Laying the Foundation (metaphorically)

After the success of Alliance Day #3 – the one that we combined with the Back to School giveaway that IMPACT put on – we decided to stop doing monthly Alliance days. We think the point is proved: agencies *will* come together to offer their services, agencies *want* to join in and help; and people are happy to come talk to the agencies *if* there is a significant enough draw. Back to School backpacks were a draw, and people who came were happy to talk to all the different agencies in attendance. At the food pantry, we draw about 150 families every week – so we know we have a significant draw… now we need to match that up with a building to house a bunch of agencies that can help.

So we’ve buckled down and started working on our business plan. It started with me, Tameeka, and Antaysia getting together to put together a timeline – this was Antaysia’s idea and it has really helped to focus us. We laid out what we want to have accomplished in 6 weeks, 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years.

Focusing on the 6-week effort, we decided we need to get our business plan into shape, and form our Advisory Board. And we’re doing just that!

We’ve had two advisory council meetings — that’s my name for all of us getting together. In my mind a council meeting includes the Board of Directors (me, Tameeka, Antaysia), the Board of Advisors (still settling on who exactly this will be), and other interested people. I’m not real big on rank… we’re going to need consensus from a lot of people, regardless of whatever boards we form, and we need to get great ideas from a wide spectrum as well. So who’s on what board… who cares? Hence, a Council Meeting – a meeting of everybody who wants to see the KGCA happen.

We’ve had 2 council meetings – the first was in person and focused on the rough draft that we had of our business plan, and all the things we need to do to make it “ready” – by which I mean we can start presenting it to people, handing it out.

As I said, we (the BoD) brought a rough draft. We handed it to the attendees and then we stepped out of the room and let them discuss it without risk of hurting our feelings :D. The council came up with some great ideas for moving the plan forward, we all got TODO items.

For our second meeting, I invited a guest speaker, Teri Zurfluh. I heard her speak at a conference a few months ago, and I was struck by some similarities between their project and our KGCA ideas. Teri runs “618”, a food pantry in Franklin, Virginia – which has been created with food pantry on the 1st floor, and “beyond food” services on the 2nd floor. So agencies come in and set up shop on floor 2 for private consultations with people who are drawn in by the food pantry. They have a computer lab, they have jobs training, a strong focus on helping folks become self-sufficient.

I loved Teri’s talk because she focused on how they involved the community. They took their requirements from a giant community meeting, and they’ve tried to meet almost all of the requirements that they were given by the public – by people who would actually use the place.

So I invited her to talk to our council because I wanted to get us excited about a success story, to see that other people are doing this, we’re not alone, and here’s somebody who made it work! And Teri gave a great talk, and she had pictures from their Grand Opening which was just two weeks ago, and their place is so beautiful inside. I’m planning to go volunteer later this month and tour the place.

The rest of the council meeting, we talked about timeline, and how to get the business plan finished up. We’re meeting again in 3 weeks (I have another guest speaker lined up), and we expect to have the plan completely finished by that time.

An interesting topic that came up at the meeting: should we do this in an iterative fashion, or should we try to get enough money to build a massive amazing community center all in one go. The feeling was that iterative would make more sense… maybe what that looks like is: we acquire our ideal land at the beginning, but we don’t go for the entire huge beautiful building at first. Instead we start with a big warehouse, someone said a “barn” – just enough to have the food pantry PLUS … a few other things. So we can demonstrate that we can work together in a way that is small but effective, and we can start running experiments. But then we have room to expand, so we can add buildings as we go, hopefully eventually leading up to some really beautiful community spaces.

I’m pumped up – the team seems pumped up. That’s good, because this is probably going to be a long, long road, so we better start with some energy!

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