March 2022 – Chantel Aquart

Come. Rest.

“I hope that Crave can be the place this year that says “Come” to all our leaders who are laboring and are heavy laden. “Come. Rest.”  ~ Spoken by Chantel Aquart, Chair-elect, at the Crave V Welcome Dinner in February, 2022

Chantel speaking at the 2022 Welcome Dinner.

The full verse of Matthew 11:28-30 reads like this:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

This is the reason I joined Crave. I was tired. I was worn-out and burned-out from trying to do life alone. I knew that God had given me great plans, but I didn’t know how to pursue them. I prayed long and hard; I went to small groups; I called help lines trying to unload and get help with my heavy burdens.

Racism. Poverty. Immigration. Domestic Violence. Incarceration. These are a few of my heavy burdens I deal with as a single parent of three. And I am not alone. Single motherhood has grown so common in America that today 80 percent of single-parent families are headed by single mothers; nearly one-third live in poverty. With God’s help and through programs like Crave, I work every day to overcome these statistics.

I enjoy being a public speaker. As a British-native and US citizen, I have moved around the world in my 40+ years. I ‘ve learned to manage change well. I’ve taught hundreds of people how to order life in order to find joy and fulfillment. This led me to open my own consulting firm Amazing Life Consulting Firm LLC, which offers life coaching in personal development for well-being so you can “Make Life Work.”

I also sit on the board of another community organization, Poverty Solutions Group, and have made over 50 Central Florida community connections (we call these Crave connections). It was through some of these connections that PSG was awarded close to $40,000 in grants last year.

I have learned environments can pivot you either to or away from your fullest potential. When I look back at the environments Crave placed me in as an aspiring entrepreneur, I see they were planting me in fertile soil. While I was a Class II Leader, I learned to develop, direct, accelerate, master, manage, create, fulfill, process, network, mobilize, fund, scale, and innovate my business. I continue to build on these skills an am now able to share what I learned new Crave V leaders, as I begin my term as Chair of the Board of Directors.

Crave’s Board of Directors, Program Council, Alumni, Coaches, and Community Partners are ready to join our new Crave V Leaders on their journey to stratospheric success. But we need you!

As our Crave Family continues to learn, to implement and to teach, we need you to help us make a larger impact. Do you have gifts, skills and talents you know could help our Crave V Leaders move forward? We would like to hear from you. Please let’s meet for coffee (or tea!) to discuss how we can make some Crave connections. Know someone we need to meet? Please share us with others! Let’s work together to help the new Crave Leaders do the great work they want to do in our community. Together we can make their burden light.

Chantel Aquart

Crave II Leader

Crave Board of Directors Chair, 2022

Crave Community Statement

We believe in the goodness of the human spirit 

and that together we are wiser, kinder, and capable of greater Love. 

We gather to discover, support, and challenge one another

as we commit our lives to the service of others. 

We honor each person’s journey 

because conversation is more valuable than conviction.

Today, we hope that the fire within us burns brighter for having been together.


Crave V Leaders (L-R)

Anthony Lewis, Joni Pugh, Antoniah Lewis-Reese, Edrewnae Lewis, 

Caleb Hylton, Shala Edwards, Cendie Stanford, Seven Charlestin, 

and Mark Bishop. (Not Pictured: Keisha Bishop, Lo-Ammi Richardson and Bryan Wilson.)

November 2021 – Michele Van Son Neill

Confessions of a Founder: This is so about you

My mom would have turned 78 later this month. She was a kind soul and she died too young. I miss so much about her, but especially her simple direct wisdom. “Life is daily” was a good one. Another favorite: “Men. Women. What was God thinking?” As a teen I’d whine to her about how my brothers were treating me and she’d turn to me and say, “It’s hell living with people.” I repeated that back to her 20 years later when I lived with two 3-year-olds and a 2-year-old. We laughed until tears ran down our cheeks.

Michele’s mother Rev. Robbi Walker on her birthday, November 26

My favorite line of hers she once used as a sermon title she preached on God’s grace, “This Is So Not About You.” Isn’t that the truth?  Don’t we need to be reminded of that? We can get trapped so easily into thinking it’s all my fault, my responsibility, my job alone. Nine out of ten times, no matter the situation, it really isn’t about you. It’s really about something or someone else. Rarely though, we find ourselves in circumstances where it is about you.  For example, there is only one Founder – and it is me.

Five years after the founding of Crave (can you believe it?!?), we are taking intentional time to reflect, respond, and recalibrate. Crave has grown from a small group of spiritually curious social entrepreneurs to a wildly diverse, deeply connected, powerfully impactful collection of people only the Holy Spirit could gather for times such as these. I attended a prestigious university, I attend a powerful church, I live in a heavily resourced influential neighborhood, but never have I EVER been part of such a rich, dynamic, blessed, passionate, and brilliant group of people as Crave.

Preparing to Start cohort five was the time for the leveled-up 2.0 God-size dream for Crave. What will we become? What’s next for us? How will we get there? As I prayed over and over these questions while walking our dog and in the carpool line, I kept coming up blank.  Worse than blank, I felt overwhelmed, tired, and tangled up in too many and too few good ways forward. As Founder, considering what the next five years should/could/would be, I was in over my head. I needed to learn my mother’s lesson again, “this is so not about you.”

In the middle of a recent “overwhelmed/tired/tangled” week, Crave IV graduate Simon Adams and I met for coffee. He excitedly shared with me a THREE PAGE DOCUMENT of his vision for the future of Crave. As I listened to his explanation of his experience with his project, with Crave, and how Crave will become a launching community for spiritually grounded, experienced change-makers in central Florida, I remembered my mother’s lesson. The 2.0 God-sized dream of Crave will emerge from our Alumni Leaders! They have lived the pain they now work to help heal. They have the trauma of injustice and scars of racism but now stand strong and open-hearted to restore our city and the people in it. Crave attracts people who have the lived experience and then invite the rest of us to join in their God-sized dream of a loving, flourishing central Florida. Their story is our story is my story is your story:  

Inevitable life trauma/scars meets…

loving community that is spirit/grace centered + 

support/education/opportunities

expanded network of helpers to show us the way = 

the good life (aka: kingdom of God/heaven)

You’ve lived this story. I’ve lived this story. This is Crave’s story. This is God’s story. 

This is a time when God’s grace and abundance IS all about YOU. Many of Crave’s leaders started life way behind my starting line. Many of their trauma and scars were setbacks and barriers I will never experience and understand. What I do experience and understand is abundance and I want to help them bring about a loving, flourishing community in Central Florida and beyond. That’s why I and many others financially support Crave Leaders’ spiritual grounding/education/project development. This time it is so about me. And, this is so about you

Keep an eye out for lots of opportunities to contribute to Central Florida’s God-sized dreams through Crave during the giving season. Finally, over the holidays please share the good news with your friends and family about the amazing people of Crave who bring hope to the world! 

Happy Thanksgiving 
(and Happy Birthday, Mom!)
Michele Van Son Neill
Crave Founder
Join Central Florida’s revolutionary change-makers by volunteering your gifts of time, skills, relationships, and seed funding. 

 


May/June 2021 – Debra Hendrickson

Dreams for Our Future  

One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”.

Four years ago I was approached by Michele Van Son Neill to assist her in the creation of her dream…a new spiritual leadership program she called “CRAVE”.  She wanted to have a dialogue about spirituality with a younger generation. This generation of dreamers was eager to learn from us “seasoned leaders” as much as we were willing to discover new ideas from them.

As I began this journey with Michele the unexpected came along. I thought that I had reached that age when my dreams had been fulfilled and I was satisfied with the lessons of life that I had learned. But with my exposure to the CRAVE family, I began to realize that there was so much more to discover about myself and my relationships with others.

Debra with Michele Van Son Neill at Victory Cup

My first “ah-ha” moment came in my early connection with a CRAVE leader. My role was to mentor a young CRAVE leader, meet regularly over coffee, ask questions about her project and listen, offer guidance; introduce her to other leaders who could assist in her journey; be her spiritual counselor; mentor her towards success. Ultimately what happened was that I became the “mentee”. Together we were on a self-discovery path. And it continued with each young CRAVE leader that I was able to mentor as I continued my CRAVE involvement.

Debra with Crave II Leader Chantel Aquart

My second awakening came from my experience with fellow board members. Their life experience was so very different than my own.  We heavily debated the track for moving our young organization forward, each with our views based on these life experiences. But with each challenge to my way of thinking came a new understanding and the promise of future accomplishments of our young non-profit organization.  

Debra with Michele Van Son Neill and Adam Hartnett, Crave I Leader and former Board member

For the past 4 years I have served as founding chair and board member of CRAVE. At our recent CRAVE graduation, as I listened to our graduates share their stories about their transformation by participating in CRAVE I, too, felt that my spiritual growth had exceeded my expectations. Although I may be stepping down from my leadership role with CRAVE, I will be in the background, cheering you on as you fulfill your dreams.

Debra with Shelly Denmark, Director, and Brian Vann, Chair of Board of Directors

Debra Hendrickson, Founding Chair of CRAVE Board of Directors


April 2021 – Hanah Murphy

Coming Full Circle

At the very beginning of my time in Crave, we were asked to choose a word which represented the intentions we set for our upcoming year of exploration and growth. I chose the word “circle”.  As in, full circle; referring to the cyclical nature of life and the regenerative connections made through time. It was a concept I was just beginning to experience as I slowly became attune to the synchronicities and serendipities present in my own life and work. 

Discovering what exactly that work is was one of my main motivations in deciding to embark on the Crave journey. What was my purpose? How could I channel my skills and resources into my passion? I joined Crave feeling like I was following a path lit only by the sparks of the people and ideas I had met along the way. I knew there were common threads to what I was learning, experiencing, and doing, but I had no clear sense as to where this path led.

From studying environmental science to working in agriculture and hospitality service, back to studying urban planning and working on youth-centered educational design, food was the only thing holding it all together for me. Food represented the opportunity to bring human societies back into harmony with our natural environment. It represented a life-giving tool to reconnect our communities back to their health, their cultures and each other. Food not only represented our history, but also a tangible way to engage in shaping the kind of future we want to see for life on Earth. 

In the end, I did not leave Crave with a crystal clear idea of what to do or who I was in this work. I did not graduate with a specific project or role to pursue. But, through the vulnerable community Crave cultivated, through the time we dedicated to ourselves and each other week after week, I understood the importance of simply showing up for what I believed in. The Crave leaders I built relationships with encouraged me to keep following these sparks and to trust the quiet pull of curiosity. The breadth of experience shared by our community partners taught me there is a space for everyone, and the individual idea of purpose may only come through collective pursuit. 

Now, almost three years after my Crave experience and three years of committing to show up for the future I believe is possible through food, I am working at the intersection of all these experiences as a farm coordinator and program designer for Grow Orlando, led by fellow Crave alum Frank Bailey. Grow Orlando is committed to employing young people in agricultural roles that not only provide economic opportunity, but also cultivate a sense of connection to self and environment. We are working to build a network of community-led micro- farms growing on otherwise unused, arable land; teach the next generation of farmers and food entrepreneurs; and cultivate healthy, resilient, local food economies through our network. 

This work may not have an explicitly clear path, but drawing on the sparks of our collective community I know we can light the way for future generations.

Talk about coming full circle

Hanah Murphy

Crave I


March 2021 – Shanay Pugh

Crave being a beginner …

Crave taught me that it is ok to be a beginner. I joined the Crave IV Leader class with high anticipation. My project was just an idea at the time. I hoped to bring coaching to inmates or “returning citizens” leaving prison and jail, to help them reconnect with their families upon release. These relationships are vital and are often dysfunctional — at best — before incarceration, and frequently fractured afterwards. My heart is to bring restoration to these families. 

Overtime, after a few Crave spiritual formation sessions and Crave professional development classes, I began to realize how important it is to lean into the discomfort of not knowing it all and to be ok with being a beginner.

After some time in prayer and reflection, I realized l was placing limits on my project. Not only do I want to help restore returning citizens, but I also want to offer a program to the officers guarding them. 

As a former correctional officer, I recognize the burn out many officers suffer from compassion fatigue. You may not see the burnout that happens inside the walls of the jail and prisons, but I do, having experienced it myself. Many of the returning citizens arrive home with a misguided frustration and anger at the way they were treated inside. This frequently impacts how they manage their lives on the outside.

For me, being able to see the “full picture” during my time as a Crave Leader has come at the expense of losing my expectation of having it all together. I have had to accept that even when things do not turn out as planned, purpose is still found.

Here are a few things I have learned from my experience as a Crave Leader.

  1. Knowing your WHY is so much more important than the HOW. The how will come when you can keep the why first. For me, the WHY is the restoration of families from all returning citizens AND the staff who care for them.
  2. Embrace the lessons you are gifted. The process is not always black and white. There is a lot of gray. Learn to color outside the lines and be ok with starting over. Embrace being a beginner.
  3. Water your seed with love, gratitude, and patience. Just because you planted a seed yesterday, do not expect an overnight harvest. Nevertheless, remain committed to the planting process.

I have not finished my project, but I will. In the meantime, I remain committed to being busy with a purpose. Here are a few projects I have completed since I became a Crave Leader:

  1. I authored and published two books about divorce to help families become restored after the loss of love and marriage.
  2. I taught a 3-part series on healing from past trauma-restoring lives.
  3. I started a new position as an ability analyst to help the sick and injured ensure they receive payment while recovering.
  4. I continue to host monthly bible study meetings with women to teach them how to rest from life’s busy demands. Despite the pandemic we continue to meet and impact these women and families.
  5. I have participated in 5 or more interviews about my book and the importance of supporting those men and women who are walking through separation or divorce. 

I continue to crave being a change maker in this world and, even though I am a beginner, I am learning how powerful that process is. 

Thank you Crave for helping me to be ok with starting over, and with being a beginner. I will continue to cultivate change wherever I go and hope to pitch my project to jail officials at the end of 2021.

Shanay Pugh
Crave IV Leader

 


February 2021 – Terri Hartman

How Crave Has Changed the Direction of My Life

I have been a book lover for as long as I can remember. Promoting literacy has always been a passion of mine. In August of 2016 I installed a Little Free Library (littlefreelibrary.org) in my front yard. It brought me such pleasure to share books with the neighborhood and to become more acquainted with my neighbors. I began having little contests for the kids in the neighborhood and giving out books on Halloween. It was a wonderful experience!

 

I soon wanted to do more, and I began to research bookmobiles and book purchasing. My hope was to have a bookmobile that could reach areas not close to the public libraries. I also wanted to teach reading to adults so they could, in turn, read with their children. I knew Karen Roby from when she managed a local bookstore. I wanted to pick her brain about book purchasing and running a bookstore. We met for dinner and, after hearing my idea, she told me about Crave.

In August 2019 I joined Crave as a leader. I met the other leaders and was amazed at the passion and energy everyone had. The overall feeling was one of giving and love and I felt at home. One leader who had a big impact on me was Marquis McKenzie. After one conversation with him, my view of the world completely changed. I went from thinking I knew how the world worked to realizing I had seen everything through my own white-colored glasses. He blew me away and inspired me in so many ways. He literally made me want to be a better person, and made me want to share that inspiration with others like me.

As my year as a Crave leader continued, I realized that a bookmobile was not the path I was meant to take. Instead, I applied for, and was accepted to, Adler University’s master’s degree program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. I want to find a way to help non-profits run smoothly and efficiently, and to be more inclusive. Adler University’s mission is to graduate socially responsible practitioners, engage communities, and advance social justice. I am already applying what I’m learning in my current role as Crave’s Alumni Development Chair.

Crave led me on a path I had never thought or dreamed of and I’m eternally grateful for the entire experience.

Terri Hartman
Crave Alumni
Advisory Council Alumni Development
alumni@cravefla.org

January 2021 – Katie Brown

Oh, So Very Grateful

Last January, my husband and I took what we know now was our last trip for a long time. We went with one of our favorite couples for a long weekend in the Keys, one of our favorite places. I had been traveling in North Carolina on business the week prior, so I flew solo from New Bern to Key West to meet my group. On the flight down, I decided that I was going to do something I’d wanted to do for years.  This was it. This was the time.

I was going to get a tattoo, y’all.  

I’d wanted one since my dad passed away, unexpectedly, about eight years ago. During this time of intense grief, I kept joking that I needed a figurative tattoo to remind me to be grateful, because there didn’t seem to be room in my heart for gratitude. But, I didn’t want to make a rash decision in the midst of so much emotional turmoil, and so I never got one.  

But within two hours of getting off that plane in Key West, I found myself proudly sitting in a tattoo parlor on Duval Street, talking to the owner about savings plans for kids college funds (Hi, I’m Katie, and I’m an oversharer…) while getting the word “grateful” tattooed on my right wrist. And then my friends and I celebrated afterwards in classic Key West fashion. Which means I don’t remember how we celebrated, but I woke up in my hotel room the next day with this glorious tattoo.  

Hardly a month later, COVID came into our worlds and turned everything upside down. I work in education and I own an education software company that is dependent on students physically being in a classroom. My husband is the executive director of a local theater. Both of our careers were hit particularly hard.  

And everywhere I went, I had this stupid tattoo on my wrist reminding me to be “grateful.” Which seemed like a colossal joke. Our company, our family, was hanging on by a thread. We could barely leave our homes. Our jobs were continually in jeopardy or were changing so fast that it was hard to keep up while maintaining any kind of calm or normalcy.  

It was the least grateful time in my life and I couldn’t help thinking that it would have been much more appropriate to get a tattoo that said “trainwreck” or “WTF” instead. 

Winter came and went and spring showed her pretty face, too. But it wasn’t really until the summer months that I felt like my family started to get a good handle on this new lifestyle. I think we played more Rummikub and Sequence than I ever had in my life, but sitting around our kitchen table with my husband and my kids almost every night for board games became one of my favorite things.  

Bike rides in the late afternoon. Family dog walks. Lazy Sundays with puzzles. School in our pajamas. Zoom calls for work with dress shirts on top and basketball shorts on the bottom. Home repairs. Late night movies because what was a bedtime? Little by little, as the world fell apart around us, I found myself rubbing my “gratitude” tattoo and offering up small prayers of thanks for sweet mercies and blessings like these. 

One of the greatest blessings for me in 2020 was Crave. Seeing a community of young entrepreneurs persevere, grow, and find new ways to thrive during this year of mayhem was inspiring to me. I found myself sitting in our advisory council meetings, tapping my unlikely tattoo with my fingers, and offering up prayers of praise and appreciation for this group of people who had the faith and heart to continue blooming like wildflowers coming up in sidewalk cracks.  

As 2021 has come in like a proverbial and political wrecking ball, I have strangely found myself grounded and centered amid the chaos, and I can’t help but think it has something to do with walking through the fires of 2020 and seeing the human spirit glowing brightly in my family, my community, and my Crave peers. Turns out, I made it through 2020 inspired, fulfilled, stronger, maybe a little wiser, and, oh, so very grateful.  

Katie Brown
Professional Development Chair
professionaldevelopment@cravefla.org

December 2020 – Stephanie Preston-Hughes

Permission to Be Human

One of the characteristics that makes a strong Crave leader is holy discontent. Knowing that something is just not right, and it necessitates a response. This strikes a chord in me because of my profession as a mental health counselor. People pay to see me because something isn’t quite right in their own lives, and they want to figure out what to do about it.

Counselors create a sacred space where clients can be really honest with themselves as they sort out hard things. Struggling relationships, toxic workplaces, substance use problems, depression, family rejection. You get the picture. The tough stuff. 

While I am consistently in awe of my client’s bravery, I am saddened by how harshly they judge themselves. I often hear things like: What’s wrong with me? Why am I getting so upset? I thought I dealt with this already? Why does it seem like nobody else is struggling with the same thing? I see them get frustrated with themselves for just being normal people.

In all truthfulness, I possess the same tendency to harshly self-criticize that my clients do. In my head it just sounds a little different : How could I have overlooked that thing she said in session two months ago? I should know how to help them with _____________ because I’m a licensed mental health professional. Why am I crying again? 

Newsflash!! None of us is immune from mistakes, uncertainty, and emotions. We are human beings having human experiences and our feelings are a vital part of that humanity, not something that we need to make go away. In the era of COVID and political turmoil, we MUST give ourselves permission to experience “normal” responses to the extraordinary stressors in our world.

If you are part of the Crave Universe and reading this, then you are part of this humanity. too. Whether you are a teacher, pastor, parent, cashier, student, construction worker, artist, or wandering soul. I ask you to acknowledge your own humanness. 

Celebrate the fact that Spirit has chosen you to nudge. Congratulate yourself for wanting to do something about the holy discontent you feel, even if you’re still figuring out what that is. Encourage yourself to keep asking hard questions, even when it makes others uncomfortable. Pat yourself on the back for your willingness to be vulnerable with those in the Crave community who are here to support you. Remember that you paradoxically end up more anxious when you ignore what is going on inside of yourself. Laugh at your imperfection. Practice showing up to your responsibilities in all the ways that you need to, and invite your feelings to come along for the ride, even if you don’t like them. Take a break sometimes and be okay with not having all the answers. They will come in their own time. 

Crave is the sacred space where social innovators work with mentors and a spiritual support system to grow their visions for a better community. We fundamentally understand that life itself is a messy journey, and at the same time such a beautiful one worth taking.  If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t need each other. This is reflected in my favorite part of our community statement. “We honor each person’s journey because conversation is more valuable than conviction.” Just for today, give yourself permission to be all of the flawed but amazing person you are, and know that you always have a home with Crave. Engaging in deep dialogue as we offer ourselves in service to one another is the essence of who we are. Let us hold each other, and ourselves, in the light of tenderness.

Stephanie Preston-Hughes
Coaching Chair, Crave Advisory Council
coaching@cravefla.org



November 2020 – Adam Hartnett

Turning “Something More” into Something Real

Two and a half years after graduating from the inaugural Crave class, I am living out the vision that Crave helped me set for myself.  At 27 years old, I joined Crave as a starry-eyed social worker with a dream of a world where everyone had what they needed: enough friends, meaning and money to live a truly happy life. Now, at 30 years old, I can say I’m making that dream into something real.

Along with some incredibly gifted people, we launched Poverty Solutions Group (PSG) this year, 2020. From the outside, it may seem like bad timing. We are facing some great losses and challenges this year: the coronavirus pandemic; the loss of some very great advocates for equality like Freedom Rider and Congressperson John Lewis, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Actor Chadwick Boseman; and the nation-wide grappling with the deep-seated racism that plagues our society. I’ve personally been grappling with some of my own losses, the greatest of these is the death of my sister, Adel, who died of an overdose a year ago at the young age of 31.

This year has been challenging, to say the least. But the way I see it, there has never been a better time to imbibe our community with a new hope. Our work at PSH is to bring people together from all backgrounds to build communities of support with folks in poverty, to learn from their lived experiences, and to work together toward systemic changes for those at the proverbial bottom of the economic ladder. In my small, sure, way I am staring the trauma of this year directly in the face, grieving and crying unashamedly for the losses we are experiencing, and turning our grief into something greater. My colleagues and I are transforming trauma into healing; grief into passion; poverty into wholeness.

Through PSG I now serve as the Regional Coach to Circles Central Florida. Circles is a proven, national model for reducing poverty by building community. I spend my days working with ordinary and dedicated people working together to help individuals and families with low-wealth build trust, set goals and overcome poverty for good. After spending 6 years perfecting the model in Winter Garden, FL, Circles is now working with Family Promise of Greater Orlando and a handful of other community partners to launch Circles Orlando! Our dream is to create Circles Communities across Seminole, Orange and Osceola Counties so everyone in Central Florida has easy access to the magic that is Circles.

If you share my passion to create a Central Florida community that works for everyone, please visit our new PSG website to learn more about how you can donate or get involved in other ways: www.povertysolutionsgroup.org . I’d love to partner with you to end poverty in our community and become an example for the rest of the country of what’s possible when we work together.

Adam Hartnett
Crave I Leader

 


October 2020 – Dylan McCain Allen

Central Florida knows how to come together. So why can’t we work together?

Our community is so good at building a network and making connections to ideas and people that matter. When we can, we love to collaborate. But, we don’t cooperate well at all. 

To me it feels like trying to sweep a floor with a pile of straw. Sure, you could grab a handful and go to town, but wouldn’t it be so much more effective (and easier) if you string together the straw into a broom?

Even worse, at times it feels like the straw got upset there wasn’t a string in the first place and instead of weaving into string it just hops out of the house for someone else to deal with.

It might sound loony, but it’s no more loony than how many collaborative efforts have disintegrated before they could do more than the bare minimum. 

My project both during my time as a Crave Leader and now as a member of its Advisory Council is to develop community beyond a network of like-minded souls. I seek to galvanize the collective passions and possibilities of our region to model change-making for the people and places that are called to something greater.

Groups reinforcing disaster resiliency and offering coordinated intervention services have come and gone seemingly with each passing disastrous event, making it nearly impossible to plan for, prevent, and mitigate effects of future incidents. Some exist today, but at times their coordinative strategy is at best questionable and their longevity is far from assured.

There are no cooperative agreements or regional strategies to develop children and neighborhoods mindfully. There are countless who are passionate about our local ecological resources, yet few avenues to align with various government-created sustainability initiatives.

We even had a gathering of social sector leadership called The Collective for a short while before it collapsed almost as soon as it began. Some previous attendees told me they felt it was good about networking, but they always left not knowing what they would do differently the next day.

And that missing next step—and the capacity to actualize it—appears to be the common denominator.

How are we so Hell-bent about getting into a room, but become skittish to say and do the generative things that would make demonstrable differences in people’s lives? 

Is it fear of the consequences, the unknown, or perhaps the commitment to “something more”? Is it some sort of existential crisis between wanting change and concern over what that change really means?

Is it that we’ve been traumatized by having good ideas shot down? Might we be concerned that we aren’t the “right person” to be in the room? 

Are we so burdened by the deep-rooted inequities—which we in the social sector combat everyday—that our courage numbs at the realization of such complexity?

Has our passion and purpose been brought to its knees in the face of competition for resources?

Or, might the issue be of a functional nature? Could it be that these agents of change don’t really know how to make change? Are we all proverbial salmon just swimming upstream unknowingly into a bear’s mouth? Did we all really expect the broom to tie itself?

Beyond the complexity of social change, we’ve also entrenched ourselves in a tough system of everyday operation. We toxify our missions by treating people as helpless hand-out seekers rather than working with—or even for—them. When it’s time to gather resources and strategy for the mission, the people we seek to empower are often the last of whom we ask for insight from. 

We should explore community-centric fundraising to make sure our financial engine is built in equity and not by the very powerhouses that might actually perpetuate the problems we seek to solve. We each hold our biggest dreams close lest they be illuminated by others, and that withdrawal from shared visions leads the social sector to a scarcity mindset. 

Rather, an abundance mindset would remind us that with more than 11,000 nonprofits in Orange County alone: we have the resources to do just about anything; we just don’t know how to position them carefully.

The first steps would be for both institutional leaders as well as everyday townsfolk to learn about critical concepts like the dangers of toxic charity, the efficacy of Asset-Based Community Development, and the cooperative possibilities unleashed by Collective Impact.

Furthermore, we need to have a conversation about the place of the social change agent in our society. What are the baseline mindsets one should have entering this work? To what extent should every agent for change understand human-centered design innovation as well as inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA)? 

And most vitally: do we value these vigils of liberty, egalitarianism, and community enough to recruit them effectively and compensate them competitively for the mountain-moving effort they beat into the ground every day?

I admit I add yet another layer of complication to what already seemed impossible to overcome. That’s what I signed up for, though. I’ll take on any challenge to make sure Central Florida’s children grow up in a community that cares for their future, one that wellness and opportunity is only a neighbor away, and one in which the human and natural ecosystems intertwine to sustain a plethora of options for creative and meaningful self-actualization.

Crave seeks those who share some fire for something more, then hands the Crave Leader a map on which to draw their own path.

Crave is the breeding ground of connection and cooperation. We are sharing the tools for change and the skills for responsible and generative impact. Our community is redefining what “community” means. 

We are delivering that “something more”.

Dylan McCain Allen
Crave II Leader