September 2020 – Shelly Denmark

The Ever-Expanding Crave Universe”

Stephanie Preston Hughes: “Is the Crave Universe an intentional description?”

Me: “I don’t know. I’ll have to ask Michele Van Son Neill, our Founder.”

SPH: “Because it’s a perfect analogy to the ever-expanding universe we live in. The Crave family keeps getting bigger as we help people make more and more meaningful connections with each other.”

Intentional or not, the Crave Universe truly captures what happens with each new class of leaders, and each new group of coaches, Board and Advisory Council members. While this happens a lot lately through phone calls, texts, emails, and Zoom meetings, we had the privilege of witnessing new connections being made in person at our Crave 4 Kickoff dinner earlier this month. As many of you can relate, safely gathering in-person means so much more after having been quarantined for so long!

I was more involved in recruiting this year, after having a year of Crave under my belt. So I’ve had the privilege of getting to know our Class 4 Leaders since March, and I couldn’t wait for them to meet each other and for the coaches, Board and Council members to meet them as well. Let me tell you why, as I share a little about each of them.

I met Simon Adams at a Dunkin’ Donuts right before quarantine began in March. The moment he said hello, I knew there was something special about him. His smile and countenance lights up a room. He is a sponge and a self-described lifelong learner, and we instantly bonded over that shared quality. His Crave project is centered around developing an online service to promote financial literacy with a niche reach into impoverished communities. The goals of his social enterprise work are to teach the youth and young adults in these communities how to make, keep and multiply money, while also building a sense of community through arts and activism, simultaneously.

Then I met Shannon Hutchison in May. It was my first Zoom recruitment call because of the pandemic, and Shannon made it so easy. Shannon exudes strength, perseverance, and intelligence, and we instantly connected over similar vocations in teaching as well as motherhood. Her Crave project is setting up a non profit that walks alongside rape survivors of all genders, races, and religions from beginning to end, to try and curb the number of PTSD cases and suicides that happen from the trauma of rape and sexual assault. S.O.A.R. will offer education, resources, counseling, and services.

Dylan McCain Allen, a Crave Class II Alumnus, introduced me to Joshua Footman in June. Joshua is full of passion and determination, and I wish I could bottle up his energy and imagination! We immediately connected over our heart for making affordable housing a reality in Central Florida, where it is desperately needed. He excitedly shared with me the innovative interlocking block system that he had discovered and was in the process of acquiring the equipment to manufacture. He has been sharing developments with me of his journey ever since. Not only will his Crave project provide affordable housing for low-income communities, but he also dreams of building a community center in the midst of these new homes to offer additional services and opportunities for the families who live there.

I met Kelsey Evans-Amalu in July, and I was immediately impressed with her combination of empathy, desire for equity, and knowledge. Another educator, it was fun to be able to speak a similar language, especially when I showed her the “scope and sequence” of the Crave program and she didn’t think me too nerdy as I excitedly shared it with her. Her Crave project will create a mobile meditation studio that is membership-based, offering continuous, daily guided meditation practices for those exploring mediation or those who want more accountability and community with their practice. Ultimately, she hopes her studio will create a more mindful community and combat rising psychological distress by offering mindfulness-based intervention skills to the Orlando area. It will cater to high needs and marginalized populations.

Finally, I met Shanay Pugh in August. Shanay is like a breath of fresh air, and her presence balances and calms whomever she is with. It turns out that she is in a Bible study with Marquis McKenzie’s (Crave III Alumnus) mom! I knew from that initial meeting, and it was confirmed during our Orientation, that Shanay was going to be a leader among our leaders. She was the first one to text the group the morning after, to express her gratitude in a unique way to each of the leaders. She is a true soul at peace! She has two Crave projects: one will offer coaching services to men and women in prison in order to better prepare them for life upon their release. The other is a women’s Bible study that teaches women how to take moments of rest from the busyness of life and follow biblical principles. They discuss issues pertaining to self care, self love, parenting, drawing boundaries, effective money management, and taking time each day to grow in relationship with God.

By now, you can see why I love being the Orlando Director of Crave! I get to work with inspiring young leaders, whose hearts are full of love for their communities, so much so that they want to do everything they can to make a difference, particularly for the marginalized among them. I encourage you to read their bios on our website, and more so, follow and support them in their work!

Shelly Denmark, Orlando Crave Director


May 2020 – Shequila Roberts

Mothering During A Pandemic

Cooking. Cleaning. Homework. Laundry. Children fighting. Children eating. Homeschooling … all while being an essential worker. This is truly enough to make me want to pull out my hair. And as a single mother, let me just say, these last few weeks have been very challenging, to say the least. However, when people believe in you and your light, it makes it much easier.

In addition to being a single mother, I am the founder of the non-profit Determine Now, which aims to help families create positive impacts intergenerationally. At Determine Now, we believe a strong community support system is vital for families to succeed. The community support I received from Kelsey Kerce and Hanah Murphy led me to Crave. People like my mentor Tonya Tolson, alums Dylan McCain Allen and Chantel Aquart, and board member Tom Harris, administrator Karen Roby and director Shelly Denmark — the whole Crave family! — provide for me this vitally important support system. It feels really good when people believe in you and your mission, and that’s what I receive from Crave. There’s no competition (unless we are gaming).

Wearing multiple hats has its highs and lows. The most challenging things for me have been balancing three things – making quality time for my son (aka my Prince), being an essential worker during this pandemic, as well as being a servant leader.

I am exhausted. I am working five days a week – waking at 5 to pray and meditate, cook breakfast, shower, make sure my son is logged online for school, and head to work. I have been picking up food and delivering to those in need after work, and then, sitting outside in the sun for at least an hour to rid myself of any germs before I put on my mommy/daughter cape and walk back in the door. Evenings include laundry, games with my son, cooking dinner, more prayer and meditation, and then, off to bed. Wake up, and repeat.

During the first few weeks of our quarantine, my son had a hard time adjusting to what we are calling the “new norm.” In the mornings, when I was about to leave for work, he would shake. “Mommy, don’t leave me,” he’d say. I’d tell him, “Take a few deep breaths and trust God to watch over us.” He was worried that other children were losing their mothers. “I just cannot lose you,” he’d say. I tried to assure him he wouldn’t lose me, but that if something did happen to me, I would always be in his heart. Thankfully, he has now adjusted to new norm, and the shaking has subsided, but I hope I will always be in his heart.

Being a mother has its challenges, but it is also fulfilling and rewarding to be able to nurture, inspire and uplift our children. I’ve learned from my experience at Crave how to zoom in while also keeping my eyes on the prize. Parents, even though we have so many hats to wear right now, it is important to maintain consistency! As a mother myself, I would like to tell all the children, “Thank you!” Thank you for coming into our lives and teaching us unconditional love. Thank you for putting our faith to the true test. Thank you for loving us and appreciating us. Thank you for believing in us even when we don’t always believe in ourselves.

Mostly, what this pandemic has reinforced for me is that being a mother is a lifetime commitment. It has taught me that even though I am an essential worker, all lives are essential. It has taught me to live for today, because tomorrow is not promised. It has taught me to enjoy every moment. It has taught me to value who I am wholeheartedly. And, it has taught me that God has trusted me with very special cargo, my Prince.

We celebrate Mother’s Day this month, and I would like to wish all mothers a very happy celebration. I am thankful my mother is alive, and is able to enjoy this time with us. I am thankful she has had the opportunity to see me mother her grandchild. I also want to send love and light to all the mothers who have lost their mothers, or who have lost their children. This Mother’s Day, we celebrate all mothers and all the children who made us mothers.

Mothering during this pandemic has made us all realize that we must be in this together.

Shequila Roberts

Founder of Determine Now, offering “Read, Learn, and Grow Storytime with Ms. Q” 10 am every Monday, and “The Teen Meditation Hub” every Wednesday at 6:30 pm on IGTV.


January 2020 – Chantel Aquart

Look and See!

5…..4….3….2….1 Happy New Year!!!

This was the phrase heard the world over just last month!  Even those who didn’t know one another shared the sentiments of happiness for a new era. With thoughts of fresh beginnings we all hoped for the best when the year turned to 2020.

So where are you now?

Do we still take time to speak to others on the street to wish them a happy day? Are you still feeling optimistic or does the pace of every day have you feeling exhausted before January even ended? Why do we think we have to wait for a holiday to celebrate?

As we all know, any day could be our last so I believe we must live each day as if it’s the first! Wake up with with a grateful heart, explore new things, take risks, be bold, be brave. Even though these are just words that could sound cliche, they must be focused on to move forward in a positive direction everyday. Each day is going to hold inevitable challenges but the daily test is to overcome them daily! How does this happen when we’re overwhelmed by being stretched thin at home, working long in our professions, and balancing everything else in between?

We put God first and G.O. Get Organized in life.

If we neglect to organize the foundation of our life it’s easy to become confused, discouraged, and give up what we are resolved to do.

What did you want this year to look like? Just know that it can happen at any moment. Once your life is organized you are prepared for the opportunities you seek. They then begin to present themselves with synchronicity! In conjunction with your spiritually, organization can allow you to find precise efficiencies in life to reach your heart‘s desires.

If youre ready to begin your life organizing journey I am here to help and serve! I work with clients in home or office to declutter, streamline, and strategize to gain efficiency and decrease stress. I’m a professional organizer and spiritual director who’s mission is to make Every Day Amazing.
I teach, coach and guide others to organize their space, mind and time so they can plan their work, work their plan and make life work. Please reach out if I can help…and Happy (not just New, but) ALL Year!!

Crave Alumna

January 2019 – Sade Adeyemi

 

I spent one of my first few hours as a Crave Leader in tears. Here I was, in a room full of ambitious, established people dedicated to their respective causes and making major moves within their communities, and I, a recent grad with bright blue hair and little experience in the real world, was still figuring out my path. In this room where I sat between a nonprofit’s president and an executive director I felt like I did not fit the idea I somehow formed of who an ideal Crave Leader should be. I turned to Michele and said, “I don’t belong here. I think you made a mistake.” Nobody has ever told me so adamantly how wrong I was. She told me I seemed to hold a wisdom beyond my years, and invited me to be vulnerable. Taking an unprecedented leap of faith and embracing that vulnerability has undoubtedly been the biggest catalyst in my personal growth and self-discovery. By allowing others to intimately know me, I’ve learned so much more about myself as well. I’ve been pushed to explore what motivates me, the path that has led me to where I am now, and the steps I’ll need to take to reach my goals. I’ve been able to pinpoint my passions, and I can finally say, with more certainty than I’ve ever held, that I know who I am, and where I’m going. In the past 6 months I’ve grown out of the uncertainty that I deserved this exclusive position, and into acceptance that I am exactly where I’m meant to be right now. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and the person I have become, and the person I am striving to be every single day could not exist without the experiences I’ve had so far in Crave.

 

My mom always told me, “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Through Crave, I’ve found more than just friends; I have an entire family behind me with my growth and best interest at heart. I have a mentor who has helped me to put my passion into words others can understand. I have a community of people who push me to explore thoughts I otherwise would’ve let slip away. I have leaders to look up to who are also doing the best they can, and who aren’t afraid to admit if they don’t know what they’re doing. Crave has given me more than I possibly could have anticipated. Every meeting begins with the sort of stillness you can feel within the very core of your being, and ends with a glow that reminds me I’m working toward something greater than myself. Crave reminds me that together, as a community, we are stronger, wiser and capable of so much more.

 

Michele and the rest of the Crave board saw something in me during my interviews that I couldn’t even see myself, and I couldn’t be more thankful. They recognized my craving for the greater good, and my burning desire to make a positive impact, despite being unaware of how best to apply my efforts. I have finally discovered that I am most passionate about personal development and education reform. I believe that every child deserves the opportunity to grow up to reach their fullest potential, and some of the resources and knowledge needed to do so cannot be intrinsically learned, and so must be taught. I believe that this discovery is the first of many steps I’ll need to take in order to help initiate the changes necessary to make this happen. This is only the beginning.

 

 


January 2019 – Chantel Aquart

Organize – verb
     1. Arrange into a structured whole; order
        Synonyms: assemble, systemize, declutter
     2. Make arrangements of preparations for (an event or activity); coordinate
I believe that the ability to organize your life is a critical skill that should be taught to us from a young age. Knowing how to make a plan for our life, keep our personal space in order and our mind at ease while managing our daily, weekly, yearly tasks and schedules can aid in preventing enormous amounts of stress and chaos. Our lives are bombarded daily with things to do and attend to. When we have a system of organization in our life we have the opportunity for spontaneity, autonomy and adventure. Despite the amount of things crying out for our attention, being organized can lead to personal growth, meaningful relationships and a more enjoyable life.
Having clutter in our space, mind and time interrupts the flow of our life. This clutter causes chaos and slows us down weather we realize it or not. Our mental wellbeing and physical environment become unsatisfying compared to the safe havens we need them to be. The process of streamlining and organizing life can be a key factor in bringing us peace, calm and happiness. This skill is not something that we are born with and it’s not even something many enjoy doing. Thankfully there are professionals like myself and others that can work alongside you gently helping you find solutions for life’s clutter while gaining productivity and efficiency. There are also many online resources such as napo.net and challengingdisorganization.org which can give you some resources to begin the organization journey. The month of January is usually a good month to start this process although it will benefit you at any point during the year. Start small with a plan and believe in yourself that it can be done. If all else fails, call an expert for assistance.
In August of 2018 I began the incredible experience of being a Crave Leader. Since then, I have benefited greatly by making companions with other like-minded Leaders. I have received tremendous professional skill development from industry leaders as well as mentorship from caring individuals who all crave the common good. Crave is a “soulful learning container for social innovators who lead meaning-making communities” and I am so pleased to be a part of it. I have gained an extensive amount of knowledge from this experience and look forward to continued development and connections with my work, vision and mission of life organization.

November 2018 – Frank Bailey, Jr.

My name is Frank Bailey, Jr. and I CRAVE to make the world a better place by teaching life skills through plant cultivation with Grow Orlando. We hire disadvantaged youth and teach them how to harvest their seeds of potential and become Stewards of Creation. While cultivating food and taking our students through classes of finance, personal and professional development, I didn’t know (but soon found out) was that my organization CRAVE’d for me to be a better person with the tact and foresight of a leader still packed away in my own seeds of potential. As I hack and strike at my internal earth to plant my seeds of potential, I uncovered people and programs that embraced my torrential struggles of breakthrough and nourish my CRAVE for growth with cultivation tips – and what a trip it’s been. Here’s a snapshot of CRAVE how it’s impacted my life:

When our spiritual formation gathers

Fellow leaders join me in our spiritual place

A place of vulnerability and love in peace

Knowing our latter lives will rise in grace

We center our souls in the Spirit of Trust

Hoping our scattered minds will collect themselves

And through each other’s joys and pains we find unity in growth.

What a blessing for God to invite the Universe to conspire in His favor in our lives for the betterment of others

Social change-makers

Collectively going through professional transformation

And like good samaritans

Our path is intertwined with supporters CRAVEing to see us grow and succeed

Finding time for us in their busy lives to satiate our CRAVE for a better world

My samaritan’s name is Tom,

And our talks grow peace and calm in the mindstorm of my entrepreneurial pursuits.

It suits my cause to change lives through food,

He extends his arm, and helps me pursue stronger connections with game-changing relationships

He equips, converses and strips down the barriers I once faced alone,

Where one was weak, we are strong.

I thank Michele and the CRAVE board for buying into the success of people like me who want to see a better world,

But must first unfurl the embetterment of self.

With you, we are receiving:

Clarity in strategy,

Reassurance in individuality,

Abundance in opportunity,

Virtue in community, and

Eternal love through the family culture created through CRAVE.

Ask, and you shall receive.

I asked for wisdom to carry out God’s deeds here on Earth and I was sent CRAVE.

I pray for love, peace, and purpose for you, dear reader

And I hope you consider Making CRAVE a part of your future.

Your Friend,

Frank

P.S. If you don’t believe in God, it’s okay

I’ve found equal ground

I believe God is Love, so if you wish you can switch all of the words that say God and change it to Love.

Blessings to You.


October 2018 – Dylan McCain Allen

Our home is vibrant as it is complex, which is why collaboration is necessary to get our neighborhoods ready for just about anything. The Pulse Nightclub Shooting and 2017 Hurricanes brought communities together like never before, but disjointed funding efforts and duplicated services made it hard to effectively align community needs with assets. A Gift For Teaching moved past its “business as usual” to elevate how the educationally-disadvantaged are supported and joined a growing coalition of socially-driven organizations and businesses, service-providing not-for-profits, and government agencies to coordinate grassroots-informed, regionally-strategized action plans that will quickly activate disaster restoration, convene philanthropic cooperation, and get our region back up to speed in any situation.

Following the ideas of Collective Impact, purposeful collaboration can transform the way human services tackle some of the other extremely complex challenges in our region. Rapidly growing homelessness tied to low wages and an affordable housing crisis, health disparities tied to economic inequities and racial biases, and devastatingly-high rates of human trafficking underscore that Central Florida’s greatest problems are far worse than traffic on I-4. Collective impact provides hope to communities that have been swamped with philanthropic dollars yet seen little change or neighborhoods that have accepted outside support and received emigration-forcing gentrification. If the social sector can move towards organizational alignment (rather than programmatic partnerships) and focus on ultimate outcomes (for example: end food-insecurity rather than hunger), then our everyday lives will be dramatically transformed for the better. However, this requires immense change by the leaders.

One unique thing about Crave is that it’s already full of inspired and activated individuals. The need isn’t to show its participants the possibilities to find their Ikigai because they already have the idea—they see the light at the end of the tunnel. The challenge is navigating the labyrinth. The other unique part about Crave is that is transcends leadership and skill development to also incorporate the person and their spiritual motivations as the driving powers of the operation. Unveiling the internal, hidden, and powerful forces that guide our raison d’être sets us free to see our missions in a more universal truth that is grounded by what makes us who we are. Leveraging my strengths in connecting seemingly-disparate people and ideas, learning everything I can about the world, ideating new ways to solve complex challenges, arranging processes into a better flow, and an admiration for mental exercises and intellectual pursuits will augment my ability to bring a community together and target its assets towards greater impact. Let’s work together, Central Florida—strategically, meaningfully, and sustainably.

A special thanks to the Central Florida Foundation, Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, and the Donors Forum of Central Florida for being the catalyst of coordinated disaster response. Also a special thanks to the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park and the Crave team for this opportunity not just given to me, but to Central Florida.

Dylan McCain Allen
A Gift for Teaching, Orlando YNPN


Crave II Orlando Kickoff

Crave II Orlando has begun!

As strangers, Orlando-based social innovators gathered for an overnight retreat to begin the work of vulnerably sharing our stories, hearts, and dreams with one another. Desire for belonging and safety produced regular laughter, connection, and collective contagious creative hopefulness. The new Crave Leaders’ courage and passion made that Something More (God, Vibration, Source) so undeniably palpable in our shared experience and space.

After learning our strengths, identifying our values and expectations of belonging, and selecting our learning opportunities for the year ahead, the Crave Advisory Board began to arrive for our shared feast.

Among the 17 of us (Crave I & II Orlando and the Advisory Board) the room oscillated between raucous laughter and intense conversation about the new projects for the common good which are at the heart of Crave.

Education, LGBTQ+ advocacy and support, life skills, and community impact are the primary mission areas of focus for our Leaders this year. There is so much to discover and develop together. We hope you will journey with us throughout the coming year by reading our blogs, following us on social media @CraveFLA, and getting directly involved by reaching out to me michele@cravefla.org.

Light always and ultimately overcomes the darkness. Crave exists to nourish and spread that Light.

Michele Van Son Neill
Founder
Crave, Inc.