10 Years of Grow Appalachia

We recently got back from a trip to celebrate 10 years of partnership with Grow Appalachia. In 2009, John Paul wanted to do something to respond to the financial crisis and prove that America still works, that there were hardworking, entrepreneurial people that needed a hand up and not a hand out. His VP at John Paul Mitchell Systems, Tommy Callahan, told him about the problem of food insecurity in his home region of Appalachia. In true entrepreneurial, can-do fashion, John Paul called some people in Appalachia and got the first food and gardening program of its kind off the ground based out of Berea College in Kentucky.

Grow Appalachia’s mission, as conceived by John Paul, is to help as many Appalachian families grow as much of their own food as possible. With a focus on helping people grow food in their backyards, community centers, churches, residential treatment centers and even jails, Grow Appalachia has bloomed into a force for great change in the region.

Over the last 10 years, Grow Appalachia has:

  • Provided assistance and training to more than 5,700 families

  • Grown more than 4.4 million pounds of food

  • Helped people in 6 states and 44 counties

  • Created a self-sustaining high tunnel manufacturing facility that provides income for gardening infrastructure

  • Helped install commercial kitchens to provide for the possibility of value added products

  • Sponsored a summer feeding program for food insecure kids

There have been countless small businesses, farmers market sellers and other entrepreneurial efforts that have arisen from Grow Appalachia. On our trip, we heard touching stories of families saving and growing seeds that go back 300 years in their families. Conscious choices of parents and even whole families to grow and eat healthier food. Healthcare centers becoming more holistic centers for wellness instead of just reacting to disease or trauma. We met two women wearing “Onions not Opioids” shirts who have one year of sobriety in their lives and find much solace and purpose in gardening in a Grow-Appalachia sponsored garden.

We are proud to continue to partner with Grow Appalachia to sponsor garden grants for organizations and individuals committed to serving and transforming their communities. As John Paul would say, America works. Grow Appalachia works.

Photos by Ariana Jordan

Community Works Entrepreneur Hub

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On September 13, we gathered together with our team, friends and family at Mobile Loaves and Fishes for a groundbreaking (okay, actually screen printing) ceremony to celebrate the continuation of entrepreneurship and artistry opportunities for our neighbors struggling with chronic homelessness. MLF Community First! Village is a 51-acre master planned community in East Austin for men and women who have been homeless.

The Community Works Entrepreneur Hub will be an 8,000 square foot facility that will expand upon the existing job training and creative enterprises that MLF already provides. MLF resident artists and entrepreneurs are on track to earn $2 million in dignified income through their car care facility, art studio, wood and blacksmith shop and garden. Through our foundation, John Paul and Eloise donated $1.6 million dollars to help make this building a reality.

There are so many cool things happening at the Village — we got to see the first 3D printed house (there’s more to come!), walk by the Alamo Drafthouse outdoor cinema and enjoy birthday cake made by talented chefs on site. You absolutely have to check it out for yourself.

Sea of Shadows Screening

In partnership with Austin Film Society, we are thrilled to be presenting the documentary Sea of Shadows in our hometown of Austin! Click the photo to the right to watch the trailer of the story of a team of dedicated scientists, high-tech conservationists, investigative journalists and courageous undercover agents as well as the Mexican Navy as they put their lives on the line to save the last remaining vaquitas and bring the vicious international crime syndicate to justice. We are longtime supporters of Sea Shepherd, and we are glad to get to bring this story of their efforts to #savethevaquita to Austin.

Where:

AFS Cinema

6406 N I-35 Suite 3100 Austin, TX, 78752

When:

Tuesday, August 27 @ 7:30 pm

Peace, Love & Happiness Tractor

PLH Foundation Director Constance Dykhuizen with New Leaf Farm Manager Wandaka Musongera

PLH Foundation Director Constance Dykhuizen with New Leaf Farm Manager Wandaka Musongera

Multicultural Refugee Coalition is an innovative nonprofit organization blending skills-based education with social entrepreneurship to connect refugees to dignified, fair-wage work in Austin, Texas. One of their projects is the New Leaf Agriculture Project and Farm. We got to visit the farm as it was starting up in 2018 and were so impressed, we donated a tractor to help with the efforts. They have partnerships with local businesses to grow unexpected crops like those used for dyeing textiles and making tea. We recently got to see the tractor in use with farm manager Wandaka Musongera. Growing in the heat of a Texas summer is no joke, but the MRC team meets the challenge with enthusiasm, and we’re so happy the tractor helps.

Here’s more from MRC:

We launched a commercial farm in nearby Elgin, TX. The New Leaf at Three Creeks Farm employs organic, sustainable practices while training refugee farm apprentices for paid agricultural work that is dignified, in-demand and familiar from their countries of origin. Established on a conservation easement, our farm grows directly for local makers and will also sell produce through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model…

…we began supporting local entrepreneur Colleen Preheim to grow roselle hibiscus on her property and are continuing producing for Texas Roselle on our farm. In 2018 the first crop to be planted at our farm was corn, in several varieties, for Barton Springs Mill, which is an Austin mill creating artisan flours from locally grown heritage grains. The third partnership is based on a relationship between our own Open Arms Studio and Miranda Bennett Studio, a local designer of plant-dyed, made-in-the-US apparel. Our stitchers at Open Arms produce Miranda Bennett's clothes and we are proud to now be growing Mexican mint marigold for dye.   

Girls Impact the World Film Fest 2019

The Girls Impact the World Film Festival focused on issues facing women and girls around the world. High school and undergraduate students submit 3-6 minute short films that address global women's issues such as: education for girls, maternal health, violence against women and girls, and a variety of other issues. This year, we received over 200 submissions from 42 countries!

Eloise has been a judge and sponsor of this film festival for the last six years, providing more than $200,000 in scholarships to young filmmakers. Some of our favorite films from this year’s winners include Lucia, What I Love Most, The Skin Tone Rule and We Could Be Champion Too.

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Community Works

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At last week’s event in Austin, Texas celebrating Mobile Loaves & Fishes 20th anniversary and groundbreaking on Phase II of their hugely successful Community First Village, John Paul committed $1.6 million to the new Community Works building — a center for entrepreneurs and artisans to get trained, a space to work and a space to exhibit beautiful things for sale.

Community First! Phase II will include housing for more than 300 people suffering from chronic homelessness. Already, Phase I has provided housing (and so much more!) for around 250 men and women. There is a community farm, chicken coop, chapels, Alamo Drafthouse outdoor cinema, an Inn (you can stay there!), dog park, auto shop (come get your car inspected or oil changed!), art and ceramics studio and hair salon (with Paul Mitchell products, of course).

This new expansion will include a desperately needed clinic for the neighborhood that includes respite and hospice care. In the last few months alone, MLF has lost four community members, all of whom will be interred at Community First — it’s a dignified place to live and die. MLF is a place to belong, a place to build hope. John Paul and Eloise both love to see what’s been added with every visit. This time, the ceramic artists really blew us away. MLF is a great place to get involved if you’re in Austin. If you’d like to bring something like MLF to your community, they also hold trainings for getting this model up and running around the country.

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Girls Impact the World 2018

This was Eloise's fifth year sponsoring Connecther's Girls Impact the World Film Festival. Every year, we are amazed at the voices, issues and perspectives raised by student filmmakers from around the world. Our support of the project goes in part to scholarship funds for talented filmmakers who are making a difference in their communities and globally through this incredible platform. We encourage you to watch the award winning films (and so many more!) that are all available on Connecther's website. 2018's prizes went to: