional 70,000 or so non-fatal violent injuries are associated with guns. By thinking of it as a public health problem we can consider all aspects of the problem, not just gun deaths by homicide which are of interest to the criminal justice world, (but) we can also think about suicide and accidental gun deaths. We can consider upstream solutions. Whereas the criminal justice system thinks primarily, though not exclusively about punishment, public health thinks primarily about trying to keep people from getting hurt in the first place.

Public health also has a tradition of focusing on the vector of a particular cause. In this topic, the vector is the firearm. There is a history in public health about 'how we can modify the vector'; how to keep guns out of the hands of a violent person in the first place.

There is a history of success that public health has had in other areas such as motor vehicles.By thinking of guns as a public health problem maybe there is inspiration that can be drawn from other successes."

This quote brings to the surface the idea that there are multiple aspects to gun violence which, in my opinion, is an important point. In order to make progress it is necessary for the major media outlets to inform the public of the kinds of things that are taking away from our ideas and ideals as a nation. Moving forward, it is absolutely critical to have more in-depth conversations about preventative measures. These conversations, guided by a nuanced perspective of the topic(s), inform the voting public and the wheels of progress turn...or at least that's the idea.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MACDC Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations

I first learned about collaborative work spaces when I was living in Brooklyn. I vaguely remember that it was a writer's space so I did a quick google search and came to the Brooklyn Writers Space. I remember thinking about how that might be a good resource for entrepreneurs and would like to eventually create my version of a collaborative work space at some point.

One of the United Way's partner organizations is the Boston based Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporation. Their website provides information about the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI): Co-Work, which includes grant funding for collaborative groups. 
I found out about MACDC while attending an event a few years ago and had a chance to interview President Joe Kriesberg. 

I like that MACDC's Theory of Change incorporates rural communities into it's focus. What feedback can you share regarding how the unique needs of rural communities are an important part of community development work?
Community development in rural areas shares the same values and basic elements as community development in urban areas, but it manifest itself differently. Community engagement is harder when people are spread out, and it can be even harder to identify and engage low income people as they are more disperse.

That said, most rural communities have a strong network of existing leaders that can be engaged and smart CDCs find creative ways to engage new leaders.

Rural CDCs are more likely to focus on home repair and of course their housing projects are much smaller – something that can be challenging given the affordable housing system’s preference for scale.  Many rural CDCs are highly focused on economic development given the economic struggles that can be found in much of rural America.

We see our rural members more focused on growing local businesses and supporting entrepreneurs.

Another difference we find is that rural CDCs are often filling the void created by small local governments with little community development capacity. Rural groups often help their towns to raise and administer grants and help construct or even manage community facilities.

With all these differences, however, the same three elements remain: community building, improving the built environment, and help people to transform their lives.

A few years ago I attended a NYSERDA event (link copied below) and am interested to know; is there a comparable organization or state funded initiative that services Massachusetts?

I don't think we have an organization like this, but we do have strong energy programs at our state energy office and Mass Development plays some of the same roles with financing projects, I think.

There is a youth movement called Power Shift that aims to function as a gathering place for the youth climate movement. I'm interested to know of any similar programs and/or initiatives that you may wish to draw attention to including MACDC's Green Community Development movement.

CDCs are committed to environmental sustainability as documented in a report we released a couple of years ago.

MACDC’s big priorities right now are the Community Investment Tax Credit and the Mel King Institute. We may be launching an effort around community development and health later this year.

How did the relationship with the LISC come about and what kinds of outcomes are MACDC and LISC looking to create through the classes offered at the Mel King Institute? 

MACDC and LISC have been close partners for 20 years or more – long before I arrived so I’m not sure how it started.  The major outcomes we hope to achieve long term is (1) stronger, better trained CD staff; (2) younger more diverse workforce; (3) more and better partnerships among CDCs and between CDCs and other stakeholders; (4) better community level outcomes due to higher CDC production.