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