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



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
shelly@cravefla.org

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