Shop like it matters

Shop like  it matters
Scott Hill, Meredith Cataland, The Very Reverend Kate Moorehead and Chip Bachara

Shopping for gifts this holiday season? There is a way purchase presents without heading to the mall that greatly helps underserved individuals and families in the community. Social enterprises, organizations that redirect most or all of their earnings to help social or environmental causes, offer many lovely gifts made by folks that local nonprofits are helping to get back on their feet.

At Goodwill, the purchase of clothes and other items helps fund programs that employ at-risk people, providing them with training and a stable job. While a traditional charity might serve as a band-aid solution, which is needed, social enterprises, such as the one’s supported by St. John’s Cathedral, seek to solve the source of the problem.

Over the years, St. John’s Cathedral has become an incubator for many charitable organizations. “When you just give money to people who are destitute, they don’t get any dignity from that and it doesn’t help them transform their lives,” said The Very Reverend Kate Moorehead, dean of St. John’s Cathedral. “But, if they create something that is beautiful or necessary and you purchase what they made, then they’re earning their own income.”

“For the past 13 years, the Cathedral has provided its hall and the commercial kitchen to the Clara White Mission,” said Cindy Cooper, chief development officer at the Cathedral. “They used this partnership as a cornerstone for their funding and job, workforce training.”

St. John Cathedral houses its very own bookstore/gift shop on its campus. It is a place where shoppers can create a gift basket with locally sourced products like soaps, lotions, and candles from Thistle Farms. The purchase of Thistle Farm’s products helps the nonprofit provide a home for survivors of sex trafficking, prostitution, and addiction in Nashville, Tenn. Additionally, Thistle Farms trains and then hires the members from its residential program, providing them with a living wage.

Girls from Her Future Coalition create jewelry
Girls from Her Future Coalition create jewelry

The St. John’s bookstore also displays artisan and understated, yet elegant jewelry from Her Future Coalition. Since 2010, HFC has been training survivors of gender violence in gold-smithing and jewelry design and has since provided shelter and education to over 750 girls a year. HFC trains and employs women in three locations in India and has a training center in Thailand — all independently run by the women themselves.

“I have had the joy over the past 15 years of watching girls go from a place of utter hopelessness and despair, to becoming joyful, strong, empowered women,” said Sarah Symons, founder and CEO of Her Future Coalition. “It is the greatest blessing of my life to have been able to be part of their journeys and to see them reach their incredible potential.”

From handmade jewelry, vivid scarves, and craftswoman journals to Gifts of Hope corporate gift boxes, Rethreaded is an inspiring social enterprise located at 820 Barnett St. in Jacksonville. The nonprofit helps survivors of sex trafficking and other at-risk women with hands-on training to provide real-world job skills as well as direct employment at Rethreaded. Sales and donations allow them to fund trainings, pay their workers, and employ a mental health counselor, and a care manager.

Women from Rethreaded model their wares
Women from Rethreaded model their wares

Rethreaded, which has directly employed 48 women in the past, currently employs 12, and will hire five more women by January. It has also helped 85 women with pre-employment services since it began partnering with City Rescue Mission in fall of 2012.

“It takes a community to keep a woman in human trafficking, and it takes a community to help a woman out,” said Kristin Keen, president and founder of Rethreaded. Keen elaborated on how difficult it is for a survivor to start a new life without access to a new job. “Through Rethreaded, I discovered things about myself that I didn’t know I was capable of,” said Keen. “What motivates me is seeing women coming into Rethreaded and they get to tap into something they never knew about themselves.”

The City Rescue Mission supports Rethreaded and a multitude of other organizations in addition to running its own programs, one being Charis Chocolates. With adorned boxes of flowers and ornate crosses, one could confuse these chocolates with works of art.

 “There had to be some benefit to the people we serve, that’s number one,” said Penny Kievet, executive director at City Rescue Mission, about when she proposed starting a social enterprise. “Number 2, there had to be some benefit to City Rescue Mission — funds from Charis would help us with our other programs that we do. And third, it would have to benefit the Jacksonville community.” Kievet explained that by buying Charis Chocolates, every dollar directly supports the mission’s programs, such as Emergency Services, LifeBuilders Addiction Recovery, Homes of Hope, and Workforce Development.

City Rescue Mission’s Charis Chocolates
City Rescue Mission’s Charis Chocolates

Support for Charis helped the mission expand with Charis Catering, allowing it to continue training and hiring more people in need. “My pleasure in all this is that they [people in need] leave with dignity and the respect that only a job or career can give them,” said Kievet.

When it comes to chocolate, it’s impossible to pass up Sulzbacher Sweets’ signature treats, provided by Sweet Pete’s. There are many options from petite Sulzbacher bars and Belgium chocolate houses to charming, corporate chocolate tins and cute “Cause We Care” candy houses. “When we first approached them [Sweet Pete’s] with this idea, they signed on and jumped in with both feet,” said Eileen Briggs, chief development officer at Sulzbacher. “They’ve been so supportive through this whole process.”

This is the third year Sweet Pete’s has offered Sulzbacher Sweets. “For Pete and me – we live in Springfield and work downtown – we want to see our city thrive and to bring downtown back to becoming a place where people want to come here,” said Allison Behringer, co-founder of Sweet Pete’s. Behringer said it’s rewarding for her and her husband to be part of Sulzbacher Sweets, helping them to help others.

The purchase of Sulzbacher Sweets during the holiday season, supports Sulzbacher’s emergency program as well as three other ways the nonprofit aids the homeless — helping them reestablish income through training, healthcare through Sulzbacher’s sliding-scale medical clinics, and housing at Sulzbacher Village.

Two little angels hold painted angels from Angels for Allison
Two little angels hold painted angels from Angels for Allison

No holiday season would be complete without Christmas-themed decorations offered by Angels for Allison. For over nine years, Angels for Allison has sold hand-painted, metal angels to fund funeral services/and or cremation costs for families who have lost a child and are unable to pay. Since its inception, the nonprofit has raised funds for roughly 470 families within seven Northeast Florida Counties. Its secondary focus is to bring awareness of its activities and mission to the Jacksonville community with its student leadership council.

“When I met Drew Haramis (co-founder of Angels for Allison along with her husband, Lee), I thought it was extremely powerful to see her be able to take her tragic loss and make something that betters her community,” said Liz Nottingham, executive director at Angels for Allison. Shoppers can select small-to-large angels from $3 to $75. The nonprofit has also created a “Make and Take” option where blank angel can be purchased and painted. It’s what Nottingham calls “painting with purpose” as whole families can partake in the activity while coming together to celebrate life.

Supporting social enterprise organizations helps at-risk and hurting families. Not only does shopping there celebrate life and love this season, it also is the perfect way to help Jacksonville’s underserved enjoy their holiday.

By Ehron Ostendorf
Resident Community News

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