August 2020 – Blu Bailey

2020 has definitely been a year.

It’s all anyone can talk about. It’s the conversation starter of the century. Plans cancelled. Covid-19 and associated conspiracy theories. I forgot my face mask. The Black Lives Matter Movement and the countless social injustices happening across the nation, which leads to conversations about reparations, white privilege and intentional systematic barriers. I also think I heard something about killer hornets?!

But let’s focus on where we are with our processes. A lot of people have said that the pandemic has given them more time with their families, time to catch up on work or start a new skill. How are we doing with that? For me, I was super excited to start something new to show off when the world got back to normal. I WASN’T prepared to deal with myself in the process. When I say deal with myself, I mean to learn and push myself. For so long I just went with the flow of things. Did what was necessary and a little extra but nothing really outside of my box. It’s comfy there. But anything outside of your box will most definitely take you outside of your box. I wasn’t prepared, and nobody told me. Lol.

I had a list of things I was gonna do during the pandemic, like play guitar, and learn another language, and start 5k training, and yada yada ya. But as soon as I started to feel uncomfortable and stretched, I retreated back to my comfy box. I wondered why though. I came to the conclusion that in my comfort zone I don’t stretch myself out too-too much. The tasks I do are super easy (either because I have done them a million times, or because I am really lazy).  But now here I come applying the pressure and upsetting the balance. Who do I think I am?

That’s when the real lesson hit me. I was taking the attitude from my comfort zone and applying it to my need to be more … and I expected it to happen overnight. I wasn’t applying grace, or any level of self-forgiveness, which means as soon as I failed I punished myself with doubt or I gave up.

I have learned two things. Everything has a process, and every process requires grace. The person you want to be, or goal you want to achieve, will take months — if not years — to achieve, and a major requirement of this achievement is allowing yourself space to have the journey and make mistakes, to learn and stop for ice cream along the way.

These two lessons have helped decrease my anxiety and increase the awareness of my own self-efficacy and self image! When ever things get hard, I look at what I’ve done and how far I have come. I offer myself grace and decide my next move. This process has taught me a third lesson: I’m able to lead by example and teach others how to treat me (so that’s really four.)

Stay safe and well friends. I’m excited to see the updated versions of ourselves when the world opens back up. I’m even more excited to hear about your process.

Blu Bailey, Crave III Leader and Alumni Representative to the Advisory Council


July 2020 – Brian Vann

Endings and Beginnings

With the third year of Crave coming to an end, we celebrate the two Crave Leader graduating cohortsone from Orlando and one from Sanford. The Crave program runs from August to June so this year’s classes completed the Crave curriculum during a most unprecedented time in our country’s history. As all non-profits do, these leaders had to overcome the challenges COVID-19 employed. They did so with integrity, character, perseverance, and determination. As they grew, so did all the individuals who make up the Crave Universe. With the third year in the books, we are excited to begin year four!  

The fourth year brings excitement, but also sadness. The third year marked the end of the tenure for some of our board members. We are saddened to see these friends and colleagues roll off the board. Even though they are no longer on the board, their legacy will be felt for a long time to come. Some of these individuals helped start Crave while others shaped it into what Crave is today. We pray for their present and continued support while staying within the Crave Universe.   

Thank you to outgoing Orlando council members Tom Harris, Adam Hartnett, Jon Tschanz, Rick Jones, Kelsey Kerce, Sarah Skidmore, Tonya Tolson, and Karen Weatherford. Thank you to outgoing Sanford council members Pasha Baker, Nancy Groves, Jolene Lovemore, Erin O’Donnell, and Tom Royal.

The fourth year marks a critical time in the growth of the Crave organization. The organization is no longer a start-up as it begins its growth stage. The growth we are experiencing afforded us the opportunity to expand our leadership. We now operate with an Advisory Council of Orlando and a Board of Directors. We are thankful to welcome many new members of both the Advisory Council and the Board of Directors. These individuals are some of the most influential in our community. We are working on some amazing projects such as creating a certificate program for the Crave curriculum. We are blessed to welcome a new group of social change makers to our fourth year Crave Leader cohort. These individuals are dynamic, intelligence, and inspirational. 

Welcome new board members Faith Buhler, Gina Dole, Woody Rodriguez, and Jarvis Wheeler; and council members Chantel Aquart, Blu Bailey, Katie Brown, Terri Hartman, Stephanie Preston-Hughes, and Katrina Jackson,

I am excited to kickoff a new Crave year!

Brian Vann, Chair of the Crave Board of Directors


June 2020 – Michele Van Son Neill

Year 3: Concluding Blog

We are always living history.  Yet, there are moments – like this one – that will become a major Chapter Title of our Nation’s Story. Have you noticed that triumphs of the human spirit are always tucked in a tapestry of death and destruction? Women secured the right to vote on the heels of a bloody World War I. The Civil Rights Act became law against the backdrop of the 20-year Vietnam War. Today, the long-awaited public acknowledgement and conviction of systemic racism has a voice and willing audience against the backdrop of a global pandemic. Tucked into a larger tapestry of life’s greatest struggles are always the triumphs of human dignity and the human spirit.

Crave claims that at the intersection of triumph and tragedy is a story of Divine Hope.  A Hope that is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Crave was founded on the crazy Christian idea that Hope was in our world from the beginning…and this Divine Hope continues to show up in real time: not just in a stable under a star at Christmas, but also in lonely hospital rooms, empty classrooms, unemployment lines, unjust jail cells, marches, riots…and yes, even and especially at funerals when too often a black or brown life is senselessly taken.  No matter the tragedy, (racism, poverty, hunger, homelessness, etc.) Divine Hope always stands her ground and has the last word.

As a Christian, I used to believe in Divine Hope only because of my faith in Jesus.  But in the last three years, I have also met 27 Crave Leaders who embody –they actually incarnate – Divine Hope.  Yes, of course they are launching, nurturing, and growing non-profits as a response to our tragedies, but the Divine Hope needed today requires more than investors, a Board of Directors, and legal status.  Divine Hope takes guts, sacrifice, street knowledge, accountability, charisma, and an unshakable vision that defines your purpose.  Crave Leaders are bursting with Divine Hope.

This month, we graduate our third class of Crave Leaders, and Reverend Shelly Denmark replaces me as Director.  The only thing as exciting as what God is doing through Crave, is who God has chosen to lead it into the future.  Karen Roby Winterkamp and Shelly Denmark, our staff, bring as much skill and ability as they do commitment to and passion for developing divinely inspired leaders of social change. This next year, I am honored to serve on the Board of Directors with a Rockstar line-up, as well as support the tireless and talented Advisory Council who manages the operations of our soulful learning community. This company of volunteers, our community partners, and especially our new financial supporters (thank you, Donors!) have collectively cultivated a “Crave Family” of courageous vulnerability, authentic self-mastery, and divine discovery in diversity.And what I want the whole world to know – the Good News I want to share with you – is that their Divine Hope is contagious. When you meet Crave Leaders, learn about their projects, the people they serve and why – you have an ally, a light-bearer to show you ways to illuminate the darkest parts of our broken tapestry. You can volunteer with them, you can build relationships with and through them, and you can make a positive divine impact in our community right now. They will show you how. Apply to Crave here.  Donate here. Volunteer here. Learn more about Crave and our Leaders here.

Being a part of the Crave Community remains one of the greatest blessings of my life. God is indeed doing a new thing, and we hope you’ll join us.


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

Introducing Shelly Denmark

 

I knew the Crave community was something special the moment I entered the second floor of the East End Market. There was a sense of closeness and connection and common purpose among everyone present. It was evident from the way Michele, the Crave leaders, the Board members, the Mentors, and other support partners interacted with one another; they were deeply invested in each other’s lives as part of a spiritual, meaningful community. I have tried to capture what Crave is and what Crave does when sharing about it with other people, and yet, there’s a magical element of needing to experience the Crave community in some way for oneself in order to grasp how the Spirit is moving. I am beyond thrilled to join Crave as the Director for Crave Orlando III, and I am confident that this transformational, hope-inspired community will continue to thrive and expand to new cities in the future.

To understand why Crave had such an impact on me in that particular moment, you’d need to know a bit about my recent history. Last fall, I decided that I would take a break from serving as a pastor in a local church, starting this summer. There were many reasons for my decision, but mainly I had a hard time seeking balance in a system that oftentimes is set up for the contrary.

Underneath it all, however, I felt a holy discontent. There was something about the way we have “done church” all these years that felt like it wasn’t working anymore, nor able to carry us into a new, creative future. Some say that mainline churches in the United States are in a “Reformation” moment. Many churches are in decline with many things needing to change, but a lot of leaders aren’t sure what those necessary changes looks like. To borrow from Tod Bolsinger in Canoeing the Mountains, we are in a “Lewis & Clark” moment. We have to adapt and innovate. Enter Michele Van Son Neill and Crave.

Around the same time that I was feeling this urge to do something different for awhile and have more time to devote to my family and overall sense of wellbeing, Michele and I had a two-hour mutually-beneficial conversation. We felt a similar need to find balance as spiritual leaders and mothers, we both sensed that ways of “doing church” in the future looked radically different from the models we have now, and we were set on encouraging one another to take brave steps in order to address both of those issues. A few months later, we had another conversation, and Michele invited me to the Crave II graduation to get a better sense of an alternative way for churches to connect with people who are already transforming the world. I was hooked, especially after applause in the Crave community meant a standing ovation! And I am even more excited, having read the stories and projects of our Crave Orlando III applicants who are engaged in meaning-making work here in Orlando. I can’t wait to learn from them, support them, and journey alongside them this year!

Shelly Denmark
Director, Crave Orlando                                                                                                shelly@craveorlando.org  


#CraveFLA

 


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.

December 2018 – Bill Walker

Reflecting on those matters which have contributed to shaping my life to its present state, I begin with my family of origin, in which I was the only child born of a remarkable couple who were bright, loving, caring, industrious Methodists and whose first concern was others, rather than themselves. Throughout our joint lives they modeled those values, along with Boy Scouting and Rotary. Those institutions not only enriched my life, they set forth models of behavior and core values and disciplines which throughout my life served to guide and hold before me values of the highest order.
We seem to be in one of those times in history in which our culture is awash with change, and in which the direction of change is unclear. Perhaps it is a time in which we have thrown out the bathwater and are unclear what happened to the baby which was in it! That is, we are collectively casting aside that which we knew was useful, albeit imperfect, with no collective clarity as to what will replace. When I think of those institutions which amidst the communities I have lived, I am not clear who I would be without their influence. I am reaching the end of my life, but my children and grandchildren “have miles to go” and out of my devotion to them and their best interests I want to contribute meaningful to the transition, as denying it is futile.
Crave is seeking to form itself as a helpful thing to one important group of this new world, and that is leaders who crave a deeper understanding of themselves and who wish to participate in forming the modeling of the new world what will aid themselves and others to thrive in spiritual health, perhaps the essential component of a leader.
If you would like to learn more or wish to join in supporting the next generation of spiritual leadership and belonging, I welcome you to reach out to me directly via email and follow Crave’s journey on social media at @CraveFLA.
Bill Walker
Founding Board Member
Crave, Inc.

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.